Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
Submitted on July 21, 2017
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Montgomery County,
Texas Trial Cause No. 16-29628
McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Horton, JJ.
McKEITHEN, Chief Justice
se appellants James Allen Martin and Victoria Martin
appealed an eviction and rent arrearage judgment in favor of
pro se appellee Arthur P. Clarke from the Justice of
the Peace Court to the County Court at Law No. 2 of
Montgomery County, Texas. We affirm the trial court's
obtained a judgment against James Allen Martin following a
bench trial. In the judgment, the Justice of the Peace found
in favor of Clarke and awarded him possession of the
premises, costs of $191, and $1400 in damages. The Justice of
the Peace also found that the monthly rent amount due is $800
and gave Martin five days to either vacate the premises or
appeal the ruling. Martin appealed the Justice of the
Peace's ruling to the County Court at Law No. 2 for trial
de novo. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 506.3
(providing that appeals from justice court are tried de
novo in the county court).
trial court set the case for a bench trial on September 30,
2016. The parties appeared pro se at trial. Clarke
testified that he seeks eviction of the Martins from his
property and that he regain possession of the property
because of the Martins' failure to pay rent. Clarke also
testified that he sought a judgment for the Martins'
alleged rent arrearage of $5075. Clarke tendered into
evidence a rent payment summary, which stated that from
January through September, the Martins should have paid rent
in the amount of $13, 050, but the Martins only paid $7975,
leaving a $5075 arrearage; transcribed voice messages from
the Martins; a lease inventory and condition form; a
three-day notice to vacate or quit the premises; Clarke's
petition; and a copy of the residential lease agreement, and
the trial court marked them as exhibits A through F. Clarke
testified, "That's it. Basically, I want my house
cross-examination, Clarke testified that he did not receive
payments from the Martins through automatic transactions.
Clarke testified, "I did receive the transactions but
they were done by someone, not an automatic transfer."
Clarke explained that he received some payments, but not all
payments that were due. Clarke testified that he agreed to
allow the Martins to pay $725 every two weeks instead of
$1450 in one monthly payment as a favor to the Martins.
During questioning by the trial judge, the judge noted that
with rent being $1450 per month, the Martins owed $15, 950
for eleven months of rent, and Victoria testified that she
and her husband had paid $12, 374 to Clarke, as well as $1450
into the registry of the court. Victoria testified that for
July, August, and September, the Martins made one payment of
$1450 into the court registry. The trial judge took the
matter under advisement.
September 30, 2016, the trial court signed a final judgment,
in which it ordered that Clarke shall recover possession of
the subject property from the Martins via a writ of execution
and awarded Clarke damages of $3625 and pre-judgment and
post-judgment interest. The Martins then appealed to this
Court. The Martins' pro se brief does not
contain record references, a statement of the issues
presented, or citations to authorities. See Tex. R.
App. P. 38.1. However, in the interest of justice, we
construe the Martins' brief as challenging the
sufficiency of the evidence regarding their eviction and the
rent they were ordered to pay.
legal sufficiency review, we credit favorable evidence if a
reasonable factfinder could, and disregard contrary evidence
unless a reasonable factfinder could not. City of Keller
v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 827 (Tex. 2005). Evidence is
legally sufficient if it "would enable reasonable and
fair-minded people to reach the verdict under review."
Id. The factfinder is the sole judge of the
credibility of the witnesses and is responsible for resolving
any conflicts in the evidence, weighing the evidence, and
drawing reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate
facts. Id. at 819-21; Sw. Bell Tel. Co. v.
Garza, 164 S.W.3d 607, 625 (Tex. 2004). In a factual
sufficiency review, we consider and weigh all of the
evidence, and we will set aside the trial court's finding
only if the evidence is so weak or the finding is so against
the great weight and preponderance of the evidence that it is
clearly wrong and unjust. Dow Chem. Co. v. Francis,
46 S.W.3d 237, 242 (Tex. 2001). As long as the evidence falls
within the zone of reasonable disagreement, we cannot
substitute our judgment for that of the factfinder. City
of Keller, 168 S.W.3d at 822.
forcible detainer action is governed by discrete provisions
of the Texas Property Code and the Texas Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §§
24.001-.011 (West 2014 & Supp. 2016); Tex.R.Civ.P.
510.1-510.13. "The action is intended to be a summary,
speedy, and inexpensive remedy for resolving a dispute over
'who is entitled to possession of the
premises.'" McClane v. New Caney Oaks
Apartments, 416 S.W.3d 115, 118 (Tex. App.-Beaumont
2013, no pet.).
elements of a landlord's cause of action for forcible
detainer are: (1) a landlord-tenant relationship exists
between the parties; (2) the tenant can be evicted because he
is a holdover tenant, tenant at will, tenant at sufferance,
or the tenant of a person who acquired possession by forcible
entry; (3) the landlord made a proper demand for possession;
(4) the period of time to vacate the property has expired;
and (5) the tenant has refused to surrender possession to the
landlord. Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.002 (West 2014);
Murphy v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 199 S.W.3d
441, 446-47 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet.
denied). Although the only issue to be determined is the
right to actual possession, a claim for rent may be brought
with the action. See Murphy, 199 S.W.3d at 446-47;
see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 510.3(a), 510.8(b).
"To prevail in a forcible detainer action, a plaintiff
is not required to prove title, but is only required to show
sufficient evidence of ownership to demonstrate a superior
right to immediate possession." Rice v. Pinney,
51 S.W.3d 705, 709 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2001, no pet.).
favorable evidence if a reasonable factfinder could, and
disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder
could not, we conclude that the evidence would enable
reasonable and fair-minded people to conclude that Clarke was
entitled to possession and was owed rent in the amount
determined by the trial court. Therefore, the evidence was
legally sufficient. See City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d
at 827. Furthermore, considering and weighing all of the
evidence, we conclude that the evidence that Clarke was
entitled to possession and was owed rent in the amount
determined by the trial court is not so weak nor are the
findings so against the great weight and preponderance of the
evidence as to be clearly ...