Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I lost my job two months ago. I have no money to pay my rent. My landlord is now threatening to evict me. I am wondering if I have any legal rights or if I have to move? I live in the State of Texas.”
Tenant rights to fight eviction
While it’s tempting to paint landlords as vindictive homeowners who will threaten to evict any tenant who does not pay their rent, more than likely the owner of the home you are living in has a mortgage payment that they are required to pay. If you do not pay the rent, no matter the reason, the landlord may not be able to pay the mortgage. And depending on their financial situation, at some point the mortgage company will foreclose on the property.
With this in mind, it’s likely that if you fail to pay the rent and do not discuss your options with the landlord that they will start the eviction process.
Reasons you can fight an eviction
Although this might not apply to your particular case, there are valid reasons you can fight an eviction. For example, if your landlord has tried to force you out of your apartment by changing the locks or turning off the utilities, you may be able to have your eviction case dismissed. Furthermore, your case may also be dismissed if you can prove that your landlord did not follow the rules and guidelines for the eviction (although likely will only delay the eviction).
You may be able to prove that the landlord breached the terms of the lease agreement by not keeping the rental unit safe and habitable. And finally, you may be able to prove that the landlord was either retaliating against you or discriminating against you, which is a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act or Texas Fair Housing Act.
Eviction for not paying rent
Although there are several reasons that you can fight an eviction, if you have failed to pay the rent the landlord generally will be able to prove a breach of contract (assuming there was not a legal reason you did not pay the rent).
So, what can you expect now? If you live in the State of Texas the landlord will give you a 3-day Notice to Vacate. You may choose either to vacate the premises, pay the rent, or fight the eviction. If you choose to pay the rent, then the eviction does not proceed. If you choose to move out without paying the rent, the landlord may use your security deposit to pay the rent.
If you do not pay the rent and you do not move out, your landlord can file a complaint with the Texas Justice Court which initiates a forcible detainer lawsuit. You will receive a copy of the complaint. You must respond within 14 days.
A hearing will also be scheduled in which both you and the landlord will provide information about the case. The court will make a ruling following the hearing.
If you do not have a legal reason not to pay rent, in the State of Texas your landlord may have the legal right to start the eviction process the day after the rent is due or as outlined in your rental contract.
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