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VOLUME IX: CONVERSATION IN REAL ESTATEMeet Lone Star EvictionsEvictions: When Property Owners Fight BackPodcast Interview by Jonathan Coleman | Written by Go4Rent Editorial Team Due dates are inarguable. That includes rent due dates. On a well-written lease, both the landlord and the tenant know exactly what date that is. However, that may not stop tenants from thinking they have a grace period ranging from a few days to a week, regardless of whether that extension is on the lease. If the landlord tends to be flexible with collecting rent, that can lead tenants to think they have more time than they (legally) do.
According to Shina Coleman though, landlords are well within their right to start the eviction process as soon as a tenant is late on rent.
“I suggest [landlords] point me at the first time rental payments are not received,” said Coleman, the owner of Lone Star Evictions, which was founded in 2005. “Some landlords wait until two and three months of nonpayment of rent, which I do not understand, while others adhere to my suggestion. If they’re late on the second [of the month], late is late—technically.”
However, Coleman admits that the third of the month is “pretty much standard” before the landlord will hand over a lease application and a lease agreement to request an eviction. After property owners contact eviction companies like Lone Star Evictions though, that doesn’t mean the tenant magically pays nor does it mean the tenant is automatically evicted. There is a step-by-step process before landlords can free themselves of residents—and it’s not always what, who or how the property owner thinks it is.
Evictions Aren’t Always About Money First, according to Coleman, landlords don’t have to wait until a tenant is a late payer in order to evict. If it’s a holdover tenant, someone who is violating the lease (ex. hoarder) and/or a tenant that the landlord no longer wants to have a rental agreement with (ex. new owner), the landlord can file for eviction for all of the above. Even family members can evict each other.
“Most of the family evictions don’t have written agreements,” said Coleman. “It’s usually where the son turned 19. Mom wants the son out of the house. She has to end that tenancy. So those types of evictions are treated as holdovers, where tenancy has to be terminated as a 30-day nonrenewal followed by a three-day notice to vacate.”
Or, evictions can happen between an engaged couple if the relationship soured. For example, a homeowner wants the ex to move out, but the ex claims common law rights in order to remain in the home.
When the Eviction Is About Money For evictions due to monetary conflict (the most common reason), landlords should be careful about any funds that they collect. These property owners should avoid filing for eviction if they’ve collected a partial payment from the renter. Instead, return the partial payment in the eviction-filing month until/unless a full payment is received.
Even after returning the rental payment, the amount of time it takes for landlords to evict will largely depend on how astute the tenant is.
“Getting a judgment at the Justice of the Peace level usually takes about a month from the time that the eviction is officially filed,” said Coleman, guesstimating a ballpark figure but emphasizing the turnaround time can vary.
Pre-COVID, the wait time used to be approximately two weeks. Post-COVID, landlords have run into court systems that are overwhelmingly backed up even after the eviction moratorium expired.
While the courts may be backed up, Coleman still moves forward with sending out a three-day notice (excluding weekends and holidays) for tenants to vacate the property. After the first notice is sent and the eviction paperwork is filed, Lone Star Evictions then represents the landlord in court. (Landlords can choose to attend, but it’s not a requirement with this company.)
If the landlord decides to work out a payment agreement or the tenant pays before the three-week turnaround, then Lone Star Evictions can stop the eviction process.
Judgment Received: When Does the Tenant Move Out? Tenants may choose to appeal the eviction decision, even if they haven’t made partial or full payment arrangements. They will have five days from the time they receive the judgment to do so, although it’s rare. According to Coleman, appeals only happen about 10% of the time.
If the tenant opts for “perfecting the appeal,” then the judgment is erased and the housing case has to be heard in a higher court (i.e. County Court). If they choose this option, they will have to pay one month’s rent into the court’s registry while they wait for their case to be re-heard.
These funds may eventually be turned over to the landlord if the landlord wins the case. During the time the case is being re-heard, the money stays within the court system.
In the meantime, landlords may look at this arrangement as the tenant is living “rent-free.” That’s not exactly true.
“A month or two months later, that tenant must still place rent into the registry,” said Coleman. “Each month, it becomes due.”
But even if the tenant doesn’t pay rent to the registry, that doesn’t mean the tenant automatically loses the eviction case.
According to Coleman, “Nothing is automatic—ever.”
The attorney would have to file a motion based on nonpayment of rent, meaning not depositing money into that registry.
As an alternative, tenants can choose to move so the landlord can have possession of the house. This eliminates more court costs between the two but may also result in the tenant losing a security deposit.
And if the tenant does nothing altogether, no appeal nor moves out, then the landlord must move forward with trying to get a writ of possession, meaning forced eviction. Just as the appeal is rare, Coleman stated that the writ of possession is equally rare (10%). Tenants more often than not just move out altogether to avoid the court system.
When they don’t, constables will make several visits to the home and around the perimeter, looking through the windows to see if tenants are still residing on the property. If the tenant has moved out but there are clearly leftover belongings (ex. bed frames, utilities still on) in the home, the property removal can get complicated.
“The tenant still has possession,” said Coleman, counting off items that may be left behind. “And the landlord should assume so.”
That’s when Lone Star Evictions will have to schedule a locksmith and movers, along with the constable and a representative for the landlord. (The representative can be someone from Lone Star Evictions.) All four must arrive in order for the eviction to proceed for the estimated two to three hours. If any of the four is not there, the writ of possession cannot move forward.
When Evicted Tenants Fight Back If all parties (constable, locksmith, landlord representative, movers) arrive and the tenant chooses to be uncooperative or combative, the constable will call for backup to make sure all parties are safe. The locksmith will then knock down the door or remove the lock.
“I’ve had a few [evictions] where I felt unsafe,” said Coleman. “I would just stand back and let the constables take the lead for the safety of myself and others involved. For the most part, tenants have vacated or are compliant.”
Although combative tenants are rare during the forced move-out process, Coleman confirmed that some tenants may choose to damage the property beforehand—one of the main reasons that the landlords are wary of filing for evictions. In that case, landlords can try to recoup lost funds for repairs in Small Claims Court or a $100 fee per tenant to use programs like Stick It To ‘Em.
“We partnered with Stick It To ‘Em, where we will file that claim with damages, reletting fees, cleaning fees, any other fees associated with that property to all three credit bureaus,” said Coleman. “It stays on the credit report for seven years. If any monies are collected, then the landlord will get 50% of what’s collected while the collection agency gets the other 50%.”
Is the Eviction Worth the Trouble? From hoarders to conflicting spouses to late-paying tenants, evictions can be ugly. However, they don’t have to be. It’s harder for family members and significant others to vet each other as roommates and clients, but both parties can see signs when the housing agreement isn’t working out.
And for property owners who have no prior ties to their tenants, vetting and background checks are key. Doing so creates less room for misunderstandings once monetary disputes and eviction actions are taken.
But as with any relationship (business or personal), sometimes the relationship sours even if both parties never intended for it to happen. When eviction seems like the most likely alternative, property owners must protect their investments. And with companies like Lone Star Evictions, who prioritizes itself as “always on the client’s side,” eviction and separation may be the best way to part ways.