You Can Fight An Eviction–Even in Texas
10 Defenses for Keeping A Roof Over Your Head
Texans are tough, and their property rights laws are even tougher. Here’s a little help for tenants who are being wrongly evicted because their landlords are breaking the law.
If you have ever faced a tenant eviction in Texas or know someone who has, then you are aware that the state’s property rights laws are some of the toughest in the nation. However, there are still some ways that you can defend yourself and, hopefully, avoid losing your home.
Your eviction defense should begin as soon as you receive the Notice to Vacate, which the landlord must issue before an eviction or “forcible detainer” suit is filed in J.P. (Justice of the Peace) court. As soon as you get this notice, call an attorney and start documenting the process.
We’ve provided a list of steps to help you document your case against your landlord, assuming you have a legitimate defense in the first place. For that reason, none of the defenses we provided include you trying to use the “I’m broke,” “I’ve lost my job,“ or “My dog got sick” excuse as a defense in court, because it will not work.
Having said that, sometimes banks and landlords make bad decisions, and when or if they do, the information provided here will help you put together a defense against your property owner.
Tenant Rights in Texas Eviction Cases
Hiring an attorney is always advisable, but if you cannot afford one, then accurately documenting the process will help make your case stronger. The goal is to find fault in the landlord’s case. The following are some of the eviction defenses you or your lawyer may use to help support your case.
- Your landlord failed to give you sufficient notice.
The Notice to Vacate must include a move-out date, which must be at least three days after issuing the notice unless your lease is specific about the length of time provided to you by the terms of your contract. The time period begins once the notice is delivered. (If the property is sold in a tax or trustee foreclosure sale, the landlord must give the tenant 30 days to move out.)
- You were given the Notice to Vacate orally.
Tempers were high, neither of you could stand the site of the other, and after trying to have a friendly conversation, the good manners you both learned as children were replaced with accusations and expletives. You slam the door in your landlord’s face, he stands on the porch shouting at your door “I’m going to evict you, ” and you reply “go ahead, ” and he does, the next day he proceeds with an eviction suit filed with the court. Wrong!
The Notice to Vacate must be submitted in writing to be valid.
- You didn’t get notice of the notice.
Your lease may require that the landlord notifies you, that an eviction proceeding is about to begin. So, before a Notice to Vacate is issued, you would have the opportunity to respond to a “notice of proposed eviction.”
- You did not receive the notice correctly.
The Notice to Vacate must be delivered by one of the following:
- certified mail
- return receipt requested
Or, in person to any resident of the premises 16 years or older. The eviction notice can also be attached to the inside of your door with your name and address and the words “Important Documents” written on it or placed on the outside of the door if the owner is unable to enter the property.
If your notice is attached to the outside of the door, it must also be sent by 5:00 p.m. on the same day. The notice is considered delivered on the day it is affixed to the door and mailed.
The notice of the eviction suit must be delivered by a constable following these procedures:
The constable will make two attempts to deliver your notice in person, and then if unsuccessful, slip the notice under your door or attached it to the door with a copy mailed to you.
- You were paying month to month.
If your lease was not renewed, but the landlord has allowed you to stay on a month-to-month basis, you must be given 30 days to move out.
- Your landlord filed for eviction too early.
If the landlord filed for eviction before the three days (or other specified time in the lease) or files the eviction suit before delivering a Notice to Vacate, the eviction may be thrown out.
- You were not given an opportunity to correct.
If the lease states that the tenant forfeits the lease if certain lease terms are violated, the tenant is typically given an opportunity to “cure” or correct the problem before the owner can claim forfeiture.
- You made partial rent payments.
If your Notice to Vacate requires you to pay the back rent or move out and, if during the notice period, your landlord accepts even a portion of the back rent, the eviction process stops. If you fail to pay the balance, the landlord must restart the eviction process.
- Your landlord discriminated against you.
You cannot be removed from your home based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability nor can the landlord retaliate if you claim discrimination against you or a fellow tenant. The Notice to Vacate must state a valid reason for being asked to leave (non-payment of rent, violation of the lease terms, illegal use the property, damage to the property, etc.)
- The landlord made you do it.
If you can show that you defaulted on your lease because of the landlord’s negligence, the eviction suit may be dismissed. An eviction suit is on shaky ground if the landlord neglected to disclose relevant information about the property, included lease provisions that violate state or federal law, failed to create safe living conditions or made other mistakes.
We recommend you negotiate any sections of the lease that require you to waive any procedural rights during the eviction process. The landlord may agree if you have a strong application: income, excellent rental history, and credit.
Even if the judge rules against you, you have five days to appeal the decision before you are expected to leave the premises. The landlord also has five days to appeal, so once you receive that Notice to Vacate, be sure you are consulting counsel and gathering all the documents and witnesses you will need to make a strong case. You can also consult the Texas property code regarding forcible detainer suits.
If you are a tenant who has prevailed in a Texas eviction case, please share your experience with our readers in the comment box below.