Do I have a squatter? How to get them out?

42 Replies

I have no lease with a tenant I inherited and I am getting paid by section 8. I gave her notice to move out October 31st. They requested to stay until November 7th. Now they are refusing to leave. Do I have a legal tenant or do I have a squatter? What steps within the law can I take to remove them from my property? Can I shut the power and water off after changing it over to my name? I could really use some help! This property is in Dallas, Texas. Thanks everyone!

Spencer

1. Use the term "Trespasser"-NOT "Squatter". Legal reasons.

2. You cannot cut electricity, water.

3. I don't know Texas Law. In Florida, we have to file for "Ejection". See a Texas attorney.

Why can't I put the power in my name and turn it off? At this point as you said this person is trespassing on my property and it is my property that I expected to be in tomorrow.

Welcome to the joys of landlording.

Turning off power would be a self-help eviction.  Judges take a VERY dim view of such actions.  Yes, you have a tenant.  You MUST follow the eviction process to get them out or else they can fight back and turn a relatively quick eviction into a very lengthy one.   If they're still there and refusing to leave you are not getting it tomorrow.

This will be an easy eviction if you follow procedures.  I assume that when you say you gave notice that was given with the proper timing.  Here I would need to give notice no later than Oct 2, which would be 30 days before the next rent payment is due.  If you've done that (with whatever timeline applicable laws and the lease says) then you have a good case and should have no problems getting a judge to rule in your favor.  At this point you're likely to lose most of November before you can make this happen, but shouldn't be much worse than that.  Hire an attorney in Dallas who specializes in landlord/tenant law from the landlord side and let them work the process.

You say you have no lease.  Did this tenant never have a written lease?  Seems unlikely.  That lease is still in effect.  If their truly is no written lease then state and local laws prevail, effectively creating a default lease.

Smart money: hire a local law firm in DFW area with practice specialty in landlord/tenant law, specifically unlawful detainers. I understand TX law is reasonably sensitive to property owners IF they follow the law.

Dumb money: trying to save a couple of bucks, cut corners and trying to do your first eviction (from 1,500 miles away, no doubt) and use cheap as an excuse for "learning how it works"

There are professional landlords and amateur landlords. Unfortunately for you, there are professional tenants, too. Don't become a victim to the attraction of doing an out-of-state eviction on the cheap. 

Thanks for the help guys. I will speak with an attorney on Monday. This just really stinks because I am in town for a week and needed to get this stuff done. Is there anything wrong with me going to the property to do small repairs I know need to be done? They had plenty of notice I was going to be there tomorrow. And Jon, as for how long they new they needed to move out, I gave them notice 47 days prior to the original date which was then pushed back another 7.

Originally posted by @Spencer OBrien :

Why can't I put the power in my name and turn it off? At this point as you said this person is trespassing on my property and it is my property that I expected to be in tomorrow.

The fact that you are asking this question means you need legal help.  Do not attempt any DIY eviction or noticing of the tenant.  You can't know what you don't know, but you are way off base on your assumptions here and your assumptions are not harmless.  They could get you into serious trouble.  Even if your tenant transitions to a squatter, you have no legal right to shut off the utilities or any other self-help eviction remedies.

I'd think 47 days is more than adequate notice, so I don't think you'll have a problem there.  They're clearly milking the situation.  Nothing you can do except get an attorney and follow the process.

I would not attempt to make any repairs until they're out.

Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :

I'd think 47 days is more than adequate notice, so I don't think you'll have a problem there.  They're clearly milking the situation.  Nothing you can do except get an attorney and follow the process.

I would not attempt to make any repairs until they're out.

47 days seems reasonable, but was it lawful?  Here a month-to-month tenant in a property over a year gets 60 days.  

Hey @Spencer OBrien  , everything @Jon Holdman  and @K. Marie Poe are saying is spot on. Eviction laws vary quite widely state to state and municipality to municipality, so don't assume what's legal (or reasonable) one place is legal in another. 

As for your tenant, I would speak to them in person. Due to your time crunch, I would consider a "cash for keys" approach, where you offer a payment to receive the keys back on X date and you're done. Its not an approach for those with a strict adherence to the moral high ground, but it can be very effective and quick. The other point I would mention is that they will automatically lose their Section 8 voucher if formally evicted, and let them know you have every intention of letting the local Housing Authority know that they were. Obviously, this won't encourage the less rational folks to move out, but hopefully you've got someone with a bit of sense. Cross your fingers that they just haven't moved out because they'd be homeless and haven't found another place rather than they're just vengeful and clueless. The former tend to be much more rational. 

Finally, SERIOUSLY consider someone to handle the eviction on your behalf if informal negotiations don't work. Its usually substantially cheaper than having to go through the process a second time if a judge thinks you've not done it properly the first time. 

Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

Oh, one more thing, depending on the locale, sometimes property management firms are able to handle an eviction on your behalf (thus avoiding a lawyer) and can do so very professionally at a cheaper rate. Usually the biggest companies in town tend to have a lot of experience and the best rates, if its legal for them to provide those services in your area. 

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In addition to the sage advice provided by others, I would add.... 

The fact that you are being paid by Section 8 means there is a rental agreement in place. You need to get a copy of the rental agreement that Section 8 is operating under. When you buy an occupied property, you need to fulfill the terms of the current lease or negotiate with the tenant (and in this case Section 8 too) to change it.  In addition to the landlord-tenant laws for your jurisdiction, there may be other requirements under the terms of the current lease/rental agreement that you need to attend to. Ours requires a longer period for serving legal notices, like 60 days to change rent or to change the terms of a rental agreement. 

Most likely the Dallas Housing Authority is the administrator of the the Section 8 program that is paying you. Your tenant is their client. It would be a good idea to get in contact with the case manager for this tenant. 

Go to: http://www.dhadal.com/. This could be a much smoother process than the manner in which you are approaching it and more humane too. See if the case manager can provide guidance to your tenant for finding other suitable housing that meets their need.

By the way, why do you want the tenant out? If it isn't for non-payment of rent, what else is going on?

I assumed, @Spencer OBrien  that the tenant was on a month to month lease or at the end of their lease.  @Marcia Maynard  has a very good point that because they are section 8 tenants a lease MUST exist.  You should have received a copy from the previous landlord.  If that lease is still in effect, then you're stuck with it until it ends.  Maybe there's some way for you to break that in Texas, but you wouldn't be able to here.  Is there a valid lease still in effect?

I have a lease that is expired as of February and defaults to a month to month thereafter with only 30 days notice needed. I bought the house in August and I know this means I should have inherited the current contract. This contract was drafted by a PM company here in Dallas so I believe they would be up to date on the local laws for requires time to vacate. The issue with this lease is it was signed for $1500 a month and I am not receiving my portion over the DHA $1039/ month payment. Market rent is now 1550. The payment DHA is paying barely covers my PITI. They didn't know about the $1500 lease and rejected to allow the tenant to pay it. I was in contact with them all day yesterday and the clients representative also confirmed with me that she was out of bounds and should be leaving. I took the appropriate steps in notifying them the same day I notified her with the original 47 day notice. I am about to knock on her door to try and talk about it with her. If I don't post tonight call somebody to find me. ;-). Thanks for all of the help!

@Spencer OBrien  

The good news is that you're in Texas and this is a voucher program, not actual Section 8 property.

The lease agreements are essentially the same.  And, you have the same rights you would have with any other lessee.

You have given them sufficient notice.  You can file eviction orders and have them served by the sheriff's department, who will ensure the tenant vacates.  Unlike other states, that is neither an expense nor a lengthy process.  Or, you can offer them cash for keys, if you want less drama.  Either way, they are going.

I offered $200 for the cash for keys if they leave by tomorrow night. I let her know if there is anything on the property Monday morning I will be filing an eviction that morning. She seemed like she might be open to this. Her husband was gone to get a UHaul and storage set up so I'm going to stake the area out for a bit and see if a UHaul pulls up. She didn't answer the door originally and I went and sat in the car for 10 minutes. Magically her dog came out and I took that opportunity to walk back up to the door. She was on crutches and she is now saying she fell and broke her ankle on the property. This lady is a scammer. Did I mention they drive a 2014 ford truck, a newer than 2000 Mercedes, and a lexis?! This fraud drives me crazy because I'm working with a professional.

Again, welcome to the joys of being a landlord.  This is exactly the sort of thing you've signed up to deal with.

If they do agree to cash for keys, don't hand over the place until they're completely out and they hand you the keys.

Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :

Again, welcome to the joys of being a landlord.  This is exactly the sort of thing you've signed up to deal with.

If they do agree to cash for keys, don't hand over the place until they're completely out and they hand you the keys.

 And don't forget to add that they have to clear out all their stuff, swept and vacuumed the place, and left it with no intentional damage or missing fixtures, etc. Good luck & keep us posted.

No, you may not interrupt the utilities. You might be able to do a lockout. 

Tenant holdover is handled by filing for eviction, and hopefully getting  writ of possession. This is done at the courthouse in the county/city where the property is located. Unless you are there in person and can attend the hearings, you will likely need to hire an attorney to handle it. 

Since your dealing with a professional con artist I would hire an attorney immediately b/c every day they stay is another day of lost $$ and gained opportunity on their part.  My attorney files an eviction and a force-able detainer the same day. This way when the judge sees both the eviction and detainer it saves time and the judge can sign off on both. Most attorney's here give them 7 days to vacate and if they dont the force-able detainer gives me the right to have law enforcement set them off the property. If they are caught on the property again they will be arrested for trespassing.

Dont take the cheap route, hire a lawyer immediately that specializes in evictions and he will handle the rest.   You will make up the cost when you re-rent the property at a higher rate anyway.

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