More than 3.5 million Texans rent the homes they live in, and lots of Texas landlords eventually are forced to evict a renter for one reason or another. While the eviction process in Texas isn't complicated, the steps must be followed to the letter. If you're a landlord facing the prospect of removing a tenant, familiarize yourself with the Residential Tenancies chapter of the Texas Property Code to be certain you're obeying the law.
If you’re a tenant facing eviction, reading the Residential Tenancies chapter can help you determine if you have any defense against the eviction action.
Step 1: Notice to Vacate
Texas landlords must give tenants a written notice to vacate at least three days before filing a Forcible Entry and Detainer, which is Texan for an eviction suit. Skipping or attempting to shorten this step can double the time and cost of an eviction. The court may not ask for proof that a written notice to vacate was both delivered and allowed to expire before you filed suit, but if it does and you don't have it, the eviction suit will be dismissed. Dismissal means the case is over, the tenant does not have to move out and you forfeit the filing fees. If you still want the renters gone, you will have to start the process over.
Seemingly small procedural errors can prove very costly. If you're not confident you thoroughly understand the eviction process in Texas, consider hiring a lawyer.
Step 2: File a Lawsuit
If the tenant still refuses to move or correct the problems that led to the eviction action, you can seek assistance from the court. Throughout Texas, the Peace Court in the precinct where the property is located presides over Forcible Entry and Detainer suits. Filing fees vary by county, but they rarely exceed $100. The property's location also determines the length of time a tenant has to file an answer to your suit, which determines the first day your case can be set for court and the fee charged by the sheriff or constable for serving the eviction papers. Unless the court orders an exception, only a Texas sheriff or constable can serve a citation of eviction.
Step 3: Go to Court
Do not miss the date or confuse the time. If you don't show up, the other party automatically wins -- and this is also true for the renter. Make sure any witnesses to alleged violations -- such as property damage by the tenant -- are in court, just as the renter will have witnesses to back claims of harassment on your part. Also, ensure you take all evidentiary documents with you, such as:
- rental ledgers
- warning letters
- a copy of the notice to vacate
- the tenant's lease
- other documents and pictures supporting the complaint
The judge will hear the evidence and witnesses presented by both sides and examine all the evidence before making a decision. If the tenant wins, the case is over. If you win, the tenant has five days to appeal; on the sixth day, you can file a writ of possession as the landlord requesting the tenant be forcibly removed from the property.
If either party is dissatisfied, he has five days to appeal the judgment to the county court.
Step 4: Writ of Possession
If you won, no appeal is filed and the tenant has not moved out, return to the deciding court on the sixth day after the judgment was issued and request a writ of possession. This is a court order directing the sheriff or constable to take possession of the premises by physically removing the tenant and his property if necessary. After you complete the form the court provides and pay the fees, which vary by jurisdiction, the sheriff or constable will post a 24-hour order to vacate on the tenant's front door. If the tenant still refuses to vacate, the sheriff or constable will remove the tenant and oversee the removal of his property from the dwelling.