Texas Eviction Law

Posted by Jordan Muela in Texas

Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended as legal advice.

Under what circumstances may a tenant be evicted?

The tenant must have violated the terms of the lease, and it is the landlord's burden of proof to show that the tenant has done so.  The most common cause is a tenant failing to pay his or her rent, or the late fees associated with it.  These fees may not exceed a half-month's rent, and a court may not evict a tenant if they refuse to pay what the court considers to be an unreasonable late fee.  Also, a landlord may not evict a tenant within 6 months of that tenant making a repair request, if that is his reason for doing so.

What is the process for evicting a tenant?

First, the landlord must give the tenant a notice to vacate three days before initiating court proceedings.  If the tenant fails to leave, the landlord may then file a written complaint with the court, containing both the reason he wishes to evict, and a complete description of the property from which the tenant is to be evicted.  The court will then serve papers to the tenant, and a trial will be held in 6 to 10 days.  Optionally, the landlord may ask for a bond of immediate possession, which if granted, will give the landlord the right to take possession of the premises 6 days after the tenant has been served papers.  The tenant may avoid this by asking for a trial within those 6 days.

Both the landlord and the tenant must appear at the trial, or the missing party will lose the case.  If the tenant desires, the case may be tried by jury if he pays $5 within 5 days of being served papers.  Should the court decide in favor of the landlord, and the tenant does not appeal within five days, the landlord may ask for a writ of possession, which allows the local sheriff to evict the tenant.  Otherwise, the tenant can not be evicted.  In the unlikely event the landlord and tenant become reconciled after the landlord has a writ of possession, the landlord is not obligated to remove the tenant.  However, the landlord's promise to allow the tenant to remain despite the eviction must be in writing and signed by the landlord.

Also, the landlord can terminate a lease which operates on a month by month basis if he gives 30 days notice that he intends to do so.

Other Frequently Asked Questions:

How are landlords supposed to deal with tenant belongings left behind?

If the rent has not been payed, the landlord may have the right to possess and sell the tenant's property.  This is done through a landlord's lien, which must be stated in bold and underlined type in the terms of the lease agreement in order to be effective.  However, if the tenant has abandoned the premises, the landlord will be entitled to possess the property without such a lien.

The landlord may NOT remove any appliances or fixtures placed there by the landlord, such as windows, doors, refrigerators and the like.  Nor can they, in taking possession, leave the tenant without the following:

  1. Clothing
  2. Tools, equipment, and books of the tenant's trade
  3. School books
  4. One automobile and one truck
  5. Family portraits and pictures, as well the family library
  6. One couch, two living room chairs, one dining table and chairs
  7. All beds and bedding
  8. All kitchen furniture and utensisls, including a tenant's deep-freeze and microwave
  9. Food and foodstuffs
  10. Medicine and medical supplies
  11. Anything the landlord knows belongs to someone else, not living in the leased premises
  12. Anything the landlord knows what purchased on a recorded credit arrangement that has not yet been paid for
  13. All agricultural implements
  14. Children's toys not also used by adults

Can the landlord shut off utilities or lock a tenant out prior to the completion of the eviction process?

In regards to locking a tenant out, the landlord may do so under the a few circumstances.  First, and most obviously, he may do so if the tenant abandons the premises.  Secondly, he may do so in order to make a good faith repair—this repair must be really needed and not undertaken to inconvenience the tenant.

  1. Because the tenant has not paid his rent.  There are strict rules which apply in this situation, and the landlord must allow the tenant back on the property as quickly as possible.
  2. In an emergency situation.
  3. To conduct a repair in good faith.  "Good faith" means that the landlord must really need to do the repair, not just heckle his tenant because of some disagreement they may be having.
  4. When the tenant has abandoned the premises.

If a landlord decides to lock a tenant out, he must give the tenant a notice at least three days before, stating the date of the lockout, the amount of rent owed, a location where it can be paid, and where the tenant may get a new key at any time, regardless of whether he pays the rent.

Are landlords required to let tenants know why they are being evicted?

No.  The tenant will find out indirectly after he is served papers.  However, it may still be good policy for the landlord to inform the tenant of his reasons in the notice he gives for the tenant to leave.

Is it legal for the landlord to deduct legal fees and court costs from the security deposit?

No. The landlord can only deduct damages and charges from the security deposit for which the tenant is legally liable under the lease agreement, or for physical damage to the property for which the tenant is responsible.

Can the landlord try to collect unpaid rent for the rest of the time left in the lease?

Yes, but only through the court system.  The court may decide to award the landlord the back rent, but the landlord may not seek to recover it on his own without a court order.

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