Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
Submitted: March 14, 2019
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Bell County, Texas
Trial Court No. 86, 846
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
R. Morriss III, Chief Justice
Wintermute Enterprises, LLC (Wintermute), purchased the house
and real property located at 3709 Bassett Drive in Killeen
(the Property) at a substitute trustee's sale, Wintermute
presented a notice to vacate the Property to its occupants,
Twan and Erica Burgess (collectively the Burgesses). When the
Burgesses refused to vacate, Wintermute filed a forcible
detainer action in the Justice Court of Bell
County. The Burgesses appealed the Justice
Court's unfavorable judgment to the County Court at Law
No. 1 of Bell County, where a jury determined that Wintermute
had purchased the Property at a foreclosure sale, that
Wintermute provided the Burgesses with a proper notice to
vacate, that the Burgesses were tenants at sufferance, and
that Wintermute had a greater right of possession to the
Property. In accordance with the jury verdict, the trial
court entered its judgment of possession in favor of
pro se appeal, the Burgesses (1) challenge the validity of
the substitute trustee's sale and (2) contend that
Wintermute could not bring a forcible detainer action against
them. Because we find that (1) we do not have jurisdiction to
entertain the Burgesses' challenge to Wintermute's
title, and (2) the forcible detainer action was proper, we
will affirm the trial court's judgment.
their first issue, the Burgesses complain that the substitute
trustee's sale was improper because they had, prior to
the sale, filed for federal bankruptcy
protection. We interpret this complaint as an attack
on Wintermute's title. However, the only issue in a
forcible detainer action is who has the immediate right of
possession to the property. Jae Yoo v. 4300 Burch,
LLC, No. 03-17-00709-CV, 2018 WL 3029035, at *2 (Tex.
App.-Austin June 19, 2018, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing
Rice v. Pinney, 51 S.W.3d 705, 709 (Tex. App.-Dallas
2001, no pet.)). "Neither the justice court nor the
county court on appeal has jurisdiction to resolve issues of
title to real property in a forcible-detainer suit."
Id. (citing Dormady v. Dinero Land & Cattle
Co., 61 S.W.3d 555, 557 (Tex. App.-San Antonio, pet.
dism'd w.o.j.)). Rather, "challenges to title or to
the foreclosure process must be pursued, if at all, in a
separate suit." Id. (citing Schlichting v.
Lehman Bros. Bank FSB, 346 S.W.3d 196, 199 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2011, pet. dism'd)).
the issues of title and the impropriety of the substitute
trustee's sale were not before the county court at law in
this forcible detainer action, we cannot address the
Burgesses' challenge to the propriety of the substitute
trustee's sale. Tehuti v. Bank of New York Mellon
Trust Co., Nat'l Ass'n, 517 S.W.3d 270, 274
(Tex. App.-Texarkana 2017, no pet.). We overrule the
Burgesses' first issue.
Burgesses' second issue contends that a forcible detainer
action was not available against them. They argue that, since
there was no lease, they were not tenants, and Wintermute was
not a landlord. This issue is without merit.
Texas Property Code provides that "[a] person who
refuses to surrender possession of real property on demand
commits a forcible detainer if the person: . . . (2) 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." Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.002(a)(2) (West
2014). The evidence at trial included a deed of trust
executed by the Burgesses, as borrowers. The deed of trust
provided that, upon default by the borrowers (i.e., the
Burgesses) and a trustee's sale of the Property, the
Burgesses would surrender the property to the purchaser at
the trustee's sale. In the event the Burgesses did not
surrender the property, the deed of trust provided that they
would become tenants at sufferance. The evidence also showed
that Wintermute was the purchaser at such sale.
landlord-tenant relationship between Wintermute and the
Burgesses was created pursuant to the deed of trust when
Wintermute purchased the Property at the substitute
trustee's sale. See Gonzalez v. Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., 441 S.W.3d 709, 713 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2014, no
pet.); Rice v. Pinney, 51 S.W.3d 705, 711-12 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2001, no pet.). We overrule the Burgesses'
reasons stated, we affirm the trial court's judgment.