Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
Nasim Iqbal; Tej Iqbal; and all other occupants of 2503 Paden Circle, Cedar Park, Texas, 78613, Appellants
Federal National Mortgage Association, a/k/a Fannie Mae, Appellee
COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 4 OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY NO.
15-0444-CC4, HONORABLE JOHN MCMASTER, JUDGE PRESIDING
Chief Justice Rose, Justices Pemberton and Bourland
Olson Bourland, Justice
Nasim Iqbal, Tej Iqbal, and all other occupants of 2503 Paden
Circle, Cedar Park, Texas, 78613 (collectively, the Iqbals),
appeal the ruling in a forcible detainer action that granted
possession of the property at issue to Appellee, Federal
National Mortgage Association, (FNMA). The Iqbals contend in
two issues that the trial court erred in rendering judgment
for FNMA because: (1) the evidence is legally insufficient to
support the trial court's holding; and (2) the trial
court abused its discretion in admitting evidence based on
the testimony of a witness who lacked sufficient personal
knowledge to testify. We will affirm.
2006, the Iqbals executed a deed of trust that secured a
promissory note in connection with real property located in
Williamson County, at 2503 Paden Circle, Cedar Park, Texas,
78613 (the Property). The deed of trust provided that if a
default and foreclosure occurred, any occupant of the
Property who refused to surrender possession would become a
tenant at sufferance and could be removed by writ of
possession or other court proceeding.
Iqbals defaulted on the underlying promissory note, and in
August 2012, FNMA purchased the Property at a nonjudicial
foreclosure sale, as documented in a substitute trustee's
deed and accompanying statement of facts. On February 25,
2015, FNMA sent the Iqbals notices to vacate the Property.
Asserting that the Iqbals refused to vacate the property,
FNMA filed its petition for forcible detainer on March 11,
2015, in Williamson County Justice Court, Precinct 2.
Attached to the petition were the verification required under
Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 510.3(a) and copies of the deed
of trust, the substitute trustee's deed, and the notices
to vacate with certified mailing documentation. Without
specifying its grounds in its order, the justice court
dismissed the action on motion by the Iqbals.
appealed the justice court's decision to the Williamson
County Court at Law No. 4, which held a trial de
novo on September 22, 2015. At the trial, FNMA offered
the substitute trustee's deed, the notices to vacate, and
the live testimony of Jaime Miloch, a regional manager for
the law firm that prosecuted FNMA's forcible detainer
action against the Iqbals in the justice court. When FNMA
rested its case, the Iqbals moved for judgment claiming that
FNMA presented no evidence of a material element of the claim
because the deed of trust had not been admitted into
evidence. The court denied the Iqbals' motion. Later,
during their case-in-chief, the Iqbals requested that the
trial court take judicial notice of the court's file,
which included the deed of trust. The Iqbals then presented
arguments to the trial court relating to a discrepancy in
descriptions of the Property based on the language of the
deed of trust and other documents. The trial court ultimately
entered judgment in FNMA's favor, awarding possession of
the Property to FNMA and ordering the issuance of a writ of
possession. The Iqbals appealed the trial court's
judgment to this court.
forcible detainer action is designed to be a speedy, simple,
and inexpensive means to determine the right to immediate
possession of real property where there is no claim of
unlawful entry. Marshall v. Housing Auth. of San
Antonio, 198 S.W.3d 782, 787 (Tex. 2006). The only issue
to be adjudicated is the right to actual possession.
Tex.R.Civ.P. 510.3(e). In order to prevail in a forcible
detainer action where the property was purchased at a
foreclosure sale, the plaintiff must prove that: (1) the
substitute trustee conveyed the property by deed to the
plaintiff after the foreclosure sale; (2) a landlord-tenant
relationship existed and the occupants became tenants at
sufferance; (3) the plaintiff gave proper notice to the
occupants that it required them to vacate the premises; and
(4) the occupants refused to vacate the premises.
See Tex. Prop. Code §§ 24.002, .005;
Reardean v. Federal Home Loan Mortg. Corp., No.
03-12-00562-CV, 2013 WL 4487523, at *1 (Tex. App.-Austin Aug.
14, 2013, no pet.) (mem. op.); Murphy v. Countrywide Home
Loans, Inc., 199 S.W.3d 441, 445 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st
Dist.] 2006, pet. denied).
Iqbals' first issue challenges the legal sufficiency of
the evidence supporting the trial court's findings that a
landlord-tenant relationship existed (the second element) and
that the Iqbals refused to vacate the Property (the fourth
element). In their second issue, the Iqbals contend that the
trial court erred in admitting evidence supporting the
finding that notice to vacate (the third element) was
provided to the Iqbals.
address the Iqbals' first issue in two parts: (1) the
landlord-tenant relationship; and (2) refusal to vacate the
property. The Iqbals assert that legally insufficient
evidence supports the trial court's findings on these two
elements. In a legal-sufficiency challenge, we review all
evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict,
crediting favorable evidence if a reasonable fact finder
could, and disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable
fact finder could not. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168
S.W.3d 802, 827 (Tex. 2005). If more than a scintilla of
evidence exists in the record to support the challenged
finding, then the legal-sufficiency challenge fails.
Gharda USA, Inc. v. Control Sols., Inc., 464 S.W.3d
338, 347 (Tex. 2015). In a bench trial, the trial court is
the finder of fact and the sole judge of the credibility of
testimony and weight to be given any particular evidence.
Vo Eng'g, Ltd. v. Cai, No. 03-13-00529-CV, 2015
WL 513269, at *2 (Tex. App.-Austin Feb. 4, 2015, no pet.)
order to prove that a landlord-tenant relationship existed,
FNMA was required to prove that the Iqbals became tenants at
sufferance upon refusal to vacate following sale of the