What You Need to Know About Appealing an Unlawful Detainer in Texas

The eviction process can be a very stressful event for an individual to go through. It can be even more frustrating if your rights as a tenant were overlooked during the eviction process. Here is everything you need to know about appealing an unlawful detainer in Texas.

What is eviction?

Eviction is the legal term for when a tenant is required to be removed from the premises.

What are the legal reasons for evicting a tenant?

Below are the legal reasons a landlord can evict a tenant in Texas:

  • If a tenant refused to pay rent or misses a certain amount of rent payments
  • If the tenant breaks the rules in a lease agreement
  • If the tenant stays in the property for longer than what was specified in the lease agreement
  • If the tenant damages the property
  • If the tenant is participating in illegal activity
  • If the tenant provided false information on their lease application

Does the landlord need to give notice to the tenant they are planning to evict?

A landlord is required to give a tenant a notice if they are being evicted.

The notice that a landlord must give their tenant is called a Notice to Vacate. It is necessary that a landlord give a tenant this notice because it allows the tenant to either correct the mistake which they are being evicted for or give them time to pack their belongings and leave before the day they need to vacate the premises arrives. In most cases, unless the lease specifies a different range of dates, the notice must be given at least three days before the eviction date. If the property participates in a federal program, or the property owner has a federally backed mortgage, the Cares Act requires that the notice to vacate be at least 30 days before the eviction date.

Related: Unlawful Detainer vs. Eviction: The Difference

The tenant can be given the notice in multiple ways including but not limited to:

  • Giving a notice in person to either the tenant or anyone who lives in a tenants household who is 16 years or older.
  • By sending the notice through mail, provided there is a return receipt.
  • If the landlord cannot give notice in person, and there is no mailbox, then the notice can be attached outside the main entrance.

What are illegal reasons for evicting a tenant?

Some illegal reasons for evicting a tenant include, but are not limited to:

  • Discrimination: you cannot evict a tenant based on their status as a protected class. This includes race, nation of origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, religion, or age.
  • Retaliation: If a tenant either requested a repair or reported a complaint
  • Military service: If the tenant is a service member and they are affected by military service, eviction may be illegal in some cases. This is because a judge can block the eviction order for up to three months if a tenant cannot pay their rent due to military service.

The Eviction Process in Texas

Below is a brief overview of the eviction process in Texas:

  1. The landlord must give the tenant at least three days to move out after giving the tenant the Notice to Vacate.
  2. If the tenant does not either appeal the eviction order, or vacate the premises, the landlord must then file a petition in court.
  3. An eviction suit will then be filed.
  4. An eviction hearing will take place at least 10 days after the petition is filed.
  5. The judge will then issue a verdict.
  6. Within five days, after the judge issues a verdict, either party can appeal the judgment.
  7. If the tenant has filed an appeal against the eviction judgment, the hearing was take place only after eight days
  8. If the landlord is able to evict the tenant upon final judgment, the tenant can then ask the judge for a writ of possession.

How can you appeal an unlawful detainer in Texas?

As stated in the brief overview of the eviction process, once the judge has ruled the initial eviction suit judgment, the tenant has five days to appeal. In order for a tenant to successfully file an appeal with the Justice Court, they must file one of these three things:

  • Appeal bond: The appeal bond is the tenant promising that they will pay any court-ordered fees, as well as any associated costs if they lose the appeal. In the case of the eviction for nonpayment of rent, the justice court’s final judgment can state how much the bond will be for. This must be signed by two sureties.
  • Cash deposit in the amount of the bond: In the case of the tenant not being able to find a surety for the appeal bond, they can give the monetary amount in cash that was required for the bond. This will be held in the registry and then taken if the judgment still rules against the tenant in the final decision.
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court costs: If it is not possible to find sureties for the apeal bond and you are not in a position to pay a cash deposit in the amount of the bond, filling and signing out this form swears your financial status. You can inform the court that you cannot afford these costs.

Trial De Novo

A Trial De Novo is held as if the initial trial never occurred. This means that all the evidence that was brought up in the original trial, can be heard by a new court, which will then derive a judgment. After the tenant has successfully filed an appeal, the justice court will send this case to the county court in which the eviction case will then go through a Trial De Novo.

Related: How to Answer an Unlawful Detainer

What rights do I have as a tenant while the appeal is pending?

During the appeal process, the tenant is allowed to remain in the rental unit, but they must pay rent. If in the case that the eviction suit was for nonpayment of rent, and the individual filed a statement of inability to pay court costs, then the tenant can deposit the rent they owed into a justice court registry.

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