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HB 3561, if passed, would modify the Property Code (Title 4) by adding a new section (Chapter 30) regarding wrongful eviction. The bill would add two new damages which could be claimed by those wrongfully evicted. These are mental anguish (30.002) and exemplary damages (30.003).
Mental anguish damages can be claimed if the property owner either used or threatened to use violence to convince the claimant to vacate or abandon the property, or if the property owner knowingly or recklessly destroyed or seized all or the majority of the claimant’s property located on the leased premise. Exemplary damages can be claimed if the claimant can prove via a preponderance of evidence that the eviction was pursued for the sole purpose of putting the property to more profitable use.
We feel that the intent of this bill is genuinely beneficial. Use of violence and seizure of property are unacceptable. We also appreciate the terse and pointed language of the bill as being helpful. Nevertheless we cannot support the bill in its current form as mental anguish damages do not require the same preponderance of evidence standard as the exemplary damages. If a certain reasonable level of evidence needed to be presented to a court to claim exemplary damages, then the bill would at least be less objectionable.
As it currently stands, HB 3561 overcompensates by moving from the current situation where property may have the opportunity to be abusive toward tenants to a potential situation where claimants can be awarded damages for unsubstantiated claims. We oppose HB 3561