Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

17 August 2008

Eviction Appeals -- A General Overview

The party that loses in a Justice of the Peace Court may appeal for a new trial in the County Court. Although it is possible to represent yourself at the County Court level, the rules are much more complicated. It is best to obtain legal representation from an Attorney experienced in Eviction Appeals at the County Court. The party wishing to appeal has only five days after the judge signs the judgment to file a notice of appeal with the Justice of the Peace Court. To determine the deadline: Begin counting on the day after the trial (or date the judgment is signed if that is later). Count weekends and holidays, but the deadline will be extended to the next day the court is open if the fifth day falls on a weekend or holiday. For example, if the trial is Thursday, the deadline to file is Tuesday. If the judgment is signed on Monday, the deadline to file is the next Monday. Ask the court clerk, a lawyer, or tenant association to get information on the deadlines and the necessary papers.

In addition, to appeal a case to County Court, you must put up a bond (a bond is a promise to pay a certain amount). A bond must be signed by you and two others who have real estate in Texas (that no one lives on) or other sufficient assets (e.g., savings accounts, stocks). The judge must approve the bond. A bond guarantees that the other party's costs for the appeal will be paid in case you lose. A tenant can deposit cash into the court in the place of a bond. The bond amount is set by the court (usually it is set at two times the monthly rent amount). The appealing party must also pay court costs for filing the appeal in County Court. If you win in County Court, you will receive the bond back and will be entitled to the court costs from the landlord. If you lose, the landlord will be able to apply for some of the bond money, depending on her costs for obtaining possession and any lost rent.

If you have very little money, low income, and limited personal property, you can file a pauper's affidavit instead of posting a bond and paying costs. A pauper's affidavit is a document signed by you that swears you do not have enough money to make bond or pay costs. The document must be notarized and filed with the Justice of the Peace Court on or before the fifth day after the Justice of the Peace makes a decision in your case. A landlord can contest the affidavit and force you, at a hearing with the Justice of the Peace, to prove inability to pay. If you lose this "financial hearing," you have five days to either post a regular bond with the Justice of the Peace Court, as described above, or appeal this decision to the County Court. If you appeal the decision of the Justice of the Peace to deny your pauper’s affidavit, the County Court will set a hearing to consider your evidence that you cannot afford the bond. If the County Court does not approve your pauper’s affidavit, you can remain in possession of the unit only if you file an appeal bond within five days of the County Court judge’s decision. If the appeal papers are properly filed, you can stay in the premises during the appeal. However, if you have filed a pauper's affidavit, as described above, and the landlord has claimed you violated the lease for nonpayment of rent, you must deposit a one-month rental payment with the court within five days of filing the affidavit. You must continue to deposit rental payments with the court within five days of the due date under the lease until the trial date. If you fail to make these rental payments, the County Court may issue a writ of possession to have you removed from the residence pending trial.

No matter who appeals the case, a tenant must also file a written "answer" either in the Justice of the Peace Court or in the County Court within eight days of the case being assigned to a County Court. An answer is a written document that may state your defenses to the suit but can merely be a short statement listing the parties, the case number, and stating that you generally deny the statements made by the landlord. It does not have to be fancy to be valid. If an answer is not filed, you can lose the eviction case without having a trial.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers