As a landlord, a time may come where you’ll have to evict tenants from the property and provide a notice to vacate. 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, such as not paying rent or violating the lease.
That being said, when a landlord carries out an eviction, they 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 Process of Evicting a Tenant in Texas
As a landlord seeking to evict a renter, you must ensure that you follow the steps outlined in the eviction laws in Texas. Failure to adhere to the correct process could delay the eviction or even result in legal actions, such as an eviction lawsuit, being taken against you.
1. Lease Agreement Termination
To start the eviction process in Texas, the landlord must first terminate the tenants lease or rental agreement. To do that, landlords must have a legal reason. Some of the legitimate reasons for tenant eviction include nonpayment of rent, excessive rental 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 - Landlords 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 or failure to pay rent that is due, you can move to county court and file a summons and complaint.
- Lease Violations - Typical violations that fall under this category include excessive property damage , having unauthorized pets, disrupting other tenants, or exceeding the occupancy limit. When evicting a tenant for any of these reasons, a landlord 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 issue.
- End of Leasing Period - The period of notice to serve depends on the type of tenancy agreement. For example, if the tenant pays rent on a weekly basis, a landlord 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 process.
2. Complaint Filing
Next, a landlord 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 filing the eviction complaint. Your tenant will have 14 days after receiving the complaint to file a written answer with the court.
Under Texas law, the following are common eviction defenses:
- It's 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 under the Texas property code.
- Landlord Used Self-help Tactics - As already mentioned, it’s illegal to self-evict a tenant. As the landlord, 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 - A landlord must have a legally justifiable reason for eviction to hold up in court. If you cannot prove that the agreement was violated, the eviction 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 Notice Contained Errors - A landlord must follow the due process. For example, you must ensure that you have served the tenant with a proper 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 vacate. If they don’t, the sheriff or constable will forcibly remove them from the rented tenant's property.
It’s important that the landlord understands and follows the legal eviction process, or it can be taken to court. As a landlord, you must also remain up-to-date on laws including the landlord-tenant laws , security deposits , squatter's rights , and rent increase laws.
If you're a landlord who 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 rental management company.