Texas Eviction Laws: 2024 Step by Step Process & Costs

Overview of Eviction Laws in Texas

In Texas, landlords must follow strict procedures to legally evict a tenant. There are specific grounds that allow a landlord to start the eviction process, such as failure to pay rent or violation of the lease terms. 

The eviction process begins with the landlord providing proper written notice to the tenant to vacate the property, known as a notice to vacate. This notice must be delivered in person, mailed, or posted conspicuously on the rental unit. The required notice period depends on the reason for eviction, but is commonly 3 days for nonpayment of rent or 30 days for lease violations.

If the tenant fails to comply with the notice to vacate, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit, known as a forcible detainer suit, with the local justice court. The court will schedule a hearing, where both parties can present evidence and make their case. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue a writ of possession, allowing the county constable to forcibly remove the tenant.

Texas law provides certain protections for tenants facing eviction. Tenants have the right to respond to the eviction lawsuit and request more time before being removed. They can also appeal an eviction judgment. The Texas Property Code outlines rules landlords must follow when handling security deposits, abandoned property, and eviction records as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted eviction proceedings. The Texas Supreme Court issued emergency orders pausing eviction hearings and writs of possession during parts of 2020 and 2021. Federal and state rental assistance has also been expanded to help tenants facing financial hardship. Currently, eviction hearings have resumed statewide.

Overall, Texas has detailed statutes governing landlord-tenant relations and the eviction process. Both parties should understand their rights and follow proper procedures to ensure a lawful eviction. With the help of legal aid resources, tenants can effectively exercise their rights when facing eviction.

What Are The Eviction Laws In Texas?

Notice Requirements for Eviction in Texas

In Texas, landlords must provide tenants with proper written notice before starting the eviction process. The notice is called a "notice to vacate" and it informs the tenant that the landlord plans to terminate the rental agreement. 

There are strict legal requirements for notification in Texas:

Written Notice

The notice to vacate must be in writing. Verbal notice is not sufficient. The notice should state the landlord's intent to terminate the tenancy.

Time to Vacate

The minimum time a tenant must be given to vacate the property depends on the reason for eviction:

  • Nonpayment of Rent - The tenant must be given at least 3 days to pay the rent or vacate. 
  • Lease Violations - Tenants must be given at least 3 days to correct the issue or vacate.
  • End of Lease Term - If the landlord does not intend to renew the lease, they must provide at least 30 days notice for the tenant to vacate.

Service of Notice

The landlord must properly deliver the notice to the tenant. The notice can be delivered in person, sent by certified mail, or attached to the tenant's door. It cannot simply be posted on the door.

Providing proper notice is a mandatory first step before a landlord can file for eviction with the courts in Texas. The notice requirements protect the rights of tenants and give them a chance to respond before an eviction suit is filed. Landlords should be sure to strictly follow the laws regarding written notice and service when starting the eviction process.

The Eviction Process Timeline in Texas

The eviction process in Texas generally follows these steps and timeframes:

Notice to Vacate

The eviction process starts with the landlord giving the tenant written notice to vacate the property. This notice must give the tenant at least 3 days to vacate for nonpayment of rent or at least 30 days for other lease violations. The notice must clearly state the reason for eviction and the date by which the tenant must move out.

Filing the Eviction Lawsuit

If the tenant fails to vacate by the deadline in the notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the justice court in the precinct where the rental property is located. The landlord must include a copy of the lease, the notice to vacate, and details on how the tenant violated the lease. There is typically a filing fee around $50-$100.

Serving the Tenant 

The tenant must be officially served the eviction lawsuit. An authorized process server will deliver the court papers in person or leave them with someone over 16 at the rental unit. The tenant has 6 days to file a written response with the court after being served.

Court Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing no sooner than 10 days after the tenant was served. Both parties can present evidence and testimony. If the judge rules in the landlord's favor, they will issue a judgment for possession. The tenant then has 5 days to appeal or file a motion to stay the eviction.

Eviction Judgment

If the tenant does not appeal or is denied a stay, the court will issue a writ of possession to the landlord. This authorizes the landlord to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit if they fail to vacate. The county constable will enforce the writ.

The typical eviction process takes 2-4 weeks from start to removal in Texas if the tenant does not contest it. Having representation and understanding the required procedures is important for both landlords and tenants facing eviction.

Texas Eviction Laws: Quick Reference Table

Problem Texas Eviction Law Says… Which Form To Issue
Tenant hasn’t paid rent. Landlords may charge late fees if they offer a grace period of at least two days. If rent remains unpaid, you may begin eviction.
Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005
Provide a written 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit.
Tenant has pets or long-term guests. Provide notice that the tenant has three days to correct the violation or vacate the premises.
Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005
Issue a 3-Day Notice to Cure Violations or Move Out.
Tenant has damaged the property. Provide notice that the tenant has three days to correct the violation or vacate the premises.
Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005
Issue a 3-Day Notice to Cure Violations or Move Out.
Tenant is conducting illegal activities. Engaging in illegal activities within the rental property is a serious offense that can result in eviction.
Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005
Issue a 3-Day Notice to Vacate so the tenant leaves the premises immediately.
How To Evict A Tenant In Texas

Eviction Lawsuits in Texas

In Texas, the eviction process formally begins when the landlord files an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. This is done by filing a sworn complaint and eviction citation with the justice court in the precinct where the rental property is located. 

To start an eviction lawsuit in Texas, the landlord needs to:

  • Complete a sworn petition or complaint stating the grounds for eviction. This includes details like the tenant's name, rental property address, amount owed if applicable, and reason for eviction such as nonpayment of rent.
  • File the completed complaint, along with the required court fees, with the justice court in the proper precinct. The court fees include charges for filing, service of process, writs, etc. Fees range from $46 to over $200 depending on the county.
  • Request citation or issuance of summons on the tenant. The court will issue a citation that commands the tenant to appear and answer the eviction complaint.

After filing, the landlord must arrange to have the tenant legally served with the citation and a copy of the petition. This can be done in several ways:

  • Having the constable or sheriff serve the papers in person on the tenant.
  • Using a private process server to serve the papers on the tenant. 
  • Mailing the citation to the rental unit by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Taping the citation to the inside of the unit's main entry door if allowed by local rules.

The tenant has a limited time to file a written response after receiving the citation, often just 7 days. If the tenant fails to appear in court or file an answer by their deadline, the landlord can seek a default judgment for possession of the unit. The tenant forfeits their right to dispute the eviction if they do not respond properly.

Court Hearings for Evictions in Texas

In Texas, if a landlord files a formal eviction lawsuit, the case will go before a justice court for a hearing. This is the tenant's opportunity to present a defense against the eviction. 

Tenant Rights in Court

Tenants have the right to receive proper notice of the court date and time. The landlord must have the eviction papers served to the tenant, which lists the time, date, and location of the hearing. Tenants should make sure to attend the hearing, otherwise, the court will likely rule in favor of the landlord by default. 

At the hearing, the tenant can bring up any defenses against the eviction and explain their side of the situation. For example, if the eviction is for nonpayment of rent, the tenant could provide receipts or other proof of payment. 

Tenants also have the right to request a jury trial instead of having the case decided only by a judge. To get a jury trial, the tenant would have to file a written request with the court, typically within 5 days of receiving the eviction notice.

Presenting a Defense

During the hearing, the landlord will first present their argument and evidence for why the tenant should be evicted. Then the tenant will have a chance to respond and provide any evidence or documentation in their defense. 

Some common defenses tenants may use include:

  • The landlord did not provide proper notice to vacate before filing for eviction
  • The eviction reason is invalid or false
  • There are habitability issues with the property
  • The tenant tried to pay rent but the landlord refused to accept it
  • The landlord is retaliating against the tenant for complaining or exercising tenant rights

Tenants should gather relevant documentation and bring multiple copies to their hearing. Photos, videos, repair requests, and receipts can help support their case. Witnesses who can testify on the tenant's behalf are also helpful.

Hearing Process

In most cases, the entire eviction hearing may only take a few minutes. The judge will let each side present their case, then make a ruling whether to grant the eviction or dismiss the case. 

If the judge decides in the landlord's favor, they will issue a judgment for eviction. At this point, the tenant will have a limited time, typically 5 days, to file an appeal and pay a bond to stay the eviction. If they do not appeal, the next step is for the landlord to get a Writ of Possession to have the tenant removed.

So it's crucial for tenants to take the hearing seriously and make their best effort to fight invalid or wrongful evictions. Having all their documentation, evidence, and defenses prepared will give them the best chance of success.

Eviction Judgments in Texas

If the tenant does not appear in court or respond to the eviction lawsuit, the landlord can request a default judgment in their favor. The judge will review the eviction complaint and evidence and make a decision. 

If a default judgment is issued, the tenant will be ordered to vacate the property, pay any rent owed, and pay the landlord's court costs. The tenant will have 5 days to file a motion to set aside the default judgment if they have a valid reason for not appearing in court.

If the tenant does appear in court, the judge will hear arguments and evidence from both sides before deciding the case. If the landlord wins, the judge will issue a judgment for possession, ordering the tenant to vacate the property within a set timeframe, often 5 days. The judgment may also order the tenant to pay back-owed rent, court costs, and attorney's fees.

Tenants have the right to appeal an eviction judgment within 5 days of the ruling. To appeal, the tenant must file a written request with the county court, pay an appeal bond, and pay rent into the court registry during the appeal. The county court will schedule a new trial to reconsider the case. Appealing can buy the tenant more time before vacating, but does not stop the eviction unless they win the appeal case.

Requesting a Writ of Possession

Writs of Possession in Texas

A writ of possession is a legal document issued by the court after a landlord wins an eviction judgment against a tenant. It authorizes law enforcement to remove the tenant and their belongings from the rental property. 

In Texas, a writ of possession cannot be enforced until at least 24 hours after the judgment is signed. This gives the tenant a bit of time to move out voluntarily before being forcibly removed by the sheriff.

Once issued, the landlord will deliver the writ to the county sheriff or constable to schedule the eviction. The tenant will receive a notice from the sheriff informing them of the scheduled lockout date, usually 24-48 hours in advance. 

On the scheduled date, the sheriff will return to the property with the landlord to change the locks and remove the tenant if they have not left already. Any belongings left behind will be set outside on the curb for retrieval. The landlord cannot keep or dispose of the tenant's property at this time.

The entire eviction removal process is overseen by the sheriff to maintain order and prevent illegal lockouts or self-help evictions. It's important for both parties to cooperate fully with law enforcement during the writ enforcement.

Tenants do have some protections during the writ enforcement process. For example, the sheriff cannot conduct the lockout at night, in bad weather, or if the tenants are elderly or ill. But barring such circumstances, the sheriff is authorized to use reasonable force to enter and take possession of the unit on behalf of the landlord.

Once completed, the sheriff will provide documentation to the landlord that the writ of possession was executed and the eviction is final. The tenant must turn over their keys and is no longer permitted on the rental property.

Tenant Rights in Evictions in Texas

Tenants have certain rights when facing eviction in Texas. Here's what tenants should know:

Responding to the Eviction Lawsuit

If a landlord files an eviction lawsuit, the tenant will be served with court papers, usually by a process server or law enforcement. The tenant has the right to file a written response and appear in court to challenge the eviction. The written response, known as an "answer," must be filed before the court date. Tenants should raise all defenses and counterclaims in their answer. Common defenses include improper notice, landlord retaliation, and failure to make repairs. 

Raising Defenses Against Eviction

Texas law allows tenants to raise defenses explaining why they should not be evicted. Some valid defenses are:

  • The landlord did not give proper notice to vacate
  • The eviction is in retaliation for requesting repairs
  • The landlord did not give adequate time to pay late rent
  • The landlord is evicting based on discrimination  
  • The rental unit has habitability or code violations
  • The landlord did not properly terminate a lease 

Raising a defense can get an eviction case dismissed. Tenants should gather evidence and bring it to their hearing.

Low-income tenants facing eviction can get free legal assistance through legal aid organizations. They help tenants understand their rights, navigate the court process, and access social services. Tenants can find local legal aid offices through the Texas Legal Services Center website or by calling the Texas Tenant Advisor hotline. Legal aid can significantly increase a tenant's chances of avoiding eviction.

Landlord Responsibilities in Evictions in Texas

Landlords in Texas have certain legal responsibilities they must fulfill when pursuing an eviction. Failure to meet these responsibilities can result in the eviction case being dismissed or the landlord facing penalties.

Providing Proper Notice

Texas law requires landlords pursue a formal eviction through the courts rather than resorting to "self-help" eviction methods like changing the locks or shutting off utilities. The eviction process legally begins when the landlord provides the tenant written notice to vacate. 

The notice must:

  • Be in writing  
  • Specify the reason for eviction
  • Provide the required notice period based on the reason
  • Outline how the tenant can avoid eviction (like paying past due rent)
  • Include contact information for legal aid resources

Proper notice periods in Texas include:

  • 3 days for nonpayment of rent
  • 7 days for lease violations 
  • 30 days for month-to-month tenancies

If the notice lacks required elements or does not provide adequate notice, the eviction lawsuit can be dismissed.

Following Court Procedures

To pursue eviction, the landlord must properly file and serve a formal petition with the justice court in the precinct where the rental property is located. The landlord is responsible for:

  • Drafting the eviction petition with required elements
  • Including copies of the lease, notice to vacate, and other evidence
  • Paying the court filing and service fees
  • Having a constable or process server formally serve the tenant 

At the court hearing, the landlord must provide evidence and documentation to prove grounds for eviction. If the landlord fails to follow procedures or meet burden of proof, the eviction will be denied.

Maintaining the Property 

While pursuing eviction, the landlord must continue meeting obligations to maintain the property in a safe, habitable condition. This includes:

  • Making necessary repairs for serious conditions affecting health/safety
  • Keeping utilities on 
  • Avoiding retaliation against or harassment of the tenant

The landlord also may have to allow the tenant reasonable access to retrieve essential personal property after eviction. Neglecting property maintenance duties could open the landlord up to lawsuits.

By fulfilling notice, court, and property maintenance responsibilities, landlords ensure the eviction process goes smoothly and they remain in compliance with Texas eviction laws.

Alternatives to Formal Eviction in Texas

While formal eviction may seem like the only option for removing a non-paying tenant, there are alternatives that can help both landlords and tenants avoid an eviction on their record. Here are some of the main alternatives to consider:

Payment Plans

If a tenant is going through temporary financial hardship, a landlord may agree to a payment plan to catch up on late rent. This allows the tenant to avoid eviction by paying back the owed amount over an agreed timeframe, such as a few months. Payment plans should be put in writing with specific dates, amounts, and terms to avoid misunderstandings. This can be a win-win to help the tenant get back on track while recovering the unpaid rent for the landlord.

Cash for Keys Agreements

A cash for keys agreement involves the tenant agreeing to vacate the property by a certain date in exchange for a lump sum payment from the landlord. This can save both parties the time and expense of going through formal court eviction. The payment to the tenant provides them funds to secure new housing, while the landlord regains possession quickly without an eviction on record. Cash for keys agreements should always be put in writing with details on the payment amount and move-out date.

Mediation Programs

Many courts have mediation programs to try resolving landlord-tenant disputes before filing an eviction lawsuit. Trained mediators help both parties communicate, negotiate a compromise, and avoid the risks of a trial. Mediation can lead to payment plans, move-out agreements, or other solutions satisfactory to both parties. If no agreement is reached, the landlord can still proceed with eviction through the courts. But mediation provides an alternative that is faster, cheaper, and more amicable than formal litigation in many cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant in Texas?

The eviction process in Texas can vary but typically takes about three to six weeks from the date the eviction notice is served until the tenant is removed. This timeline can change based on legal challenges or delays in the court schedule.

Does Texas have a 30-day eviction notice?

Yes, Texas requires a 30-day eviction notice for month-to-month tenancies when the landlord wants the tenant to move out without any lease violation. However, for breaches of lease or non-payment of rent, shorter notices may be used.

What are the rules for eviction notice in Texas?

In Texas, eviction notices require a 3-day period to vacate for non-payment of rent or breach of lease, unless the lease specifies a different period. This notice must be given in writing and can be delivered in person, by mail, or by posting on the inside of the front door of the rental unit.

How far behind on rent before eviction in Texas?

In Texas, landlords can issue an eviction notice as soon as rent is late. Typically, landlords give a 3-day notice to pay or vacate before proceeding with filing an eviction suit.

How do I delay an eviction in Texas?

To delay an eviction in Texas, a tenant can file an appeal if the eviction suit is lost, which requires posting an appeal bond within 5 days after the judgment. Additionally, presenting legal defenses during the eviction hearing, such as improper notice or habitability issues, can also delay proceedings.

Can you be evicted in 3 days in Texas?

Yes, in Texas, a landlord can give a tenant a 3-day notice to vacate for non-payment of rent or other lease violations unless the lease specifies a longer period. After this period, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit if the tenant has not vacated the premises or remedied the violation.

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