Texas Court Records
Contract Disputes and Property Disputes in Texas
In Texas, contract and property disputes are considered civil disputes. As such, they are heard by the state's civil courts. These cases are managed at different Judicial Levels, depending on the case type, and the claim amount. Contract disputes are disagreements involving contracts between two or more parties. Property disputes are conflicts over property boundaries or other real estate matters.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What are Contract Disputes in Texas?
In Texas, contract disputes occur when parties do not agree about the terms of the agreement or when a breach in the contract occurs. A breach occurs when one party does not fulfill the obligations of the deal, performs the obligation poorly, or incurs damages in performance. In Texas, both written and verbal contracts are valid. However, some contracts are not binding, except when written, according Code § 26.01. Under Texas law, a contract must meet specific criteria to be enforceable or legally binding: there must be an offer, acceptance in compliance with the terms of the offer, a mutual understanding of and agreement to the terms of the offer, otherwise known as a 'meeting of the minds,' and consideration.
What are the Most Common Contract Disputes in Texas
Contractual disputes may arise at the point of formation, that is at the point where the contract is being drafted. Disputes can also be about the fulfillment of contractual obligations. Common contract disputes in Texas are:
- Disputes about offer and acceptance
- Definition of contract terms
- Drafting and reviewing of terms
- Errors in the contract
- Fraud or coercion
- Disputes following a contract breach
What is Texas Contract Law?
The Statute of Frauds provides clearly defined terms for the enforcement of contracts. However, there are some contracts unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds. Examples include:
- Real estate sale contracts
- Real estate leases for more than one year
- Wills or trusts
- Oil and gas mining lease or royalty
- Agreements or warranties of medical cure
- A promise to answer for another person's debt
- Agreements that are not to be performed until one year later
What is a Breach of Contract in Texas?
A breach of contract occurs when:
- One of the parties fails to fulfill the obligation
- The party does not satisfy the requirement to the strict specifications of the contract
- Damages are incurred in the fulfillment of the obligation.
In Texas, four elements are required to establish a breach of contract:
- A valid contract
- The plaintiff's fulfillment or attempt to fulfill the contractual obligation
- The defendant's breach
- Damages sustained (by the plaintiff) because of the breach
A breach can be material or non-material. A material or total breach of contract occurs when one party fails to fulfill a fundamental contractual obligation and defeats the agreement's purpose. When a material breach occurs, the non-breaching party may terminate the contract and sue the breaching party for damages. A non-material breach is minor and does not fundamentally affect the contract's purpose. The non-breaching party is expected to fulfill the end of the contract; however, the party may claim damages from the breaching party.
What are the Remedies for a Breach of Contract in Texas?
If the court determines that a contract has been breached, possible remedies include:
- Lost profits (liquidated damages)
- Time lost (loss of use)
- Incidental and consequential damage
- Compensation for loss of credit reputation
- Reimbursement for expenses incurred
- Specific performance
- Other damages as specified in the contract
- Recovery of Attorney fees
The plaintiff must first prove that a valid contract exists and that the contractual obligations are fulfilled to file a breach of contract claim in Texas. Then, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached the contract, and damages were sustained because of the breach.
After the proof has been gathered, the plaintiff may file a claim with the Clerk of Court. In Texas, cases of claims of up to $20,000 are heard by the Justice Court. Statutory County Courts and District Courts hear cases of claims up to $200,000. Claims can be filed in person at the courthouse, by mail, or online with eFileTexas. A filing fee is required. Persons who cannot afford the filing fee may apply for a waiver by submitting a Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs.
Plaintiffs typically file claims in the county where the plaintiff or defendant lives. When the claim is filed, the plaintiff must send a notice of filing to the defendant. However, the plaintiff cannot deliver the notice personally; the court clerk may arrange a process server to deliver the legal notice.
After a discovery process where the defendant and the plaintiff gather information, the case will proceed to trial. For breach of contract claims, the statute of limitations is four years as per Code § 16.01, meaning that claims must be filed within four years after the breach of contract occurred. The court will dismiss claims filed after the four-year window.
What Defenses Can Be Used Against a Breach of Contract Claim in Texas?
The possible defenses against a breach of contract claim include:
- Duress or coercion: when a person is forced into an agreement through threats, blackmail, or physical harm.
- Mutual mistake: when the parties in the agreement do not reach a "meeting of the minds" or an error in the contract that affects one party's ability to fulfill the obligations
- Impossibility: when something happens after the formation of a deal, one party can't satisfy the obligation
- Fraud or misrepresentation: when a party conceals or misrepresents information about the contract
- If the terms of the agreement are unfair to one party, the court may rule that it is invalid
What are Property Disputes in Texas?
Property disputes involve disagreements over real estate. Disputes can be big or small, and sometimes, disputes can determine the market value of a property. Texas State's Property Code provides definitions for what constitutes real estate and legislation for all manner of property dealings and disputes.
What Are Some Common Types of Property Disputes in Texas?
Types of property disputes in Texas include:
- Boundary or property line: these are disputes about the boundary or property line locations.
- Landlord-tenant disputes: disagreements over issues such as rent, agreements, tenant rights, and responsibilities, and eviction
- Wrongful foreclosures: Property foreclosure processes initiated in bad faith or under invalid circumstances are considered wrongful.
- Property code violations: violations of ordinances instituted by the state in its Property Code.
- Adverse possession: this happens when a person wrongfully assumes ownership of the property because of extended use.
- Trespassing: unlawful entry onto another person's property. Causing another person or thing (such as pets, drones, or vehicles) to make an unauthorized entry onto a property is also trespassing.
- Lien disputes: these are disputes about mortgage errors, claimes, and validity
- Zoning disputes: these are disputes that arise over property use. For example, zoning disputes may arise from commercial establishments encroaching on residential areas.
- Ownership disputes: disagreements over legal ownership of properties.
How to Find Property Lines in Texas
Property lines are the boundary markers of real estate properties. Property lines mark the points where one property ends and another begins. Property owners use these lines to determine where to build fences, garages, pools, and other features.
Property deeds and surveys typically contain information about boundary lines. In cases where the markers described on the act are no longer existing, a property owner may employ a surveyor's services in Texas.
Property lines can also be found online by checking a satellite map or view of the property. County assessors' websites should have this information. Alternatively, interested persons may visit the county assessor's office in the county where the property is located.