Texas Supreme Court advisory

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December 17, 2009
Civil Procedure Rule 737 implements Senate Bill 1448 provisions

The Texas Supreme Court posted rules for justice-of-the-peace courts for exercising new and expanded powers processing tenants’ lawsuits over housing conditions threatening health or safety.

Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 737 establishes the criteria for a tenant’s lawsuit in keeping with standards established by Senate Bill 1448. The rule goes into effect January 1, the effective date of the law, but the court rule is subject to change after a public comment period that ends April 1.

The Court also created a form petition for tenants to use when filing suits and will incorporate it as an appendix to the Rules of Civil Procedure.

“This petition is meant to simplify the pleading requirements in cases that will often be brought by pro se litigants who can’t afford an attorney,” said Kennon L. Peterson, the Court’s rules attorney.

Rule 737 is limited to suits seeking no more than $10,000, including attorney fees but not interest or court costs, and incorporates the Texas Property Code’s “materially affecting the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant” standard for conditions justifying the suits.

Rule 737 resulted from a task force study led by Tom Lawrence, a Harris County justice of the peace, and a recommendation by the Supreme Court Advisory Committee. SB 1448 was written by state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and sponsored in the House by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston.

Read the order here.