Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law No. 2 Harris
County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1115018
consists of Justices Keyes, Kelly, and Goodman.
V. Keyes, Justice
Melanee Dagnes, appearing pro se, challenges the trial
court's judgment in favor of appellee, Oxford Place
Apartments (Oxford Place), in its forcible-detainer action
against her for nonpayment of rent. In what we construe to be
three issues,  Dagnes contends that the trial court was
biased against her, the evidence of nonpayment was
insufficient, and her eviction was retaliatory in violation
of the Texas Property Code. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann.
§§ 92.331, .335 (prohibiting retaliation by
landlord for certain acts taken by residential tenants).
Place, a public housing development operated by Houston
Housing Authority (HHA), filed an eviction petition in the
Harris County justice court, alleging that "for the
period beginning June  and running through the
present," Dagnes failed to pay rent totaling
$103.00. The justice court entered a judgment of
possession in favor of Oxford Place and ordered Dagnes to pay
$186.06 in rent owed, $100.00 in attorney's fees, and
court costs. Dagnes appealed to the Harris County civil court
at law for a trial de novo.
hearing, the trial court admitted into evidence Oxford
Place's Exhibit 1, the Residential Lease Agreement (the
Lease) between Dagnes and HHA, dated July 1, 2017. The Lease
permitted Dagnes and her three children to occupy Oxford
Place unit #807 (the "property") for a term of one
year, and it required her to pay rent in the amount of
$103.00 on the first day of each month. It also provided that
a $15.00 late fee would be incurred for rent not received by
the fifth day of the month.
Lease gave HHA the right to terminate "only for serious
or repeated violations of material terms of the Lease, or for
other good cause," such as "failure to . . . make
payments due under the Lease." It further stated that
"[i]f rent is not paid on time, Tenant is in default and
all remedies under state law and this Lease contract will be
Lease also stated that payment for "charges in addition
to rent" is due "on the first day of the month
after the charge is incurred provided that a minimum of
fourteen (14) days' notice has been given," and that
failure to pay such charges "in full when due is a
serious lease violation and shall be grounds for lease
terminate for nonpayment of rent, the Lease required HHA to
give fourteen days' written notice stating the
"specific reasons for the termination," informing
the tenant of her "right to make such reply as he/she
may wish," and offering the tenant an opportunity for a
grievance hearing. The Lease also prohibited HHA from
terminating "until the time for the tenant to request a
grievance hearing has expired."
McQueen, Oxford Place's property manager, testified that
Dagnes's Lease was terminated because she failed to pay
her June 2018 rent, as reflected in Oxford Place's
Resident Ledger for Dagnes' account (the Ledger), which
the trial court admitted as Exhibit 3.
Ledger included a $104.59 charge dated March 6, which McQueen
explained was for replacing broken miniblinds in Dagnes's
unit. The trial court admitted the maintenance invoice notice
for the charge into evidence as Exhibit 2. The notice stated
that the $104.59 charge was "incurred and authorized
when [Dagnes] called in work order #728607," provided
that payment was due on May 1, and advised that "failure
to pay maintenance charges or other fees in addition to rent
in full when due is a serious lease violation and grounds for
Ledger also reflected a $15.00 late-rent fee for Dagnes's
failure to pay March rent by the fifth of the month. McQueen
testified, and the Ledger reflected, that Dagnes paid $118.00
on March 26, covering her March rent and the late fee and
bringing her balance to zero, but carrying forward the
$104.59 maintenance charge due May 1.
paid her April rent on time but was late with her May rent
payment, and thus incurred another $15.00 late fee. On May
29, Dagnes made a $221.00 payment to her account. McQueen
testified that of that amount, Oxford Place allocated the
first $118.00 to pay Dagnes's May rent and late fee, and
the remaining $103.00 to pay down the overdue maintenance
invoice of $104.59, leaving Dagnes with a balance of $1.59.
testified, as reflected in the Ledger, that Dagnes did not
pay her June rent by June 5. McQueen further testified that
on June 6, she delivered a notice to Dagnes that her Lease
would be terminated for nonpayment of rent. The notice, which
the trial court admitted as Exhibit 4, informed Dagnes that
she had ten days to request a grievance hearing.
24, McQueen sent Dagnes a notice to vacate, stating that she
had three days to vacate the property and advising her of
HHA's intention to file an eviction suit against her
should she fail to comply. The ...