Most laws about eviction and landlord-tenant matters are contained in chapter 24 and chapter 91 of the Texas Property Code as well as the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. However, the most important source of information about the threat of eviction is your rental agreement, whether it is written or oral.
Evictions in Texas can happen more quickly than in other states because your landlord is only required to give you three days notice before filing a lawsuit, but if your landlord locks you out illegally then you are entitled to damages, including a penalty of $1,000 and one month's rent.
Reasons for eviction
A landlord needs a valid reasons (also known as “grounds”) in order to dispossess a tenant. There are a variety of eviction grounds in Texas, depending on your city or county. In addition to the basic reason of a tenant not following the terms of the lease agreement, a few of the more specific grounds are:
- Failure to pay rent
- Causing damage to the property
- Refusing to move after the end of a lease
- Using the property to display or distribute obscene material
- Violating the landlord’s policy on keeping pets
- Letting people who aren’t on the lease live on the property
- Providing incorrect or false information on your lease application
Initial notices and waiting periods
*Notice to vacate *
If landlord has decided to initiate eviction proceedings, then he must provide the tenant with a written notice to vacate according to section 24.005 of the Texas Property Code. This indicates the nature of the breach—such as non-payment of rent—and demands that the tenant leave the property by a certain date.
In most cases, a landlord will have to allow at least three days after delivery of the notice before he can file for the eviction with the justice of the peace court. But check the terms of your lease first. If the lease calls for more than three days, then landlord must give the tenant that extra time.
After this waiting period the landlord can file an eviction proceeding with a justice of the peace located in the same precinct as the property and serve you with a citation. Section 510 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure specifies what exactly needs to get filed:
How notices must be delivered
In Texas, a landlord can deliver the notice to vacate in a variety of ways. The notice may be delivered to the tenant or any person over sixteen residing in the unit by:
- Certified, registered, or regular mail
- Attaching it to the inside of the front entrance door
- Attaching it to the outside of the front door but only if there is no mailbox or the landlord cannot enter the unit because of a dangerous animal, keyless deadbolt, or an alarm system prevents the landlord from entering
When the landlord files the petition with the court they need to serve you with a citation. Unless otherwise authorized by written court order, the citation must be served by a sheriff or constable.
The landlord must follow very strict guidelines in providing a tenant with notice to vacate the rental unit. If the landlord fails to provide proper notice, then the tenant can get the eviction suit dismissed. Some things that they might do wrong include:
If the landlord filed the eviction suit before allowing the proper time set out in the lease after sending a notice to vacate, then the suit is improperly filed and must be dismissed.
For evictions for failure to pay rent, other breaches of the leases, or failure to move after the lease term has ended, the notice to vacate has to be plain and clear. A notice that says “pay your rent or vacate” does not clearly tell the tenant to move out and is improper, unless the landlord has provided a prior written notice that the rent is due and unpaid.
If the lease does not specify a notice period, or the lease is oral, then the landlord must give you notice three days for breaching the lease before filing the eviction suit. If the landlord filed the eviction suit before allowing the proper time set out in the lease, then the suit is improperly filed and must be dismissed.
Be aware, however, that even though the case will be dismissed, dismissal does not bar the landlord from fixing the mistake. The landlord can give proper notice then file another eviction suit.
Court hearing and writ of possession
If the court rules in the landlord's favor then one of three things will happen:
Tenant moves out: If a tenant chooses to move out, he must not leave any property in the rental unit and should leave a forwarding address.
Tenant appeals the eviction: A tenant has five days to file an appeal (weekends count) from an adverse result. He will have to post an appeal bond; or a cash bond in the amount of the bond set by the court; or file an affidavit of inability to pay in order to appeal the judge's ruling to higher court. The tenant will need two people who have property or a savings account in Texas to co-sign the bond. The case will be appealed to the County Court level under de novo review. This means that the eviction lawsuit is heard all over again as if it never took place in the Justice Courts.
Tenant is forced to move out by Writ of Possession: If a tenant chooses not to move out or appeal, the landlord requests a Writ of Possession. A Writ of Possession is a court order directing the constable or sheriff to regain physical possession of the rental unit for the landlord—basically, it gives them permission to physically kick you out of the unit.
The writ cannot be issued until at least five days after the judgment from the eviction hearing (counting weekends and holidays). The constable or sheriff must post a 24-hour written notice on your door stating when they'll return, and they can use reasonable force when doing so—but they can't kick out a tenant if it is raining, sleeting, or snowing.
The eviction process is quick in Texas, and it’s not uncommon for it to be completed in under 30 days.
- Notice to vacate: Wait three days
- File eviction suit: Tenant has five days to answer and hearing is held between then and twenty one days of filing
- Judgement: Either party has five days to appeal
- Writ of possession: Can be obtained if the tenant does not move out within five days
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.