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Know your rights: Evictions move quickly

July 30, 2011 at 2:30 a.m.


By Richard Alderman

My landlord has evicted me. He gave me notice and then went to court and the judge ordered me to move. What happens next? How long do I have to move?

As you understand, an eviction proceeds through court. A landlord has no right to just throw you out. Once you have had a court hearing to determine if you should be evicted, things move pretty fast.

Basically, the Texas eviction law allows you only five days to move out or appeal the eviction judgment. Every day, including weekends, count in computing the five days, except that the fifth day cannot fall on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. If it does, you get until the next day the court is open to file the appeal. If you do not move out or appeal within five days of the eviction date, the landlord may obtain a "Writ of Possession," entitling him to have the constable remove you and your possessions from the property with only 24 hours notice. If you have not moved out, your property will be removed from the apartment and probably be taken to a warehouse. If this is done, you will be responsible for paying the moving and storage charges before you can get your property back. Additionally, if you do not pay the warehouseman the amounts owed within 30 days, they may sell all of your property to cover the costs of moving and storing it in the warehouse. Do not let this happen. Be sure to move out before the constable shows up.

I had an irrigation system installed by a landscape contractor. It doesn't perform adequately. It is still under warranty. I can't get any response from the contractor. What are my options? I'm ready to roll.

If the system is not working the way it should, there is probably a breach of warranty. In Texas, any breach of warranty violates our Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and you could be entitled to up to three times your damages and attorneys fees if you went to court and won.

I suggest you get another contractor to look at the problem and give you an estimate to repair it. That will determine your damages. Then, send a certified letter to the contractor who installed the system demanding that he promptly repair it. In the letter, let him know you believe that he has violated the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and how much you will seek in damages if he does not properly repair the system. Then, you must wait 60 days before you file a claim in small claims court. To learn more about the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and small claims court, visit my website, peopleslawyer.net.

My daughter had a baby and is living with the baby's father. Are they married? He says they are not. What rights does she have if he leaves? He is taking care of her and the baby but is threatening to leave her.

Under the law, if he is the father of the child, she has the right to receive support for the child. She is entitled to child support regardless of whether they are married.

You seem to believe, however, that because they are living together with a child, they are married. That is not the law. For them to have a common law marriage based on living together, they must agree to be married and hold themselves out as married. If they are just "living together" and have not agreed to be married or held themselves out as married, they are not married.

I am owed $16,000 from an unpaid loan. I know the limit in small claims court is $10,000. Can I just sue for $10,000, so I can file in small claims court?

As you know, the limit in small claims court is $10,000. The limit, however, is based on the amount of your dispute, not how much you request. You cannot ask for less than you are actually owed to get within the court's jurisdiction.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at www.peopleslawyer.net.

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