The landlord in this case used a high-risk notice to vacate delivery method. The tenant appealed her Arlington TX eviction trial to a County Court at Law in Fort Worth, TX. Because the landlord is a corporation, the landlord was required to hire an attorney for representation before the County Court at Law in Fort Worth.
The landlord hired Arlington eviction attorney, Marc Girling to handle its County Court eviction trial. The client was very certain our firm would be able to talk the tenant into a settlement agreement. Because of this, the client elected to not take preventative measures that would have substantially reduced its risk. The landlord’s gamble paid off.
ARLINGTON TX EVICTION CASE BACKGROUND:
K.I. rented a residential rental property to a pair of tenants. One of the tenants later lost her only source of income. After some unsuccessful attempts to work with the tenants, the landlord found it necessary to start the eviction process.
K.I. served a notice to vacate by hand delivering the notice to the tenants. Afterwards, the landlord filed its eviction lawsuit with the Tarrant County Justice of the Peace, Arlington, Texas. The tenants failed to appear for their Arlington TX eviction trial.
After the trial, one of the tenants exercised her right to an unrestricted appeal. She filed an appeal using an affidavit of indigence (also called a pauper’s appeal). After the Tarrant County Court received the Arlington TX eviction court’s transcripts, K.I. hired the Arlington eviction attorneys at Girling Law to handle the eviction appeal.
RENTAL PROPERTY LOCATION: Arlington, TX
EVICTION COURT LOCATION: Fort Worth, TX
EVICTION TRIAL OUTCOME:
Prior to trial, Girling Law obtained settlement authority from the landlord. The law firm’s Arlington eviction attorneys were armed with a settlement strategy and all documentation necessary to obtain an enforceable settlement agreement when going into the trial. This preparation resulted in a desirable outcome.
The appealing tenant appeared at trial. Girling Law had previously attempted to reach the tenant in order to negotiate a settlement. However, the landlord provided the law firm a telephone number for the tenant that was no longer in service. Girling Law’s attorney identified the tenant prior to the trial and immediately started negotiating. The tenant initially wanted an unreasonable amount of additional time. Girling Law’s attorney explained the eviction timeline to the tenant. The attorney also showed the tenant how her decision to appeal her Arlington TX eviction resulted in substantial costs for the landlord. The attorney was eventually successful in persuading the tenant to sign an enforceable settlement agreement. The agreement required the tenant to move out on her own and required her to make a partial rental payment before her agreed move out date.
Girling Law’s Arlington eviction attorney succeeded in obtaining a settlement agreement that included terms well within the landlord’s settlement authority. The negotiated move out date included a period of time that was significantly less than the amount of time the landlord authorized the firm to use. In addition, the landlord authorized Girling Law to enter into an agreement which did not require the tenant to pay any additional rent. Girling Law’s attorney nonetheless managed to persuade the tenant to agree to make a partial rent payment.
The Court read the terms of the settlement agreement into the Court’s record. The Court also obtained the tenant’s testimony indicating that she understood what she was required to do under the settlement agreement.
The tenant later paid the partial rent payment before her deadline and all tenants and occupants vacated the rental property as agreed. The appealing tenant had also made one full rent payment into the Court’s registry shortly after she appealed her Arlington TX eviction. The settlement agreement also included a term that released this rent payment to the landlord. K.I’s Arlington eviction attorney followed up with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office to obtain this rent payment. Girling Law then forwarded the payment to the landlord. With the return of this rent payment, the tenant’s partial rent payment, and the tenant’s security deposit, a significant portion of K.I.’s money damages were covered.
The landlord in this case was well prepared for its Arlington TX eviction. The landlord had a well written lease agreement and a good payment ledger. However, the landlord’s decision to hand deliver the notice to vacate to the tenants made this eviction a high-risk case. Although the notice to vacate form, itself, was sufficient, the landlord’s delivery method was problematic. Had the tenant elected to go to trial and deny that she ever received a copy of the notice to vacate, the County Court Judge would have very likely ruled in the tenant’s favor.
Risks and Strategy
The landlord in this case believed her tenant to be an honest individual who simply lost her job. The most conservative approach to handling this situation is to immediately start a second eviction. The delivery method for this second notice to vacate should be a method that is easier to prove. Although a second eviction involves additional costs, were the landlord to lose the (first) eviction appeal in the County Court, the landlord would be about 4 weeks into its second eviction. In this case, the landlord was very certain its tenant would be willing to settle. More importantly, the landlord was certain its tenant would not lie under oath. Because of this, the landlord was willing to accept these risks. The landlord instructed its Arlington eviction attorney to not start a second eviction despite the benefits as a preventative measure. This was a excellent decision.
By successfully obtaining a settlement agreement, it was no longer necessary to conduct trial. By agreeing to enter into a settlement agreement, the landlord eliminated all of the risk it faced arising from its ill-advised notice to vacate delivery method.
Know Thy Tenant Well; Know Thy Notices to Vacate Better
This case illustrates well the need to have someone on your investment team who makes a point of getting to know the character of your tenant. This case also illustrates well the need to use a reliable notice to vacate delivery method. Just because Texas law permits the use of a specific delivery method does not mean it is a good idea to use that delivery method. Check out my article on delivering notices to vacate here.
Insisting on a lease application and conducting background checks will eliminate many of the people who might be willing to do something underhanded like lie to a Judge under oath. But these steps are far from perfect. In this case, the landlord made a point of interacting with her tenant sufficiently to develop a “gut feeling” about her tenant’s character. Although a very subjective source of information, it is information nonetheless. And in this case the information proved to be useful. Truth be told, we prefer our landlord clients to avoid contact with their tenants entirely. We instead prefer our clients use a high quality Property Manager who can develop this relationship on behalf of the landlord.