In leasing commercial real estate, Texas landlords have the right to evict their tenant under lawful circumstances that exist in law or contract. However, situations present themselves where tenants are unlawfully locked out of their commercial property. Under these conditions, a tenant may have the right of reentry after an unlawful lockout under Texas Property Code § 93.003.

A tenant may regain possession of the premise if the landlord has violated Texas Property Code § 93.002, which discusses the “interruption of utilities, removal of property, & exclusion of [the] commercial tenant.”1 In order to begin the process, the tenant must “file with the justice court in the same precinct in which the rental premises located a sworn complaint for reentry.”2 The tenant must plead his case with relevant factual information that shows violations of the property code on behalf of the landlord. If the court agrees with the tenant, the justice “may issue, ex parte, a writ of reentry that entitles the tenant to immediate and temporary possession of the premises.”3 Also, if the tenant files a sworn complaint for reentry in bad faith, the landlord has the right to “recover from the tenant an amount equal to actual damages, one month’s rent or $500, whichever is greater, reasonable attorney fees, and costs of court, less any sums for which the landlord is liable to the tenant.”4

A sheriff or constable has the lawful right to execute a writ of reentry by using reasonable force if the landlord does not comply after being served the writ of reentry. The landlord does have the right to a hearing to dispute the tenant’s sworn complain between the 1st and 7th day the landlord requests a meeting. Under Big State Pawn & Bargain Ctr. v. Garton, 833 S.W.2d 669 & 671, Justice Dickenson reiterates, “[A] party in a suit for reentry under § 93.003 may either appeal ‘in the same manner as a party may appeal a judgment in a forcible detainer suit’ or file a writ of certiorari under § 51.002.” This gives clarification on how the landlord may appeal to the original decision.

If a landlord is ordered to perform under a writ of reentry and fails to comply with the law, the punishment may result in grounds for contempt of court, under Section 21.002 of the Texas Government Code. If the writ is disobeyed, the tenant or the tenant’s attorney “may file in the court in which reentry action is pending an affidavit stating the name of the person who has disobeyed the writ and describing the acts or omissions constituting the disobedience.”5 The justice may issue a show cause order, forcing the landlord to present themselves in court and explain their disobedience. The case may either result in the landlord being committed to jail without bail if they are directly or indirectly guilty of disobeying the writ or may instead be assessed a specific punishment, under Section 21.002 (c) of the Texas Government Code, if they disobeyed prior to receiving the writ and have complied after receiving the writ.

If you are a tenant who has been unlawfully locked out of a commercial premise, the Texas real estate attorneys at The Farah Law Firm can help you regain possession of your property through the necessary legal work. From years of experience in Texas commercial real estate law, our Texas real estate lawyers can provide the necessary services to ensure you are properly represented.

Sources:

1 Jackson, Rosemary , Steven Kennedy, Rick McElvaney, and Jeffrey Tompkins. O’Connor’s Texas Property Code; Proposition § 93.002 (a). N.p.: Jones McClure Publishing, n.d. Print.

2 O’Connor, Texas Property Code, § 93.003 (b)

3 O’Connor, Texas Property Code, § 93.003 (c)

4 O’Connor, Texas Property Code, § 93.003 (k)

 

Content written by Mohammad Sultani