As a landlord, a time may come where you’ll have to evict a tenant. It could be that the tenant has stopped making rent payments or that they have caused excessive property damage. The reasons for needing to evict someone can vary.
That being said, when carrying out an eviction, you must follow the law. Regardless of the violation, the tenant has committed, you cannot self-evict. For instance, by locking the tenant out or shutting off their utilities.
This post will go over the legal eviction process in the state of Texas.
The Texas Eviction Process
As a landlord seeking to evict a tenant, you must ensure that you follow the steps outlined in the legal eviction process. Failure to adhere to the correct process could delay the eviction or even result in legal actions being taken against you.
1. Lease Termination
To start the tenant eviction process in Texas, you must first terminate the lease or rental agreement. To do that, you must have a legal reason. Some of the legitimate reasons for tenant eviction include nonpayment of rent, excessive property damage, and failure by the tenant to move out after the expiry of their lease.
Each legal reason has a corresponding eviction notice. They are as follows:
- Nonpayment of Rent - You must serve the tenant with a 3-Days’ Notice to Quit. This will give them the option to move out or pay the due rent within the three-day period. If the tenant stays without honoring the notice, you can move to court and file a summons and complaint.
- Lease Violations - Typical violations that fall under this category include excessive property damage, having an unauthorized pet, or exceeding the occupancy limit. To evict a tenant for any of these reasons, you must first serve them a 3-Days’ Notice to Vacate. The tenant must move out within the 3 days as they don’t have an option to correct the violation.
- End of Leasing Period - The notice period to serve depends on the type of tenancy agreement. For example, if the tenant pays rent on a weekly basis, you must serve them notice of at least 7 days. If the tenant pays rent month-to-month, you must serve them a one-month notice.
- Property Being Foreclosed - If your rental property is being foreclosed upon, and the lease won’t be renewed, you must provide the tenant with a 30-days notice prior to beginning the eviction process.
2. Complaint Filing
Next, you must file a complaint in the Justice of the Peace Court. The tenant will then be served with a summons and complaint by a process server at least 6 days prior to the hearing.
The servicing must be done in any of the following ways:
- In-person by affixing the notice on a conspicuous place on the property.
- In-person to someone in the household aged at least 16 years.
- Via regular, certified, or registered mail.
A sheriff or constable is a common process server for courts handling eviction cases.
3. Court Hearing
The eviction hearing can be held no easier than 10 days after the eviction complaint is filed. Your tenant will have 14 days after receiving the complaint to file a written answer with the court.
The following are common eviction defenses in the state of Texas:
- The Eviction is a Retaliatory Act - Your tenant could allege that you’re evicting them for exercising their legal rights to, for example, join or form a tenants’ union.
- Stopped Rent Payments for Justified Reasons - Texas tenants can withhold rent or exercise the right to “repair and deduct” if the landlord fails to take care of important repairs that impact the unit’s habitability.
- Landlord Used Self-help Eviction Tactics - As already mentioned, it’s illegal to self-evict a tenant. You cannot shut off utilities or change the locks. Not only will the eviction fail, but your tenant could also sue you for damages.
- No Violation was Committed - You must have a legally justifiable reason for eviction to hold up in court. If you cannot prove that the lease was violated, the eviction process will be deemed null and void.
- The Eviction is Discriminatory - Discrimination against tenants on the basis of their protected characteristics is illegal. Protected characteristics in Texas include race, color, sex, religion, disability, national origin, and familial status.
- The Eviction Notice Contained Errors - You must follow the due process. For example, you must ensure that you have served the tenant with a proper eviction notice. The notice must state the reason for the eviction, the notice period, and what a tenant must do, among other things.
4. Writ of Possession
This is the tenant’s final notice to vacate the rental unit. It gives a tenant the opportunity to remove their stuff from the unit prior to being removed by the sheriff or police officer. If the court rules in your favor, you must request a writ of possession in order for the eviction to proceed. After a successful judgment, the earliest it can be issued is 6 days later.
5. Removal of the Tenant
Once the sheriff or constable posts the writ of possession on the rental unit, the tenant will have 24 hours to move out. If they don’t, the sheriff or constable will forcibly remove the tenant from the property.
It’s important that landlords understand and follow the legal eviction process. As a landlord, you must also remain up-to-date on laws including the landlord-tenant laws, security deposits, and rent increase laws.
If you would like help managing your rental properties, reach out to an experienced property management company. Our team at Rollingwood Management Inc. can ensure your peace of mind while we manage your rentals!
Disclaimer: This article is only meant to be informational and is in no way a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. For expert help, kindly reach out to either a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.