SAN ANTONIO - Changes to state laws regarding evictions are making it easier for landlords to remove troublesome tenants and squatters.
The changes cut down the amount of time it takes for an eviction to take place and require less documentation by landlords.
The new law went into effect too late to help landlord Daniel Rodriguez, who had a difficult time evicting some people who lived in a house he owned.
Rodriguez said he discovered a family living in his house that he didn't know.
"I had a renter in there, and then all of the sudden I come in one month in June and there's somebody totally different," Rodriguez said. "I don't know who they are."
The people in the home told Rodriguez the original tenant had moved out and told them they could move in.
Rodriguez accepted a month's rent from the family at first, but then told them they would have to vacate the premises.
They refused, and Rodriguez began the lengthy process of eviction.
Three months later, the tenants were finally gone and Rodriguez went to look at the house.
He found a home full of damage and debris. Appliances were missing.
"My refrigerator was right here and my stove was right here," Rodriguez said, pointing to empty spaces. "There's a hole in the wall."
There were food containers on the counter including a carton of eggs swarming with roaches.
All this after the eviction process stretched on for months.
"Squatters have more rights than the landlords," Rodriguez said. "Why is that costing me money when people moved in without my authorization to begin with?"
In addition to the damages and thefts, Rodriguez also had to pay the courts to legally evict the tenants.
"I'm looking easily at over $1,000 out of my pocket just because of this situation," Rodriguez said.
An attorney who specializes in evictions was not surprised to hear that story.
Attorney David Fritsche said Rodriguez's story was a common scenario before the eviction laws changed.
Fritsche said landlords still have to pay fees for eviction cases, but those cases are now heard more quickly after they are filed in court.
"The Supreme Court basically gave JP courts a deadline that they must now try a case within 21 days of the day the case is filed," Fritsche said. "Just about every eviction case that is filed will be heard within 28 days max."
He said while landlords cannot ask for damages or late fees they can ask for back rent and provide their own evidence to back up the need for eviction.
"Every case is going to be like a 'People's Court,' Fritsche said. "Hearsay can come in. There are no pleading rules."
Fritsche said in the past, cases like Rodriguez's took a toll on landlords, but the new law makes it easier for landlords.
While some evicted tenants are victims of bad economic circumstances, some are scam artists, Fritsche said.
"People find out that property is vacant, posted for foreclosure and then they move in and have to be evicted," Fritsche said.
And that costs the landlord money and time.
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