How Do I Make a Guest Leave in Texas
How does the law differentiate between tenants and guests in Frisco, Texas. That is a good question, and one that I receive from time-to-time. Unfortunately, there is no one real good answer. The best we can do is look at existing case law and what little the Texas Property Code says on the topic.
Section 92.001 of the Texas Property Code defines a tenant as … “a person who is authorized by a lease to occupy a dwelling to the exclusion of others and, for the purposes of Subchapters D, E, and F, who is obligated under the lease to pay rent.” Subchapter D., E., and F., refer to Security Devices, Disclosure of Ownership and Management, and Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers. Usually, though, Frisco residents who ask me whether someone is a guest or tenant is calling because of an eviction, which obviously does not concern the aforementioned subchapters.
Therefore, the only relevant portion of the statutory definition of “tenant’ is a person who is “authorized by a lease to occupy a dwelling to the exclusion of others.” Some of the savvier readers may be keying in on the word “lease” and believe it may answer all the questions. However, leases need not be in writing.
In fact, the statutory definition of a lease is as follows: “any written or oral agreement between a landlord and tenant that establishes or modifies the terms, conditions, rules, or other provisions regarding the use and occupancy of a dwelling.” Tex. Prop. Code § 92.001. It suffices to say that the definition of a “lease” is very broad, as it is intended. Unfortunately, most of the case law regarding the distinction between a guest tenant revolves around hotel guests – with a sprinkling of Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure questions.
There are three key areas where the problem arises: a family member that has remained on the premises for a fair period of time; a person being a good Samaritan to a friend down on his/her luck; and a significant other of a named tenant of a lease.
If one owns a house and repeated requests for the occupant to leave have gone unheeded, then that person would be smart to simply call the authorities and show them a copy of a deed. Hopefully the authorities will require the occupant to leave. Sometimes they do not, instead relying on the Texas Justice Courts to provide a bit more due process. Obviously, if there is any violence, though, the authorities should act with a bit more urgency.
If the person requesting an occupant to leave the premise is a tenant under a written lease, then it can become a bit trickier. Obviously, a written lease provides a tenant with exclusive occupancy. However, it is not common knowledge that tenant’s can actually evict another occupant that is not on the lease. Therefore, authorities are a bit slow to honor that kind of request, absent some sort of violence. However, it does happen. In the situation arises for which a tenant must evict another occupant, the tenant does have the power to file an eviction in the Justice Court of the precinct of the Texas county in which the premises is located. However, the tenant may want to try to avoid letting the landlord know.
If a written lease does not exist, well, that is the tricky situation, especially if the landlord knows the other occupant is staying on the premises, especially a significant other. It becomes a classic “he said/she said” case. And, it becomes even trickier of both occupants are contributing to the household expenses.
In short, although it is uncomfortable, it is wise to have any guest that will be remaining on the premises for more than a week to sign some sort of acknowledgment that s/he is a guest. Further, one would be wise to not accept money on a regularly scheduled basis from a real guest.
Robert Newton is an attorney based in Frisco, Texas, that practices real estate law, business law, corporate law, and estate planning. This post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.