How to evict a non-paying tenant that isn't under any sort of contract?
October 6, 2012 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Evictions issue -- domestic dispute between my mother and her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend. Police claim they can't remove him. What to do?

YANAL, etc., but this situation is really weird, and I feel like there has to be a solution for this. I feel like this is the best place for advice.

This is Texas. I can get more specific on the location if needed.

My mom is trying to get her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/guy-that's-been-living-with-my-mom-forever to leave the house, but, according to "nine different police officers", she can't have him removed without appearing before a judge.

Some information and background: the man that's been living with her has been there since she's moved in to the house. The house is owned by my maternal grandmother and my mom and this man have been there for at least eight or nine years. They are not married. He doesn't have a job, and as far as I'm aware, hasn't held employment for a long time. My mom receives some sort of disability/unemployment benefits, but she is also unemployed. This man doesn't pay (and has never paid) and form of rent. There is no contract or anything like that.

The officers also claimed (and this is information from my mom, not firsthand) that everything in the house "is owned jointly by him". I don't understand that at all. Apparently, he's already ripped the air conditioning unit from the home and sold it. If it matters, he's also recently had some legal issues involving burglary, but the details are murky.

Anyway, she's staying with her parents right now and everybody is a mess and just want this guy gone, but he won't go. Any advice on who to contact (police, attorneys, etc.) or what to do is greatly appreciated.

You can contact me at
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (15 answers total)
The officers also claimed (and this is information from my mom, not firsthand) that everything in the house "is owned jointly by him".

A judge determines this issue. The police emphatically do not have any say in the matter and are furthermore totally unqualified to advise your mother on such issues.

Your mother needs to retain an experienced attorney immediately - her attorney can advise her as to whether this a criminal or purely civil matter in your jurisdiction and then work with your mother to pursue the appropriate course of action.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:03 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

The police (almost certainly) CAN'T remove him without an order from a judge. Probably your grandmother will have to go through the process to actually evict him, which is detaily, but not terribly onerous in most jurisdictions (although it can be frustratingly slow when you're in a situation like this). Start contacting lawyers who do evictions.

With no actual lease the process may be faster (or it may be slower), but you need a lawyer in your jurisdiction to tell you that.

(Just noodling around, without knowing many details or Texas law at all, I can think of a couple of other avenues you might investigate, but they all require lawyers, so start with the lawyer part.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:04 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to contact an attorney that specializes in property issues. There are lots of factors at play here:

-The fact that your mother doesn't own the house (and probably isn't established as a landlord in any formal fashion) will make it difficult to initiate eviction proceedings unless your grandmother gets involved;
-If your mother and her ex ever met the criteria for being considered to have an 'informal marriage' under Texas statutes, the issue of whom owns property within the home will be greatly complicated;
-If above-mentioned criteria are unintentionally met, the ex might be able to make things far more difficult to resolve thanks to the way in which Texas statutes regarding informal marriage are worded;

The good news: it's unlikely that there's grounds for an adverse possession claim to the property here (but again, IANAL).
posted by BrandonW at 9:09 PM on October 6, 2012

I dunno about Texas, but when my live-in-boyfriend of six months got violent with me, the police couldn't remove him, even though his name wasn't on the lease, even though he didn't have a job, and even though he didn't pay any rent. My situation was a bit different (I hopped on the next bus out of town and left his happy butt there and kissed my old life good-bye in the process), but I'd echo those above me and say your mom needs to get a lawyer if she wants him removed.
posted by patheral at 9:34 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your mom might also want to look into a restraining order or peace bond (not sure of Texas term for that). Perhaps this would allow her to remain in the home (or to return to it). She may be able to get free legal advice from a women's organization, such as the local battered women's society, abused women's society or rape relief.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:45 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

As other people have said, your mom needs legal advice and she probably won't be able to get the man to leave without involving your grandmother. This might actually be a good thing: if your mom and this man are your grandmother's tenants then eviction may be somewhat messy, but it will be a whole lot less messy than if the man was deemed to be a partial owner or married to the owner of the house.

Anyway here's another point of interest: even if he paid for the air conditioning unit (which, from your description, is unlikely) removing and selling it may be theft. Prosecuting him for that might be the easiest way to get him out of there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:08 PM on October 6, 2012

off the wall idea- can your grandmother evict them both? Then there's no "hey they're trying to get rid of me", even though you are.
posted by titanium_geek at 10:14 PM on October 6, 2012

The law is pretty universal in that if he's lived there, he can't be thrown out at whim.

Your mom's BEST answer is to contant LOADS of Women's Services and Domestic Violence organizations, and then find one that will help her.

If she could afford a lawyer, and even if she can, she needs to contact organizations that will give her a variety of options.

I was a landlord. I could not legally evict this person on a whim.

Your mom requires legal redress.
posted by jbenben at 10:46 PM on October 6, 2012

I'm so sorry you and your family are having to deal with this. I'm familiar with how this situation works in Texas. I'll try and explain things as clearly as I can.

1. Police in Texas DO NOT have any authority to put people out of their residence or divide property -- regardless of who is or is not on the lease or mortgage.

2. Your mother and her parents can apply for an eviction through their local Justice of the Peace. This can be complicated and can take about 25-30 days to finish. Your mother's situation will be more complicated because there is no lease. I advise hiring an attorney.

3. Once the eviction process is complete -- including a possible extra five days to obtain a Writ of Possession, the order can be enforced, usually by Constables or Sheriff's Deputies -- NOT police officers.

4. Once he has been legally evicted, if he comes back, he has no right to be there and this CAN BE ENFORCED BY THE POLICE.

5. There are two types of orders against threatening or harming her.
A. Protective Orders are obtained through the criminal courts. your mom and her boyfriend are legally family in Texas so she can apply for this. It can also cover her parents and their home. This is enforced by the police. These are also usually free to the applicant.
B. Restraining Orders are issued by the Justice of the Peace. She'll have to report violations to the Sheriff's Dept or JP. The JP can choose to issue a bench warrant for violations. These warrants can be served by Police, Sheriff and possibly Constables.
posted by 1066 at 11:29 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

IANAL, but I am a landlord.

It may be possible for your friend to act as the landlord and legally evict the boyfriend, but it could potentially need things like an affidavit from grandma that the daughter is the one with tenancy, so this could be difficult. It is, at least, possible to begin the proceedings without an attorney, but you may well prefer to have one close at hand who has been apprised in advance and will act on payment of a retainer (or pro bono, but I dunno if anyone would take this type of case like that). That said, there are ways to proceed that are less confrontational. Stay with me.

In the absence of a written lease, the boyfriend may be assumed to be in a month-to-month tenancy. In Texas (and most places in the US), you can end a month-to-month tenancy for any reason with 30 days notice. So that would be the first place to start. At the end of the 30 days, however, the boyfriend may have stayed over, at which point you can move forward with an eviction lawsuit.

However, there is a shortcut some landlords will use to avoid the cost, time, and stress of an eviction. Your friend can pay him to leave. Yes, that's right, pay him. Given the cost of even a self-help eviction -- court filing, service of papers, paying the sheriff to physically evict if necessary, etc. (and not counting hiring an attorney if he lawyers up somehow) -- it may easily be worth your friend's wallet to actually offer him a substantial sum of money if he will just agree to leave by such-and-such date. Your friend will offer cash, to be paid at the time of departure. It will be, ideally, less than a month's rent for the property (or in this case nominal rent), but it will probably need to be at least a couple of hundred dollars in any case.

I cannot guarantee this will work, or that your friend won't need a lawyer in the end anyway because it did not. But it's worth a shot and could save your friend a lot of hair-tearing.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two points to add:

1. It does require being before a judge. If that is unfamiliar territory, she needs a lawyer.
2. Listen to jbenben. That is what these advocacy groups do.
posted by megatherium at 5:36 AM on October 7, 2012

She needs to speak to a lawyer.

It doesn't matter that he hasn't been paying rent or whatever, he lives there legally and unless your mother is being abused, it's not right to use the resources that are there for abused women in order to speed up the process.

It doesn't sound like he's abusive, just like he's a jerk who doesn't want to leave. If I am wrong, then by all means contact domestic violence shelters/hotlines.

If this is just a breakup that is miserable for everyone, find and pay for an attorney who specializes in family law.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:43 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I'm not 100% sure that family law is the appropriate specialty here, but generally when it comes to dividing up property and the like they are the experts. The local bar association might be able to recommend someone.

Either way, police are NOT NOT NOT lawyers and while they tend to know what they can and can't do, they don't go much further than that in terms of legal knowledge.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:48 AM on October 7, 2012

IANAL, or a landlord, or a cop. But I have helped a female friend in a similar situation.

You invite a dozen or so of your scariest-looking friends to a party. You leave for the store to get more beer.

On returning, you no longer have the ex in the picture.

And no, not advocating violence - This doesn't require violence, just a clear demonstration that you want him gone and have friends who will help with that if he doesn't leave voluntarily.
posted by pla at 10:07 AM on October 7, 2012

I just wanted to clarify that it is not possible to unintentionally enter a common law marriage in Texas. Both parties must agree to be married, they must present themselves to the world as married (referring to each other as husband and wife socially and on bank accounts, loans, tax forms and such), and, of course, you have to live together. Now if they did these things, then yes, they are married and unless both parties agree to dissolve the marriage without going through divorce proceedings, it could get sticky, but no, you can't unintentionally become married by common law.

On the eviction problem, the owner of the house is more than likely going to have to get involved, and a discussion with a lawyer would be prudent. If there's some kind of tenants help group in your area, contacting them might lead to finding affordable legal aid and information.
posted by Orb at 10:20 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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