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Campbell v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

December 20, 2013

Alvie Campbell, Appellant
v.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Appellee

FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 4 OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY NO. 11-1742-CC4, HONORABLE JOHN McMASTER, JUDGE PRESIDING

Before Chief Justice Jones, Justices Rose and Goodwin

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Jeff Rose, Justice

Alvie Campbell, acting pro se, appeals the judgment on a bench trial granting possession of certain residential real property to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in a forcible detainer suit. Campbell's appellate issues challenge the dismissal of his motion to dismiss, the process leading to the foreclosure sale through which Wells Fargo purchased the property, and Wells Fargo's standing to sue. Because we conclude that Wells Fargo's evidence at trial proved its entitlement to immediate possession of the subject property, we will affirm the trial court's judgment.

BACKGROUND

Campbell purchased the property at issue in 2004 and executed a note, securing the note with a deed of trust, which stated:

If the Property is sold pursuant to this paragraph [setting forth nonjudicial foreclosure procedure under the deed of trust after Borrower's uncured default], Borrower . . . shall immediately surrender possession of the Property to the purchaser at that sale.
If possession is not surrendered, Borrower . . . shall be a tenant at sufferance and may be removed by writ of possession.

Campbell ceased making payments. After he failed to cure this default, notices of acceleration were sent to him, and later, a substitute trustee sold the property at a foreclosure sale to Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo's counsel sent Campbell notice to vacate the property. Campbell refused.

Wells Fargo then filed a forcible detainer suit in justice court. Meanwhile, Campbell filed suit in district court challenging Wells Fargo's right to foreclose on the property. Campbell's wrongful-foreclosure claim was ultimately unsuccessful before the district court and on appeal to this Court. See Campbell v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., No. 03-11-00429-CV, 2012 Tex.App. LEXIS 4030 (Tex. App.—Austin May 18, 2012, pet. denied) (mem. op.).[1] The justice court determined that Wells Fargo was entitled to possession of the premises, and Campbell filed an appeal of the justice court's judgment to the county court at law. At the conclusion of the bench trial, the court found that Wells Fargo had the superior right to possession of the property and signed a judgment in its favor. This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, Campbell contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion to dismiss, which alleged that there were unaddressed issues of title and challenged Wells Fargo's standing to sue and the foreclosure process through which Wells Fargo purchased the property. However, the only issue in a forcible detainer suit is the right to actual possession of real property, not the merits of the title. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 746.[2] Any defects in the foreclosure process or with appellee's title to the property may not be considered in a forcible detainer suit. Fontaine v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co., 372 S.W.3d 257, 259 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2012, pet. dism'd w.o.j.) (op. on reh'g). Further, this Court has already considered and rejected Campbell's wrongful foreclosure arguments. See Campbell, 2012 Tex.App. LEXIS 4030, at *15-16.

Campbell's remaining issue in this forcible detainer appeal, that there is no evidence of a landlord-tenant relationship between Campbell and Wells Fargo, lacks merit.[3] Forcible detainer is intended to be a speedy, simple, and inexpensive procedure for obtaining possession without resorting to a suit on the title. Williams v. Bank of New York Mellon, 315 S.W.3d 925, 926-27 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2010, no pet.) (citing Scott v. Hewitt, 90 S.W.2d 816, 818-19 (Tex. 1936)). A forcible detainer action will lie when a person in possession of real property refuses to surrender possession on demand if the person is a tenant at will or by sufferance, "including an occupant at the time of foreclosure of a lien superior to the tenant's lease." See Tex. Prop. Code § 24.002(a); see also Reardean v. Federal Home Loan Mortg. Corp., No. 03-12-00562-CV, 2013 Tex.App. LEXIS 10111, at *3 (Tex. App.—Austin Aug. 14, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.). To prevail, the plaintiff in a forcible detainer suit need only show sufficient evidence of ownership demonstrating a superior right to immediate possession. Rice v. Pinney, 51 S.W.3d 705, 709 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2001, no pet.).

To establish forcible detainer, Wells Fargo had to prove that (1) it was the owner of the property in question, (2) Campbell occupied the property at the time of foreclosure, (3) the foreclosure was of a lien superior to Campbell's right to possession, (4) Wells Fargo made a written demand for possession in accordance with section 24.005 of the Texas Property Code, and (5) Campbell refused to vacate. See Tex. Prop. Code §§ 24.002, .005; Reardean, 2013 Tex.App. LEXIS 10111, at ...


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