Texas eviction laws vary from county to county in terms of court proceedings, formatting requirements, etc. Despite that, they all follow the same general eviction process:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your county to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Failure to pay rent on time
Rent is usually considered late a day past its due date. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.
If the tenant pays the rent within those three days, then the eviction process does not continue. If the tenant is unable to pay, the landlord reserves the right to offer them a second chance.
In the state of Texas, landlords are not obligated to offer a second chance. Once the three days are up, they can proceed with the eviction process immediately.
Landlords can charge tenants a late fee, but they must provide a grace period of at least two days. This late fee provision has to be stated in the written lease/rental agreement.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of the tenant’s stay. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord must issue a 3-Day Notice to Cure Violations or Move Out. If the tenant resolves the issues on time, the eviction process does not continue.
Lease violations may include:
- Staying longer than indicated on the lease
- Disturbing the other tenants with loud activity
- Damaging rental property
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
If the tenants fail to resolve the violations on time, then the landlord may continue with the eviction.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord could issue a 3-Day Notice to Vacate. The police have to be contacted if clear proof of illegal activity is found.
Examples of illegal activities are:
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of illegal drugs
- Subletting without the landlord’s approval
- Theft, violence, assault
Landlords are advised to keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.
4. Foreclosure of property
In this case, tenants are not allowed to renew their lease. The landlords have to issue a 30-Day Notice to Vacate.
The tenant has no choice but to leave the premises before the end of the notice period.
Landlords can continue with the eviction process if the tenant refuses to leave after the 30-day grace period.
5. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In Texas, landlords cannot evict a tenant or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
But if the tenant stays in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and has not arranged for a renewal, landlords can issue a 30-Day Notice to Vacate. Landlords are not obliged to remind their tenants to renew unless stated in the lease/rental agreement.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the Notice to Vacate. The landlord must have allowed enough time to pass before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
- File a forcible detainer suit and prepare the following information for a quicker experience:
- Tenant’s name and contact details
- Landlord’s name and contact details
- Location and description of the rental property
- Reason for eviction
- Details about the tenant’s stay in the property
- Action taken with the Notice to Vacate
- Pending fees owed by the tenant
- Tenant’s involvement in the military (if applicable)
3. Pay the fees
Optional: Filing for an Immediate Possession Bond. It reduces the scheduling of the hearing from 20 days to 10 days after filing is passed. If the landlord wins the case, the repossession of their property is fast-tracked.
If this bond was filed, the landlord has to provide a Notice of Request to the tenant. Do note that filing it is risky because if the tenant wins, the money spent by the landlord goes to the court fees of the tenant.
In Texas, filing fees may start as low as $46 but go higher than $100 with an additional $130 for the Writ of Possession. Prices may vary from county to county.
It takes about 3 to 30 days from the issuance of the Notice to Vacate, depending on the reason for eviction and the lease agreement.
Filing should only take one day at most barring any delays within the justice county.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
An official from the court delivers the summons for the hearing and the complaint to the tenant. The county sheriff is usually assigned this task.
There are several methods to accomplish this:
- Personal Service: The court official delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, someone living with the tenant who is over the age of 16 may receive the documents. If none of these methods are possible, the court official turns to the following method:
- Posting and Mailing: The server mails the documents via first-class mail. When using this method, the court official leaves a copy of the documents for the tenant. It is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property.
Landlords are not allowed to serve the tenant themselves. That is why there is an additional “server’s fee” which they have to pay.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant has at least six days to prepare for the hearing and respond to the summons and complaint.
The documents should be served to the tenant at least six days before the hearing is scheduled.
Either tenant or landlord may request to postpone the trial for a period not exceeding seven days.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. If the tenant does not show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
If the landlord does not win, they can still appeal within five days post-judgment for reconsideration.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of Texas, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled. They only have to show up to the hearing.
If a tenant disagrees with the summons and complaint, the landlord can choose to settle with the tenant outside of court. If they come to an agreement, the landlord files for a nonsuit. This is to request a dismissal of the case.
If an agreement is not reached, then the responsibility of providing evidence falls on the landlord. The landlord needs to support the claim and show it during the hearing.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, the landlord has five days to appeal the ruling, and vice versa.
A hearing is scheduled 10-21 days from the filing of the complaint. This can be shortened to as little as ten days if the landlord filed for an Immediate Possession Bond.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Possession is issued no less than six days after the landlord wins the case. The Writ of Possession gives the tenant a maximum of 24 hours to vacate the property.
If the landlord filed for an Immediate Possession Bond, then the Writ of Possession is created beforehand. The tenant then has seven days from the time they received the Notice of Request to move out should the landlord win the case.
2. Move out process
The sheriff/constable posts the Writ of Possession on the property. This informs the tenant that they have 24 hours to vacate the premises with their belongings.
Once the 24 hours are up, the sheriff/constable is allowed to remove the tenant by force. If the tenant refuses, they will be arrested.
The sheriff/constable is not allowed to remove the tenant if there is bad weather. This includes rain, sleet, or snow.
They must wait for better weather before taking the tenant outside the property.
If the tenant leaves behind any belongings, it is the landlord’s responsibility to get rid of them. Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal methods of eviction.
The tenants have 24 hours upon the posting of the writ of possession to move out of the property.
Texas Eviction Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline does not include special cases such as a request for an appeal or the effects of an Immediate Possession Bond.
On average, it would take anywhere between 21-60 days for a complete eviction process.
If an Immediate Possession Bond was requested, the hearing would take place at least 11 days earlier.
If either a tenant or a landlord applied for a re-judgment of the case, an additional 5 days could be added to the entire process.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other software that is easy for you to use.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge so that these charges could be included in the dispute. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. For the future, however, you should add these violations to the agreement to avoid future conflicts.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Texas?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
In the state of Texas, tenants can sue their landlord for the following amounts:
- Civil penalty of one month’s rent + $1,000
- Actual damages
- Court costs
- Reasonable legal fees
As another consequence of forceful eviction, the statute allows tenants to stay in the property.
Which eviction methods are illegal in Texas?
Constructive eviction, otherwise known as self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Texas?
According to Texas Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay on the property. A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of in Texas?
Landlords should be aware of the changes made to the eviction policies in the state of Texas. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some important policies to note are:
Other than that, it is also wise for landlords to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay their rent.
Lastly, make sure to review an overview of the most important landlord-tenant laws for California.
- Bigham Associates: Overview of Eviction Process in Texas
- eForms: Texas 3-Day Notice to Quit Forms
- eForms: Texas Lease Termination Letter Form | 30-Day Notice
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Texas
- NOLO: Texas Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Texas: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- Texas Justice Court Training Center: Evictions
- Texas Property Code
- The Balance SMB: Basics of the Texas Security Deposit Law