According to data that our law firm pulled from the Texas Judicial Branch Court activity database,
eviction appeals have increased an average of 163% comparing the 2.5 years before and after COVID-19.
We surveyed the four largest counties in Texas that are representative of much of the tenant population.* The dates that were utilized were January 2018-June 2020 and January 2021-June 2023. The first date range (2018-2020) account for business as normal with regards to evictions/appeals compared to second date range (2021-2023) which would have seen the COVID-19 fallout to landlords caused by bans, moratoriums, increased and confusing notice requirements coupled with a lack of uniformity from the state level.
Since our law firm has noticed a caseload increase for eviction appeals, we felt it was a good measure to compile data and we were not surprised with the result. Most eviction cases that are appealed are done without any basis since there is no reason required to appeal a case from the Justice Court to the County Court at Law. The process for a tenant to file an appeal is simple and it grants the tenant more time in the home so there is truly no reason to not to in their eyes. They only need to fill out the notice of appeal and a pauper’s affidavit for a cost-free extension of their already delinquent housing balance.
In most cases, landlords have already won at the Justice Court level and are now required to spend more money fighting their tenants without receiving rent. Most Landlords opt to hire an attorney at the appeal process since it becomes a trial with records and the rules of evidence apply. In fact, corporate landlords are REQUIRED to have an attorney during the eviction appeal process. (think: LLC’s Inc, apartments, etc) . In this case many tenants actually receive free attorney legal assistance from the local government funded legal aid office (Sorry landlords, free is only for Tenants).
It is not uncommon for many of our landlord clients to have a $10,000+ delinquent rent balance owed to them from their tenants, which they have little likelihood of ever collecting. Meanwhile, landlords are also having to incur attorney fees and court costs to fight the appeal.
While we are not suggesting a resolution for this increase, we do think that all counties (and judges) should fairly apply the laws and not favor one side or the other. Selective enforcement of the Property Code rules will lead to landlord fatigue of owning investment property and increased hassle for what should be a basic process.
For Texas four largest counties. The Number of cases appealed from the Justice of the Peace Court to the County court at law
Jan 2018 -June-2020 = 2639
Jan 2021-June 2023 = 4597
Jan 2018 -June 2020 = 2114
Jan 2021-June 2023 = 3525
Jan 2018 -June 2020 = 1670
Jan 2021-June 2023 = 2530
Increase = 151%
Jan 2018 -June 2020 = 2813
Jan 2021-June 2023 = 4382
Increase = 162%
Average % increase: 163%
*Intentionally did not include Travis County due to the income and housing value disparity it has comparative to most of the state.