In general, the eviction process can be quite tricky and even more so if you don’t know who is living inside of your property! While it’s certainly not impossible to evict a squatter, there are some actions that you will need to take outside of a standard non-payment of rent eviction.
I’ve seen many cases in which the investor purchased a property at the courthouse steps or at auction, and quickly found out that an unknown occupant was living at the property. In many of these cases the unknown occupant turned out to be the previous owner, which would call for ‘normal’ evictions proceedings. In other cases, the investor had no clue who was living at the property!
Starting the Eviction Process
To begin the formal eviction process for an unknown occupant you’ll first need to determine who the previous owner was of the property. The most typical way to determine this is to search the county’s central appraisal district. From here you’ll be able to locate the previous owner’s name and tax billing address.
Next, you’ll need to prepare and deliver a 3-day Notice to Vacate (in Texas) to the previous owner’s tax billing address and to the unknown occupant living at the property. It’s important that you include ‘And All Occupants’ in addition to the addressee. Further, the proper way to deliver each notice is via certified mail with return receipt. Be sure to keep your receipts and take time-stamped photos of the mailings for added proof.
Assuming you haven’t heard from the unknown occupant after 3-days you’re clear to file the eviction with the appropriate Justice of the Peace. Most counties will have many different Justice of the Peace offices and it’s important that you file with the correct office. To determine the correct jurisdiction, I suggest searching the county’s Justice of the Peace website. Most, if not all, of the Justice of the Peace websites have a searchable database that will help locate the appropriate office.
What Happens After the Eviction is Filed?
Once the eviction is filed the court will give you a hearing date and time. The hearing is generally held within two weeks from the filing date, dependent on how busy the court is. The filing will trigger the Constable to deliver the eviction notice to the property and post it on the front door, assuming no one answers the door. Generally, once the Constable has completed this task you will hear from the person/people living at the property shortly thereafter.
It’s important to understand that even though you have a court hearing set, you keep the ability to negotiate a move-out with the unauthorized occupant. Doing so could help in removing the occupant from the property prior to the hearing, thus saving time and money. If, however, the unauthorized occupant presents to you a ‘bonafide’ lease agreement, a different set of rules/laws would apply. In this instance I suggest contacting an accredited property manager to take over for the remainder of the tenant’s lease agreement.
If early move-out negotiations fail or stall, you’ll need to represent yourself at the Justice of the Peace at the designated time and date of the hearing. You’ll need to present to the Judge proof that you sent the Notice to Vacate to the unauthorized occupant and prior owner so be sure to have this handy! Be prepared to state and support your case.
In Texas, property managers may represent Owners at the Justice of the Peace for eviction hearings. Whether this seems like too much work, or you’re out-of-state or country, an accredited property manager can assist you for evictions at a reasonable cost.
Huntahome Takes the Complexity out of Eviction Services
If you are a rental property owner in Dallas that is having a problem with squatters, don’t wait to start the eviction process. Contact Huntahome today to discuss how our services can help make your situation stress-free.