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Appealing an Eviction

Eviction & Other Landlord Issues

Steps to appeal an eviction in Texas.

If a justice court has evicted you, contact a lawyer for help immediately. The deadlines for appealing evictions are tight, and successful court arguments can be difficult in nonpayment cases.

Contact the legal aid program in your county to see if you qualify for eviction advice, help negotiating with landlords, and even in-court representation in some cases. Those in rural counties can apply online or call 855-270-7655.

Suit to Evict

The landlord must deliver to you a written "Notice to Vacate" with a move-out date. If you don’t move out by the date, the landlord must file an eviction case in Justice Court with a Justice of the Peace (a type of judge). A constable will serve you with the lawsuit, and the first page will state the date of the trial.

No-Show/Default

If you don’t appear at the trial, the landlord wins by a default judgment. Six days after the judgment, they can ask the Justice Court for a "Writ of Possession" to remove you. The constable will then post a 24 hours’ notice to vacate on your front door. After that period, the sheriff and constable can remove you and your belongings.

I lost my eviction case because I missed the hearing. Can I still appeal?

You can still appeal, yes. If you had a very good reason for missing your hearing, you can also ask for a new hearing in Justice Court. You can do this by filing a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment. Note that filing for a new Justice Court hearing does not give you extra time to appeal to County Court.

Stay in Your Home Pending Appeal

If you lose the hearing or there is a default, you can appeal within five days and remain in the property while the appeal is pending. You still must pay rent as set forth below if the eviction is for nonpayment of rent.

If part of your rent is paid with federal funds (public housing, subsidized housing, Section 8 rental voucher), make sure the Justice Court’s judgment states the amount paid by the government and the amount to be paid by you. If this isn’t correct, you must file a written objection in Justice Court within five days of the date of the judgment. This is important because you must deposit your part of the rent while your appeal is pending when the eviction is for nonpayment, and you appeal by filing an Affidavit of Inability to Pay. You want it to be what you actually owe.

Three Ways to Appeal Your Eviction

You have only five days to appeal the Justice Court’s decision to the County Court (the next highest court). 

If possible, you should pay any fees when you file your appeal. Also be sure to file your Answer with your appeal documents, if possible. This will help make sure you meet all deadlines.

There are three ways to appeal: by (1) bond, (2) cash deposit, or (3) a Statement of Inability to Pay Court Costs (Fee Waiver).

1. Appeal by Bond

A bond is a promise to pay the judgment if you lose the appeal. The judge usually sets the amount at one month's rent, but this may vary. You can file a bond with the Justice Court. A bond must be signed (guaranteed) by you and one or more people who are approved by the Justice Court. For example, you may need someone who has assets in Texas to sign your bond.

If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent and you file an appeal bond, you must then also pay one rental period’s rent into the Justice Court’s court registry within five days after filing the bond.

You must also file an Answer with the County Court within eight days after the Justice Court sends the appeal to the County Court. If you already filed an Answer in Justice Court, you do not need to file another in the County Court.

You must pay the filing fees for the appeal within twenty days after the Justice Court sends it to County Court. 

To make sure you do not miss a deadline, it is best to file the Answer and pay the filing fees along with your bond or as soon after as possible.

2. Appeal by Cash Deposit

If you tell the judge you want to file an appeal by cash deposit, the judge will set the deposit amount. This deposit is usually equal to a month’s rent, but the judge can decide on a different amount.

You must also file an Answer with the County Court within eight days after the Justice Court sends the appeal to the County Court. If you already filed an Answer in Justice Court, you do not need to file another in the County Court.

You must pay the filing fees for the appeal within twenty days after the Justice Court sends it to County Court.

To make sure you do not miss a deadline, it is best to file the Answer and pay the filing fees along with your deposit or as soon after as possible.

3. Appeal by Statement of Inability to Pay (Fee Waiver)

If you can’t afford the bond or a cash deposit, you can file an Affidavit of Inability to Pay (also called a Sworn Statement of Inability to Pay, or a fee waiver). The Justice Court should provide you a form Affidavit upon request.

If you appeal with a fee waiver, you are not responsible for County Court filing fees. If the landlord disagrees with your Affidavit, you must prove in a Justice Court hearing that you cannot afford to pay the cash deposit or file the bond. If the Justice Court denies your fee waiver, you can appeal that decision to County Court. You then have five days to ask the County Court for a hearing on the fee waiver. (Even if the County Court tells you that it will set a hearing, request one anyway. You are responsible for getting a timely hearing.)

If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent and you file a fee waiver, you must pay one rental period’s rent into the Justice Court’s court registry within five days after filing the fee waiver. You must then continue to pay rent into the registry as you normally would your landlord, usually each month. (After the Justice Court sends the case to County Court, you pay the rent into the County Court registry instead.)

You must also file an Answer with the County Court within eight days after the Justice Court sends the appeal to the County Court. If you already filed an Answer in Justice Court, you do not need to file another in the County Court.

Failing to pay rent into the court registry does not stop your appeal. However, if you do not pay, the landlord can get the court’s permission to remove you without another hearing. So, while you can still fight the grounds for the eviction, you cannot remain in the home without continuing to pay rent.
 

Paying Rent into the Court Registry (Nonpayment of Rent Evictions Only)

If you appeal by Affidavit of Inability to Pay (fee waiver): You must pay one rental period’s rent (as stated in the judgment) to the Justice Court Clerk within five days of filing your Affidavit. After that, you must pay rent every rental period (usually monthly) to the County Court Clerk until your appeal is decided. Pay the County Court within five days after rent is due under the lease. If you are late, your landlord can get a Writ of Possession to have you removed.

If you appeal by bond: You must pay one rental period’s rent (as stated in the judgment) to the Justice Court within five days of filing the bond. The law does not require you to make regular rent payments to the County Court. You will, however, still owe the landlord regular rent for as long as you live on the property.

If you appeal by cash deposit: You do not have to make an initial rent payment to the Justice Court. As with appeal by bond, the law does not require you to make regular rent payments to the County Court. However, you will still owe the landlord regular rent for as long as you live on the property.

Texas Rent Relief recipients: If you are appealing an eviction after having received Texas Rent Relief funds, you may use those funds to pay rent into the court registry instead of to your landlord.

Paying Rent While on Appeal

If you file an appeal by bond or cash deposit, you are not bound to pay rent while your case is on appeal. Rent may still accrue, though.

Payments when appealing by Statement of Inability to Pay Court Costs: 

If you choose to appeal by Statement of Inability to Pay Court Costs, you must pay rent into the court registry. There are two payment deadlines you need to be aware of:

  • The day rent is normally due. Failure to pay on time every month allows the court to remove you before the County Court can even hear your case.
  • Within five days of the appeal. With the Statement of Inability to Pay option, you must also make an initial rent payment within five days of your appeal. That means if your normal payment date falls outside of those five days, you may need to make two rental payments in a short amount of time.

Example: If you appeal with a Statement of Inability to Pay on the 15th, you must make an initial payment into the court registry by the 20th. If rent is normally due on the 1st of the month, you must also pay on the 1st in addition to the payment you made on the 20th. However, if you appealed on the 28th and rent is normally due on the 1st, making a single payment on the 1st will count as paying both your normal rent and paying within five days of the appeal.

Paying Rent to the Landlord (If Eviction Is for Other Than Nonpayment)

If the eviction is for some reason other than nonpayment of rent, you should continue to pay the rent to the landlord directly to prevent eviction for nonpayment. If the landlord refuses to accept your rent, you should put it aside and not touch it, because you will still owe it.

Written Answer

If you didn’t file a written answer to the lawsuit in the Justice Court, you must file one in the County Court within eight days after the County Court receives your case. The Clerk will send you notice by certified mail (check with the Court frequently!). If you don’t file a written answer, the landlord may win by default. Your answer can be a simple hand-written letter asking for a trial and giving the reasons why you shouldn’t be evicted. Or here are answer forms.

Filing Fee (County Court)

If you did not appeal with an Affidavit of Inability to Pay, you must pay a filing fee to the County Court within 20 days after receiving notice of the fee. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you can file an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Costs.

Appeals Process Flowchart

The Travis County Law Library has created a flowchart to help tenants understand the eviction appeals process.

Trial on Appeal

Your appeal means you will have a new trial in the County Court. The same evidence you used in Justice Court (papers, witnesses, photographs) can be presented again. If you have new evidence, you can also present it. The judge will listen first to the landlord's side and then to your side, and then make a decision about whether to evict. You also have the right to ask questions of the landlord in court.

If You Lose the Appeal

You have 10 days to file a supersedeas bond set by the County Court if you wish to appeal to the court of appeals and remain in possession. The process is complicated; consult a lawyer immediately to discuss your next steps.

Deadlines Are Important

You must meet all deadlines or you risk losing your appeal by default. There are deadlines to appeal, to pay any fees, to pay rent into the court registry, and to file your Answer. If possible, pay the fees and file your Answer when you file your appeal documents.

These deadlines are important enough to restate here:

Five Days to Appeal

You have five days after you lose your case in Justice Court to file your appeal, whether by bond, case deposit, or fee waiver.

The five days include weekends and holidays. If the deadline falls on a day that the Justice Court is closed (or is not open until 5:00 PM), you can file the appeal on the next day that the Justice Court is open. If you miss the deadline, the judgment stands and the landlord can get an Writ of Possession to have you and your belongings removed.

Eight Days to File an Answer

You must file your Answer with the County Court within eight days after the Justice Court sends your appeal. There is no way to know exactly how long it will take the Justice Court to send the appeal to the County Court, so file your Answer as soon as possible once you file your appeal.

20 Days to Pay Appeal Filing Fees

If you appeal by bond or cash deposit, you have 20 days to pay the filing fee to the County Court after the Justice Court sends your appeal. There is no way to know exactly how long it will take the Justice Court to send the appeal to the County Court, so pay the fees as soon possible once you file your appeal.

Five days to pay rent into the court registry (and then at the beginning of each rental period)

Five Days to Pay Rent into the Registry (Appeal by Bond or Fee Waiver)

If you appeal a nonpayment eviction case by Fee Waiver or bond, you must pay rent into the Justice Court registry within five days of filing your appeal.

On-Time Monthly Rent Payments (Appeal by Fee Waiver)

If you appeal a nonpayment eviction case by Fee Waiver, you must also pay rent into the County Court registry at the beginning of each rental period – usually every month, but check your lease. If there is no lease, pay when you would normally do so. You must pay within five days of the rental due date or risk eviction.

In some cases, the County Court may at first reject your rental payments because the Justice Court has not yet sent up your appeal. If that happens, pay rent to the Justice Court registry until they send your paperwork to County Court.

Forms

Below are links to useful forms from the Texas Justice Court Training Center. The forms you use depend on your situation. You can either file an appeal bond with two cosigners, file an appeal by cash deposit, or ask for a fee waiver. (If the court grants your fee waiver, you will have to pay rent to the court registry on time every month or risk eviction.)
 
Option 1 - Appeal Bond: Find two sureties to cosign your appeal bond. A surety is someone who agrees to ensure the judgment gets paid if you lose your case. Filing an appeal bond starts your appeal.
 
Option 2 - Appeal by Cash Deposit: If you cannot find two sureties to sign your bond, then you may file an appeal by cash deposit. This requires you to pay cash into the court registry. The amount is most often equal to a month's rent, though the court can set it higher or lower. Filing the appeal by cash deposit starts your appeal.
 
Option 3 - Statement of Inability to Pay Court Costs (Fee Waiver): If you cannot find two sureties and cannot pay cash, you may use this form to ask the court to waive bond and deposit. However, you must still pay rent on time or risk eviction.  See Texas Property Code 25.0053(b). Filing a fee waiver starts the appeal.
 
If you file for a fee waiver, you will need additional forms. First, you must give the other side notice that you filed. If the landlord disagrees with you over your ability to pay fees, you will need to ask for a hearing on the fee waiver. You must also give the other side notice of this hearing. Finally, if the Justice Court (also "JP Court") grants your request to waive fees, then the judge will sign your order.
 
Fee Waiver Forms:
 
Filing an Answer
Remember to file an Answer with the County Court if you have not already filed one with the Justice Court. If you have filed an answer with the Justice Court, you do not need to file another Answer with the County Court.

More Information

The Travis County Law Library has a flowchart to help you visualize the appeal process.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center has a training module to help you learn about eviction appeals.

Texas Tenant Advisor has a wealth of information about tenant rights.

Related Guides

  • Motion to Set Aside a Default Eviction Judgment

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    This guide can help you ask for a new trial if you missed your eviction hearing for a good reason.
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