Understanding the recent amendments to the rules of civil procedure governing justice courts in Texas can help make justice court and the eviction process feel less like the Wild West, particularly to attorneys who are used to a more formal system of rules. The amendments, effective in August 2013, govern, among other things, eviction or forcible detainer actions in Texas, over which justice courts maintain exclusive jurisdiction. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 500–507 and 510, et seq.; Tex. Prop. Code § 24.004. Here is a practical guide to avoiding many of the pitfalls newcomers may face when litigating eviction cases in Texas.
Cases Subject to the Amended Justice Rules
The “Rules of Practice in Justice Courts” apply to small claims filed in justice court involving not more than $10,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any. Tex. R. Civ. P. 500.3. The justice court rules also apply to debt claims and repair and remedy claims brought by Texas residential tenants under Chapter 92, Subchapter B, of the Texas Property Code, also subject to the same $10,000 cap for monetary relief. Id. And, as noted, these rules apply to eviction cases brought to recover possession of real property under Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code, often by a landlord against a tenant, which may also be coupled with claims for rent, if the amount of rent due and unpaid is not more than the foregoing $10,000 limit. Id.