ORANGE COUNTY

Justice of the Peace Courts

Evictions

If you do not find answers to your questions here, please contact a JP office.

The matters discussed here are for informational purposes only. Nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice. For legal advice, you should speak to an attorney.

 

Common Questions

All eviction suits must be filed in the Justice of the Peace Precinct where the property is located. It is important to understand that the Judge is neither an advocate for the landlord or tenant, and each case is tried on it's own individual merit. Here are some of the more frequently asked questions:

Where do I file?
What does the court do for me?
What do I have to do to evict someone who is not paying rent?
How long does it take to evict someone?
Is there a faster way to evict someone?
Can I lock out somebody who is not paying their rent?
Can I be penalized for illegally locking someone out
if they owe me rent?

Where can I find additional information?

 

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Where do I file?

Contact Justice of the Peace in the precinct in which the property is located.

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What does the court do for me?

You can file a suit to legally evict someone in the Court. Once the suit is filed, the Judge holds a hearing to determine who has the superior right of possession to the property. By law, you are only allowed to sue for past due rent in an eviction case. If you are seeking other remedies (accelerated rent, re-letting fees, damages, utilities, deposit) you will need to file a separate suit.

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What do I have to do to evict someone who is not paying rent?

There are basically four steps in the Eviction process:

  1. The notice to vacate
  2. Filing the Suit
  3. Going to Court
  4. Writ of Possession

1. The notice to vacate

If a landlord alleges a tenant is not paying rent, the Landlord is required by law to give the tenant written notice to vacate the premises. This notice can be delivered to the tenant personally with a witness, by certified mail (return receipt requested) or by any other method allowed by law. Unless your lease specifically states otherwise, the law requires you to deliver the written notice, and then wait three days before filing your suit in Justice Court. This is a legal requirement which must be met and cannot be overlooked.

2. Filing the Suit

You must file an original petition with the Court and pay court costs of $116.00. These court costs pay for filing your suit, your court hearing, and for the Constable to serve the citation. The citation is the notice to the tenant that you are attempting to evict him.

3. Going to Court

You must go to Court and prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. Simply filing a suit does not necessarily mean you will win your suit. You should bring all documents and other evidence with you to Court in a well organized fashion. At the hearing, you will have to present evidence to show that you are entitled to possession of the premises.

4. Writ of Possession

If you have won your suit in Court, and the mandatory five day appeal period has passed, and the other party is still in the premises, you can file a Writ of Possession in Court. A Writ of Possession is a Court order to the Constable to place you in possession of the property. The Writ of Possession will cost you an additional $105.00 (please contact the specific JP office to obtain the total filing fee), and may be requested at the JP office where the judgment is. The Constable of your particular Precinct can answer your questions about this Writ.

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How long does it take to evict someone?

From start to finish approximately three weeks.

  • 3 days from notice to vacate to filing of suit
  • 1-5 days to serve the citation- The law requires the defendant have not less than 10 nor more than 21 days notice after suit is filed before a hearing
  • 5 days to appeal the suit following the hearing required by law.
  • 2 days- The Constable is required by law to post not less than 24 hour vacate notice on the Writ of Possession

21-24 days is the minimum amount of time to evict someone in any County in Texas. It must also be noted that any eviction suit is subject to appeal to the County Courts-at-Law.

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Is there a faster way to evict someone?

There is a remedy that can shorten the time period from 23 days to ten days if you prevail in Court. This is known as a Bond for Immediate Possession and includes a Notice to Defendant of the Bond for Immediate Possession. By filing a bond for immediate possession, the eviction process could be shortened provided the defendant does not request a trial or post a counter bond.

In a Bond for Immediate Possession, you are putting up a bond for surety or cash. If you lose your suit, you could lose all or part of your bond. It must also be noted that any eviction suit judgment may be appealed to the County Courts-At-Law. However, if the defendant requests a trial or files a counter bond, the length of time involved in a Bond For Immediate Possession will be about the same as in a normal Eviction suit.

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Can I lock out somebody who is not paying their rent?
Can I be penalized for illegally locking someone out
if they owe me rent?

Sec. 92.0081, Texas Property Code: Removal of Property and Exclusion of Residential Tenant.

(a) A landlord may not remove a door, window, or attic hatchway cover or a lock, latch, hinge, hinge pin, doorknob, or other mechanism connected to a door, window, or attic hatchway cover from premises leased to a tenant or remove furniture, fixtures, or appliances furnished by the landlord from premises leased to a tenant unless the landlord removes the item for a bona fide repair or replacement. If a landlord removes any of the items listed in this subsection for a bona fide repair or replacement, the repair or replacement must be promptly performed.

(b) A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from entering the leased premises except by judicial process unless the exclusion results from:(1) bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency; (2) removing the contents of premises abandoned by a tenant; or (3) changing the door locks of a tenant who is delinquent in paying at least part of the rent.

(c) If a landlord or a landlord's agent changes the door lock of a tenant who is delinquent in paying rent, the landlord or the landlord's agent must place a written notice on the tenant's front door stating: (1) an on-site location where the tenant may go 24 hours a day to obtain the new key or a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day that the tenant may call to have a key delivered within two hours after calling the number; (2) the fact that the landlord must provide the new key to the tenant at any hour, regardless of whether or not the tenant pays any of the delinquent rent; and (3) the amount of rent and other charges for which the tenant is delinquent.

(d) A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from entering the leased premises under Subsection (b) (3) unless: (1) the tenant is delinquent in paying all or part of the rent; and (2) the landlord has locally mailed not later than the fifth calendar day before the date on which the door locks are changed or hand-delivered to the tenant or posted on the inside of the main entry door of the tenant's dwelling not later than the third calendar day before the date on which the door locks are changed a written notice stating: (A) the earliest date that the landlord proposes to change the door locks; (B) the amount of rent the tenant must pay to prevent changing of the door locks; and (C) the name and street address of the individual to whom, or the location of the on-site management office at which, the delinquent rent may be paid during the landlord's normal business hours.

(e) A landlord may not change the locks on the door of a tenant's dwelling under Subsection (b) (3) on a day, or on a day immediately before a day, on which the landlord or other designated individual is not available, or on which any on-site management office is not open, for the tenant to tender the delinquent rent.

(f) A landlord who intentionally prevents a tenant from entering the tenant's dwelling under Subsection (b) (3) must provide the tenant with a key to the changed lock on the dwelling without regard to whether the tenant pays the delinquent rent.

(g) If a landlord arrives at the dwelling in a timely manner in response to a tenant's telephone call to the number contained in the notice as described by Subsection (c) (1) and the tenant is not present to receive the key to the changed lock, the landlord shall leave a notice on the front door of the dwelling stating the time the landlord arrived with the key and the street address to which the tenant may go to obtain the key during the landlord's normal office hours.

(h) If a landlord violates this section, the tenant may: (1) either recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease; and (2) recover from the landlord a civil penalty of one month's rent plus $500, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees in an action to recover property damages, actual expenses, or civil penalties, less any delinquent rent or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.

(i) If a landlord violates Subsection (f), the tenant may recover, in addition to the remedies provided by Subsection (h), an additional civil penalty of one month's rent.

(j) A provision of a lease that purports to waive a right or to exempt a party from a liability or duty under this section is void.

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Where can I find additional information?

Law books related to evictions can be easily accessed via the internet by clicking on the following link:

TEXAS STATUTES

The Texas Property Code, Texas Rules of Court, and Civil Practices and Remedies Codes are books of law. Nothing within this web site should be construed as legal advice. You are always encouraged to consult a law book or speak with your attorney concerning legal issues.

 

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