Q. If a plaintiff comes in and asks if an address is in our precinct and we look it up and let them know which precinct it’s in, is that considered giving legal advice?
A. No, assisting a person in determining whether or not an address is in your precinct is not giving legal advice; it is giving factual information. One way to do this is to help the person look up the address on a map showing the precinct boundaries or in some counties you can enter an address in a database and it will state which precinct that address is in. A court may assist a person in obtaining this factual information.
If we have an eviction case that was originally filed as a non-payment of rent case. At trial the Judge grants “possession only.” If the defendant appeals, would they be required to pay the one month’s rent into the court’s registry, even though the judgment was for possession only?
Yes. If the basis for the eviction was that the tenant did not pay their rent, then it is a non-payment of rent eviction even if the landlord does not ask for back rent or the court does not award back rent.
If it is a non-payment of rent eviction, and the tenant appeals by filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or by filing an appeal bond, then the court must provide the written notice concerning payment of rent and the tenant must deposit one month’s rent into the court registry. See Evictions Deskbook at page 45; Property Code §24.0053.
If the ground for the eviction is something other than non-payment of rent (for example, loud parties late at night or the lease has terminated but the tenant has not vacated the premises), then the tenant is not required to pay rent into the court registry, and the court does not send the notice to the tenant.
What counts is whether the basis for the eviction suit is non-payment of rent, not whether the landlord is seeking to recover back rent or whether back rent was awarded. It is up to the landlord to decide whether he wishes to seek to recover back rent or not in an eviction case. Even if he decides not to do so, if one of the grounds for eviction was non-payment of rent, then the tenant must make the initial deposit of rent into the court’s registry upon appealing by filing a Sworn Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or by filing an appeal bond.
The Deskbooks can be found here.
We are going to start posting a noteworthy legal board question and answer each month. Below is our first one!
I have a plaintiff asking for a Writ of Execution after 10 years. The plaintiff is claiming that the 10 year period is extended by three years due to a bankruptcy filing after the judgment was entered. Does a bankruptcy filing toll the 10 year judgment period? Judgment was entered 3/19/08, bankruptcy was filed 8/11/09 and dismissed on 8/1/12. The debt is still due and owing as it was not discharged in the bankruptcy.
The Texas Court of Appeals addressed this issue in the recent case of Cade v. Stone, 2013 WL 3009853 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi, June 13, 2013, no pet.) and expressly held that the pendency of a bankruptcy proceeding tolls the 10 year life span of a Texas judgment. The court held: “[W]here ‘a person is prevented from exercising his legal remedy by the pendency of legal proceedings, the time during which he is thus prevented should not be counted against him in determining whether limitations have barred his right.’” After considering 11 U.S.C. § 108, the court noted that, “[a]pplicable nonbankruptcy law [i.e., Texas common law] … provides that [the applicable statute of limitations] w[as] suspended during the time that Cade was prohibited from executing on the judgment due to the automatic bankruptcy stay.” The court concluded: “Accordingly, the time during which the automatic bankruptcy stay was in effect is not “counted against [Cade] in determining” when the applicable statute of limitations (i.e., section 34.001 of the civil practice and remedies code) operated to bar execution on the 1993 domesticated judgment, and, in turn, when the time period for reviving that judgment expired.”
See also HSBC Bank USA, N.A. as Trustee for Merrill Lynch v. Crum, 907 F.3d 199 (5th Cir. 2018); Baker Atlas v. Cheruvathur, 8 Wash. App.2d 1070 (Wash. App. May 20, 2019).
Under this case authority, the plaintiff is correct and the period of the bankruptcy should be added to the ten-year period in which the judgment remains valid. That is precisely the holding of Cade v. Stone.
However, in this case, the plaintiff is still within the two year period in which he could file a writ of scire facias or an action of debt to revive the judgment even if it had become dormant. So even if the bankruptcy case had not tolled the ten-year period for enforcing the judgment, he would still be able to do so through those means.