Find out what to expect at removal hearings, and how the court process works.
Before your hearing
You are likely reading this because you intend to represent yourself at your removal hearing. If so, you might want to find out which judge will be hearing your case, then sit in on a couple of that judge's removal hearings to get a better idea of what to expect when your day in court comes. To learn which judge is hearing your case and when that judge is holding removal hearings, look online or call the court directly. Click to visit Look Up My Case, Justice Courts, and Find My Court for links and contact information. To prepare yourself for your big day in court, you should read Going to Court and Risks and Tips.
At your hearing
A removal hearing is intended "to determine the truthfulness and sufficiency of the evidence set forth in any affidavit."
CAUTION! Be on time and dress appropriately! Allow extra time for traffic, court security, and other possible delays. If you're late to your hearing, you'll probably lose. Dress conservatively. The bailiff might not let you in the courtroom if you're wearing shorts, a tank top, halter-top, a midriff, or a hat.
At the hearing, the judge or the court clerk will call the case (meaning announce the names of the parties). Both parties should go to the front of the courtroom. There will typically be 2 tables facing the judge, one for the "plaintiff" (in a removal, the owner) and one for the "defendant" (the occupant in a removal case). The judge will allow both parties to speak and present evidence on their behalf.
The judge will evaluate the evidence and testimony to decide:
- Whether there is a legal defense to the allged forcible entry or forcible detainer,
- Whether the occupant gained entry peaceably and as a result of an invalid lease, fraudulent act, or misrepresentation by a third party,
- Whether the occupant can have more time to vacate and remove his/her personal property (up to 20 days).
The court will likely grant a removal order if the judge believes that there is no legal defense to the forcible entry or forcible detainer. On the other hand, if the judge finds that the occupant entered peaceably, and for example, was on the property because someone else, who was not authorized by the owner, allowed the occupant on the property, the judge might give the occupant some extra time to move out.
After the hearing
If a removal is denied, then the occupant can stay on the property. But the owner still might be able to try to remove the occupant again, and try serving the Notice to Surrender again.
If the removal is granted, then the court sends the order for removal to the sheriff or constable, directing the sheriff or constable to remove the tenant. The sheriff or constable will then schedule a time to remove the occupant within 24 hours of receiving the order.
CAUTION! This is different from an eviction order! The sheriff or constable will not be posting a notice on the door to warn you of the removal. So don't expect that you'll get the 24-hour posted notice on your door. Don't wait to take action!