RECOVERING ATTORNEYS’ FEES IN AN EVICTION SUIT
Like all legal proceedings, eviction suits can be expensive undertakings. Attorneys’ fees are a large component of legal expense. For this reason, landlords and tenants frequently seek to recover fees from the opposing party to an eviction action.
Recovery of fees by the prevailing party is not automatic. Instead, such awards are governed by Section 24.006 of the Texas Property Code, and are only available in certain circumstances.
Further, eligibility to recover fees is not limited to landlords. Tenants can recover fees, too. This “double edged sword” of recovery necessitates a thorough understanding by landlords of when and how attorneys’ fees are recoverable in eviction suits.
RECOVERY OF ATTORNEY FEES BY LANDLORD
A landlord is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees in an eviction suit in two (2) circumstances:
(1) if a written lease entitles the landlord to recover attorney’s fees; or
(2) if the landlord delivers to a tenant a written demand to vacate.
The written demand to vacate must:
(a) state that “if the tenant does not vacate the premises before the 11th day after the date of receipt of the notice and if the landlord files suit, the landlord may recover attorney’s fees.”
(b) be sent by registered mail or by certified mail, return receipt requested; and
(c) be sent at least 10 days before the date the suit is filed.
If there exists no written lease, then a landlord must timely send the notice described above, or he is NOT eligible to recover fees.
RECOVERY OF ATTORNEY FEES BY TENANT
Reasonable attorneys’ fees are available to the tenant if the landlord provides the tenant written demand and notice (as described above) or if a written lease entitles the landlord or the tenant to recover attorney’s fees. A prevailing tenant is not required to give notice in order to recover attorney’s fees from a landlord.
RECOVERY OF COURT COSTS
The prevailing party in an eviction suit is entitled to recover all costs of court. No special notice or lease provision is required to recover costs.