I am being evicted in Texas because I was one week late
on one month's rent. I've been a good tenant for 10 months and never missed a
payment. Is there any way to stop eviction?
In most states, landlords must give late-paying tenants a
few days to pay the rent (or move out) before the landlord can file for
eviction. If you lived in California, for example, your landlord would have
given you a “three-day notice to pay or quit,” and had you paid on or before
the third day, you would have saved your tenancy. Most states give tenants
between three and ten days; Washington DC and New Jersey specify 30.
In Texas, the rules are stacked against the tenant. Unless
the lease or rental agreement specifies otherwise, when the rent is unpaid, landlords
must give tenants three days to quit. Or, if they’re feeling generous, they can
give tenants three days to pay or
leave. (Texas Prop. Code Section 24.005.) But the lease can change these rules.
In other words, with a lease clause that varies the default rule, a Texas
landlord could terminate and evict if necessary when the tenant doesn’t pay the
rent on the day it’s due, period.
Check your lease or rental agreement. Chances are it does
not give you a week in which to pay late rent. If it says nothing about how
much time you have before having to move, or pay or move, then the default rule (three
days) applies. This means that the landlord could have demanded that you leave
with a three-day notice; or could have demanded that you pay or leave within
three days. Being late by a week means you cannot claim the protection of the default rule.
There may be, however, a way to save your tenancy. From the
sounds of your question, your landlord accepted rent, then gave you a
termination notice. Some Texas judges will not allow a landlord to terminate
after accepting rent (the safest procedure for landlords is to refuse to accept
the rent, terminate, then take the rent from the security deposit).
For more information on tenant rights in Texas, see the State
Bar’s Tenants’ Rights Handbook. To know for sure how judges in your area
handle a case where the landlord attempts to terminate after accepting rent,
consult a local lawyer who is familiar with landlord-tenant law and practice.