Eviction from Mobile Home Parks
Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
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If you own your mobile home and are renting a lot from a mobile home park, you have additional protections if you face the threat of eviction. Of course, you should try to talk to your landlord to see if you can resolve your differences. Your interest may be better served if you work something out without having to go to court.
If you are unable to resolve your dispute, and your landlord wants to evict you, your landlord must go through a court eviction process. The following are the steps that must be followed in Texas before a landlord can evict you from a mobile home park:
STEP 1. LANDLORD MUST GIVE YOU A WRITTEN NOTICE OF YOUR DELINQUENCY, AND YOU HAVE 10 DAYS TO PAY THAT AMOUNT
Your landlord may evict you for nonpayment of rent or other amounts only if
1. the total amount you owe is equal to at least one month's rent
2. your landlord has notified you in writing of the delinquent amounts you owe; and
3. you failed to pay that amount, in full, before the 10th day after you receive the written notice.
If you landlord fails to give you a written notice of what you owe or does not give you 10 days to pay and still files an eviction case against you, you should explain to the judge that the landlord improperly filed the eviction case. The judge may dismiss the case and require that the landlord first give you the 10 day notice to pay.
STEP 2. LANDLORD GIVES TENANT WRITTEN NOTICE TO VACATE
If you have not paid the rent you owe within the 10 days, the landlord must then give you written notice with a deadline for moving out before filing an eviction lawsuit. The notice must give you at least three days to vacate, unless your lease allows for a shorter notice. If your landlord does not give you this notice, you should raise this with the judge in the eviction case.
STEP 3. LANDLORD SUES YOU IN JUSTICE OF THE PEACE (J.P.) COURT
If you do not move by the date given in the notice to vacate, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit against you in Justice of the Peace (J.P.) court. The landlord?s written complaint in the lawsuit must state the specific reason why the landlord is evicting you, and the landlord must swear to the contents of the complaint. In an eviction case, the landlord can only ask for possession of the unit, back rent, court costs, and attorney?s fees (if represented by an attorney); the J.P. judge should not consider any other damages, such as late fees or damages to the unit.
[Note: If your landlord is represented by an attorney and wins the eviction case, the landlord can only recover attorney?s fees if the lease allows that or if the landlord sent you a notice, at least 10 days before the lawsuit was filed, via certified mail, return receipt, demanding that you vacate before the 11th day after the date of the receipt of the notice and warning you about the possibility of having to pay attorney?s fees.]
STEP 4. THE COURT NOTIFIES YOU OF THE LAWSUIT
You will be served with an official notice (an eviction citation) and copy of the lawsuit by an official (usually a constable or sheriff) sent by the J.P. Court. Those papers will tell you when you must appear in J.P. Court or if you must answer (in writing or by telephone) the lawsuit before appearing in court. If you must answer the eviction lawsuit, keep in mind that weekends and holidays count in the number of days you have to respond. You should closely follow the instructions in the eviction citation. If you would prefer that a jury rather than the J.P. hear your case, you can request a jury and pay $5.00 within five days of receiving the eviction citation.
IMPORTANT: If you were served with a court paper that is called a "Possession Bond," pay close attention. While these are rare, a Possession Bond requires you to make a demand for a trial to the J.P. Court within six days of being served. If you do not do this, the landlord may have you and your property removed after the sixth day. It is always best to request the trial in writing. As with any filing with the court, you should bring your original request and a copy. The court clerk should stamp both documents with the date you filed them and return the file-stamped copy to you for your records.
STEP 5. COURT HEARING
Call the court in advance to confirm the date and time of your trial and the location. You must go to court on the date and time given to you over the phone or in the court papers. If you must take your children with you, try to take along someone who can look after them during the hearing. If you do not show up in court on time, the landlord will ask for a judgment to evict you.
The trial date is usually held between 6 and 10 days of when you receive the court papers. If you have a conflict, you can ask the judge to postpone the trial, but it is somewhat rare for the J.P. to change the date of trial unless both parties agree to the delay. At the hearing, the judge will listen to the landlord's side and to your side of the story. Both parties have the right to present their side of the case, and the landlord bears the burden of showing why you should be evicted. You should bring any witnesses, receipts, cancelled checks, photographs, and other evidence that will help you defend yourself. Do not be afraid to speak up -- the judge cannot read your mind, so do not remain silent. If you have questions of the landlord, you are entitled to ask them in front of the judge. After hearing from both parties, the judge will decide whether you are to be evicted.
STEP 6. J.P. COURT DECISION
The J.P. will sign a written judgment in your case. If the judge rules to evict you, then you only have 5 days from the date the judgment is signed to file with the J.P. an appeal of that decision. If you have lost in eviction court and don't appeal, and you remain in the rental premises after the 5-day deadline passes, your landlord can ask the J.P. for a ?writ of possession?, which allows the constable or sheriff to give you a 24-hour warning and then to supervise the removal of your family and your belongings from the premises. An officer cannot execute a writ of possession (that is, remove you from the premises) if it is raining, sleeting, or snowing.
STEP 7. FILING AN APPEAL
You will have only five days (counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) to appeal the decision of the J.P. Court. If the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, you must file your appeal the next day the court is open. During the appeal, you may remain in the residence. To appeal, you must file either an appeal bond at an amount set by the J.P. or an Affidavit of Inability to Pay the Appeal Bond. Often, the appeal bond is set at two or three times your monthly rent. Once you appeal, the case is then sent to the County Court for a new trial.
If you cannot afford the appeal bond, you can still appeal by instead filing with the J.P. Court an Affidavit of Inability to Pay the Appeal Bond. The J.P. Court is supposed to give you an Affidavit form if you request it. The Affidavit form will ask about your income, assets, monthly expenses, dependents, and debts. You must provide complete information. The landlord has the right to contest the Affidavit. If that happens, you must go to court and testify before the judge about the information in the Affidavit.
Special note for nonpayment of rent eviction cases: If you appeal an eviction case by filing an Affidavit of Inability to Pay the Appeal Bond, and a reason for the eviction is nonpayment of rent, you must pay one month's rent into the J.P. court registry within five days (counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) of filing the Affidavit. You will do this by paying the rent payment to the J.P. court clerk. After that, you must pay future rent into the County Court registry by making that payment to the County Court clerk within five days of when the rent is due under the lease. If you fail to pay into the court registry on time, the landlord may ask the court to issue an order for the constable to remove you from the residence.
STEP 8. YOU DON'T WANT TO APPEAL, BUT YOU WANT 30 DAYS TO MOVE YOUR MOBILE HOME
If the J.P. rules against you in the eviction case, and you do not want to appeal that decision, you can still get 30 days to move your mobile home by paying one month's rent to the landlord. While not necessary, we strongly encourage you to make this payment in the presence of the J.P. at the trial, so that the court knows you have paid the rent and are invoking this right. Once you pay the one month's rent, you have 30 days from the date of the J.P.'s judgment to remove your mobile home from the lot, and the court cannot order the landlord or constable to remove your mobile home from the lot.
If the J.P. or the court's staff has any questions about this law allowing you 30 days to move after you pay one month's rent, you should refer them to the Texas Property Code, Section 94.203(d), which states:
?(D) NOTWITHSTANDING OTHER LAW, A COURT MAY NOT ISSUE A WRIT OF POSSESSION IN FAVOR OF A LANDLORD BEFORE THE 30TH DAY AFTER THE DATE THE JUDGMENT FOR POSSESSION IS RENDERED IF THE TENANT HAS PAID THE RENT AMOUNT DUE UNDER THE LEASE FOR THAT 30-DAY PERIOD.?