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Although the property code extends to all Counties in Texas. That doesn't mean that all Counties follow the letter of the law. Not to say that they don't mean to follow the law, it's just that small town politics often prevail. The best example of this is that the property code states that no court can demand that you use their forms to file your appeal. Yet most counties still use their own version of the forms. So be careful using a form that you obtain online, as they may not be accepted by the Clerk of the Court in your particular precinct. All forms that we use are approved by the Texas Supreme Court in Austin.
Texas Eviction Process - Step by Step
Step 1. The landlord must send you or present you with a 3 day notice to vacate. This notice can be hand delivered, mailed regular mail or sent by certified mail. If you are on a month to month agreement the notice must be for 30 days.
Step 2. The landlord must file an eviction petition (lawsuit) in the Precinct and Place in which your home or apartment is located.
Step 3. You will be served by a Constable in the Precinct you reside. The Constable is only delivering the eviction petition. He/she is not there to put you out. The Petition (lawsuit) paperwork will tell when and where to go for your eviction hearing. (Usualy 5-10 from the date you are served) If you fail to answer after the Constable comes back 2 - 3 times, he/she will simply ask the Judge for an "Alternative Service Rule". This means that they will not have to serve you and that they can either mail you the petition or leave it on your premises.
Step 4. The Justice of the Peace (JP) court hearing. Your case is usually scheduled along with 100 other people who are being evicted. Each Justice Court usually sets aside one or two days a week for eviction cases. Being in the eviction defense business, I've heard just about every excuse for not paying rent. None of them typically hold up in court. So plan on losing. If you have all of your receipts, take them with you. If you are not being evicted for back rent, make sure you have your case documented along with the receipts for your rent. Still you may find a judgment rendered against you. Most court hearings only last a minute or two before the judges brings the gavel down and rules against you.
Step 5. You lost your case. If you won your case you can stop reading here. If you lost, it's time to put on you legal beagle hat and get to work. If you lost your case, the Judge will only give you five (5) days to vacate. Usually that includes the weekend. Meaning you take the day after your hearing and add five (5) days to it. Always include the weekend. If the 5th day falls on a weekend or a holiday it rolls to the very next day. When the 5th day rolls around you have to either out or prepared to file an appeal.
Step 6. Filing an appeal. In a Texas Justice Court anyone can file an appeal to the next higher court which is County Court. This process can grant you an additional thirty (30) to ninety (90) days in your property. There are 3 types of appeal and each has it's own bond requirements. The first is a Surety Bond. This appeal requires the signature of 1 or 2 of your closest friends or relative to sign that you are good for any judgment that is rendered against you are the next hearing. The second is a Pauper's Affidavit (or as politically correct, an Inability to Pay Appeal). The third appeal type is a Cash Appeal and Bond. Most of the time it is not cost effective to use this method. The Bond is usually set a 2x the market value rent plus court costs. Most tenants do not have 2 months rent or they would get caught up. Filing appeal paperwork can be tricky and should be left up to a professional.
Step 7. Paying Rent. If you were able to get an appeal on file in time you now must be prepared to pay rent. The Judges is Texas will make you pay rent directly to the court 5 days after you file your appeal. The rent is held by the court until your next hearing which will be in County Court. If you lose, your money will then be turned over to your landlord.
Step 8. Filing an Answer. Sometime between your JP Court and your County Court you will receive a letter stating that you must file a written answer with the County Court. Do not ignore this step as the Plaintiff or your landlord can ask for a default judgement if you fail to file this simple form.
Step 9. The County Court hearing. The County Court hearing is usually held at the County seat. This is a real hearing in which you can present evidence and witnesses. It is very different from the Justice Court. The landlord must have an attorney present for this hearing. You may represent yourself.
Step 10. The Final Judgment. If you lost your case in the Justice Court and appealed, you will probably lose your case in County Court. That being said, this is the end of the line. The Judge will typically give you 5-10 days to move out. Failure to move out will result in a Writ of Possession being issued. If this occurs, the Constable will serve you with a 24-hour notice to vacate.