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IN-DEPTH: Experts say the cost of an eviction is more than just dollars and cents

Posted: 6:58 PM, Sep 07, 2021
Updated: 2021-09-07 22:02:28-04

Evictions are now able to resume after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s moratorium. At a time when COVID-19 cases are increasing and housing options are limited, experts say the cost of an eviction is more than just dollars and cents.

It all begins with a reason, such as nonpayment of rent.

Then comes the eviction process, which includes giving the tenant notice, an eviction petition and, of course, a hearing.

“Generally, it's going to be probably $100 to $150 to file it, get a citation issued and then have it served by the constable," said Jay Rudinger, a partner with West, Webb, Allbritton & Gentry.

“The current fees in McLennan County are, it's a $46 filing fee and a $90 service fee for the constable to serve the eviction paperwork," said Jacob Straub, attorney and owner of the Law Office of Jacob Straub. "So it is $136 total for one defendant. But oftentimes, there are multiple defendants that are living in a residence. So say if there's two defendants, the total cost is $226 to file the eviction because each additional defendant is $90.”

But Texas property code comes with strict rules and regulations that must be followed when it comes to evictions.

“There's certain deadlines that the property code has, and they're pretty strict," said Rudinger. "You have to follow those. If you don't, you basically go back to, to start and start all over again.”

Rudinger says most landlords choose to work through the eviction process by themselves, which can cost anywhere from $300 to up to $500. If a tenant decides to appeal, there are more procedures and fees. At that stage, most landlords bring in lawyers, which increases the cost to an estimated $1,500 to $2,500.

But the main cost of an eviction? Time.

“If you can get it streamlined about as tight as you can from notice three days, you file your lawsuit, get them served almost immediately, wait the six days, get your hearing set and be done with, there's a five-day appeals period after that if they wish to appeal," said Rudinger. "You can usually try to get it into a 25- or 30-day window. A lot of times that's the kind of window you're looking at.”

That was before COVID-19 and the eviction moratorium. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down the ban, experts expect a backlog in the courts.

“We're about to see a flood of these come into play, and I think what it'll end up doing ultimately is we're going to see, you know, everybody's going to slam these justice courts with these cases," said Rudinger. "That 30-day timeline is going to get 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 days because they just can't hear that many cases that quickly. There's only so many hours of the day that they can hear these cases and evictions.”

Each day a property is either unoccupied or occupied by a non-paying tenant is money down the drain for landlords.

“This moratorium has really hurt the small mom and pop landlord severely because they just don't have the kinds of reserves," said Straub. "They don't have access to large institutional pools of capital that will tide them over through the CDC moratorium.”

But what about the costs for evicted tenants?

During the eviction process, tenants don't see many fees. However, the trouble for tenants comes after a judgment is rendered.

“If you've gotten evicted, you know, there's usually, I would say 90% of the time on the rental applications that you see, they will ask if you have been evicted before," said Rudinger. "And if you say yes, they'll ask why. You usually at the end of those are swearing that you've answered these truthfully.”

An eviction, especially during a pandemic, can be devastating for tenants. Straub and Rudinger say most local landlords see the eviction process as a last resort.

“Landlords are not eager to evict people here," said Straub. "They really want to work with the tenants and keep them in the units and keep the units occupied is what I'm seeing locally.”

“We've seen a lot over the last two years, or 18, 19 months, whatever it's been since March 2020 and the world kind of turned over, that landlords, you know, you take a lose-lose situation and try to make it less lose for both sides and work with your tenants and do that kind of stuff,” said Rudinger.

Rudinger and Straub say landlords looking to evict a tenant should follow the property code carefully and file the petition ASAP.

As for tenants who believe they may be evicted, the attorneys say communication is key and to reach out to your landlord to possibly work out a deal or payment plan.

Both landlords and tenants can find free legal assistance here.