An experienced commercial eviction attorney is a “must have” for every commercial real estate investor. Commercial evictions in Texas can involve some surprisingly challenging strategic considerations. Lockouts are often the go-to solution for problem tenants. But lockouts can involve substantial risk and deny you important opportunities to collect past, unpaid rents. An eviction may be better suited for situations where the commercial landlord is ready to permanently cut ties with a problem tenant. But staging an effective collection effort may require a commercial landlord to undertake two separate lawsuits.
The Case Against Commercial Lockouts
The concept of locking out a commercial tenant is not always a bad idea. A lockout is an appropriate tool for a tenant whom you reasonably believe can pay. Tenants will, for whatever reason, sometimes try to test their landlords. The lockout is a great way to show your tenant that you expect to be their top priority when it comes to paying bills.
But lockouts can prove to be risky. You must strictly comply with the state’s lockout procedures. You otherwise open the door to your tenant hiring their own commercial eviction attorney. And that attorney can quite easily obtain a writ of re-entry. This legal maneuver results in the Judge ordering a Constable to grant the tenant access. Your opportunity to defend yourself and explain your actions occurs after the Constable returns possession of your property to your tenant. One small slip on your part can result in the Judge ordering you to pay all your tenant’s legal fees.
Rent Recovery is another problem. Lockouts are great for shaking your tenant down for late rent. But they only return possession of the property to you. To recover any unpaid rent damages, you must bring a separate breach of contract lawsuit. This can be a problem because these lawsuits can take more than a year to go to trial.
When Commercial Eviction is the Best Remedy
A commercial eviction will strike the best balance for landlords who have given up on their tenant. Commercial evictions are accelerated cases. These lawsuits typically reach trial after about three weeks. Evictions do not give you possession as quickly as a lockout. But evictions involve no threat of the tenant obtaining a writ of re-entry. Also, a commercial eviction judgment can include rent damages and damages for any fees you incur from your commercial eviction attorney. The best part is that you can name your tenant’s personal guarantors as a party to the commercial eviction lawsuit. This can skyrocket your chances of recovering those unpaid rent damages.
The $10,000.00 Problem
All commercial evictions in Texas must start before the Justice of the Peace. This can be problematic for many commercial landlords. Texas Justice of the Peace Courts have only a $10,000.00 money damages limitation. If your rent damages or the combination of your rent damages plus your fees for your commercial eviction attorney exceeds $10,000.00, the Justice of the Peace Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
There are several strategies for handling this situation. One is to just give up on money damages altogether and accept the risks associated with a lockout. Another is to do what is called “bifurcating” the case. This is where your commercial eviction attorney begins by filing the eviction in a Justice of the Peace Court. Afterwards, your attorney will file a second rent damages lawsuit in a different court with a higher jurisdictional limit. There are some tricks to this process, though. For example, the timing of the two lawsuits is important. Your money damages lawsuit cannot be accelerated like your eviction case. But you do enjoy the added benefit of being able to tack on any property damages that exceed your tenant’s security deposit.
Girling Law’s Commercial Eviction Attorney Services
Our firm offers commercial landlords a fantastic value! Our affordable attorney fees and aggressive collections efforts mean our clients enjoy an increased probability of speedy recovery of the property and money damages. Having many of our document resources already in place, we can often initiate your commercial eviction in a matter of hours, not days. Your legal team at Girling Law is also well trained and experienced at negotiating settlements. Girling Law’s comprehensive negotiation process focuses on pressuring your tenant to fully indemnify you and voluntarily move out quickly.
Call us today for a Free Consultation (Landlords Only).