Texas Eviction Laws: Laws for Landlords & Property Managers

By White & Mejias on May 8, 2024
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Sometimes the relationship between tenants and their landlords or property managers can get complicated. While some issues are amicably resolved, others can trigger eviction proceedings, especially if unpaid rent, property damage, and other lease violations are involved. However, if you want to evict a tenant, it’s essential that you do so lawfully.

Texas eviction laws outline the proper steps for removing a tenant and can reduce the likelihood of a future lawsuit. In this guide, the legal team at White & Mejias explores the requirements and processes involved in tenant evictions and how a Texas lawyer can help.

Common Reasons for Eviction in Texas

In Texas, landlords have specific grounds on which they can base an eviction, ensuring both parties understand the rules and potential consequences of violating them. They include:

  • Nonpayment of Rent: This is the most common reason for eviction. If a tenant doesn’t pay rent on time, the landlord can initiate eviction proceedings. 
  • Lease Violations: If a tenant breaks any terms of the rental lease agreement, such as keeping pets in a no-pet building or causing significant damage to the property, these actions can lead to eviction. These generally are harder evictions to prove so you should ensure you have plenty of proof to show the lease violation you believe to be occurring. 
  • Illegal Activity: Conducting illegal activities within the rental unit is a serious violation that warrants eviction. This includes activities like drug manufacturing or distribution. This may also play into violating HOA bylaws. 
  • Expiration of Lease: If a tenant does not leave voluntarily at the end of a lease term and there is no lease renewal, the landlord may evict the tenant. This typically requires a proper notice to vacate, giving the tenant time to make arrangements.
  • Post-Foreclosure: This situation comes into play when you purchase a property a foreclosure sale and either the former owner or tenant of the former owner will not vacate the property. 

Notice of Vacate 

In Texas, landlord-tenant laws give landlords the right to terminate a tenancy early for specific reasons, such as non-payment of rent or lease violations. For instance, if a tenant constantly makes late payments, brings a prohibited pet into the rental, or hosts frequent loud gatherings, these actions can be legal grounds for eviction. When such violations occur, the landlord may issue a three-day notice to vacate. However, please keep in mind that your lease agreement may require a longer period. It is always best to consult with an attorney to ensure you give the adequate time in your notice to vacate to avoid losing your eviction lawsuit. 

Unlike in some states, Texas landlords do not need to offer tenants the chance to rectify the issue, such as paying overdue rent or removing an unauthorized pet. This is subject to your lease agreement language that should be checked prior.  If the tenant fails to vacate the property within the designated period, the landlord is then entitled to initiate an eviction lawsuit, known as a forcible detainer suit.

Notice of Termination 

In Texas, terminating a tenancy without cause varies significantly based on the type of tenancy arrangement in place.

Terminating a Month-to-Month Tenancy Without Cause

For tenants with a month-to-month rental agreement, the required notice period before termination depends on the frequency of rent payments. 

  • If rent is paid monthly, the landlord must provide a one-month notice. This means the tenancy would end on the later of the date specified in the notice or one month after the notice is issued. If your agreement has already expired you will want to check your lease agreement to ensure that one-month’s notice is all that is needed. 
  • If the tenant pays rent more frequently, such as every 20 days, the notice period must be equivalent to the rent interval — in this case, 20 days from the day after the notice is delivered.

The notice must clearly indicate the final date of the tenancy and instruct the tenant to vacate the rental unit by then. This legal process ensures that both landlord and tenant clearly understand the timeline for vacating the property.

Terminating a Fixed-Term Tenancy Without Cause

Landlords do not have the authority to end a fixed-term lease early without cause. Tenants are, therefore, entitled to remain in the property until the lease expires, provided they stick to the lease terms. 

Before a landlord can start formal eviction proceedings, they must notify the tenant about the need to fix a certain problem or move out. This notice to vacate is required by Texas law before a tenant can be forced to leave.

At the end of the lease period, the landlord does not have to inform the tenant about non-renewal unless the lease explicitly requires it. For example, if a tenant’s year-long lease ends in December without a renewal request, the landlord expects the tenant to leave by the end of December, unless the lease stipulates a notice requirement.

Should the tenant remain in the property past the lease expiration without securing a renewal, they become what is known as a holdover tenant. To evict a holdover tenant, the landlord must issue a three-day notice to vacate. Failure to vacate within those three days allows the landlord to initiate an eviction lawsuit and secure a writ of possession.

Hotels/Motels vs. Residential Evictions

The lawful eviction process for guests in hotels or motels use to differ significantly from that of residential tenants. In recent years that has changed. Most constables will not remove individuals now unless an eviction proceeding has been initiated especially in extended stay hotel type situations.  

In Texas, individuals staying in hotels or motels are generally considered guests, not tenants, unless they have resided there long enough to establish tenancy under state law, which often involves an extended stay of 30 days or more

This distinction means that hotel or motel guests can usually be removed more quickly and without the formal eviction proceedings required for residential tenants. Instead, management can often ask guests to leave without a court order, provided there are valid reasons such as violation of hotel policies or non-payment. However, if a guest has resided long enough to be considered a tenant, a formal eviction process must occur.

Commercial Evictions

Commercial evictions in Texas have some key differences from residential evictions. The most notable is the lack of protective laws that cover residential tenants, making the process faster in many cases. 

For example, commercial landlords may go straight to a commercial lockout and bypass the eviction process all together. The reasons for evicting a commercial tenant can include failure to pay rent or breach of other lease terms, such as improper use of the property. Landlords may seek unpaid rent damages as well as their commercial eviction attorney fees.

RV Park Guests

In Texas, many RV parks function similarly to apartment complexes, requiring RV tenants to sign written leases, often for a year or more. Signing a lease creates a landlord-tenant relationship and grants tenants exclusive rights to the property for the duration of the lease. Landlords cannot simply evict tenants who have exclusive rights to possession – if a park owner wants to evict a tenant, they must file an eviction lawsuit.

Conversely, some RV parks operate more like hotels, accommodating RV “guests” for brief rental periods. Here, occupants are given a nonexclusive license to use the site temporarily. This license is granted at will and can be revoked at any time. In such cases, Texas law does not require park owners to go through formal eviction processes to remove an RV. Instead, the park manager or owner can ask the guest(s) to leave after giving reasonable notice.

An Overview of the Eviction Process in Texas

The eviction process in Texas for residential tenants follows a structured series of steps designed to ensure both landlords and tenants understand their rights and obligations:

Step 1: Written Notice to Vacate

The process begins with the landlord giving the tenant a written notice to vacate. Landlords must first deliver this written notice before an eviction lawsuit. This is one of the most important steps in the process. The delivery method can costs a landlord their entire eviction suit by not delivering the notice to vacate in accordance with Texas law. 

Step 2: Filing of Eviction Suit

If the tenant does not vacate the property within the notice period, the landlord may file an eviction suit. Texas law mandates that the eviction hearing cannot occur until at least 10 days after the eviction petition has been filed. This gap allows both parties adequate time to prepare for the hearing. Generally, it takes about 15-20 days to get a hearing date from the court. This can also vary depending on the county that your property is located in. 

Step 3: Judgment

If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the judgment issued will specify the eviction date. The tenant has a five-day period to appeal the decision, during which no further action to remove the tenant can occur.

Step 4 (optional): Appeal Process

If the tenant decides to appeal the judgment, then the entire case file is transferred to the higher court. There are many different avenues that a case can go when a tenant appeals. It’s always best to check with your attorney to ensure you fully understand the appeal process that your tenant has initiated.

Step 5: Writ of Possession

Should the eviction judgment remain in the landlord’s favor without an appeal, or after an appeal is resolved, the landlord may request a writ of possession from the court. This legal document authorizes the removal of the tenant and their personal property. The law requires that a constable or sheriff post a 24-hour notice at the property before executing the writ, informing the tenant of the impending enforcement.

FAQS

If I Invite a Friend to Stay With Me, Does That Make Them a Tenant?

Inviting a friend to stay with you doesn’t automatically make them a tenant, but the situation can quickly evolve into a tenancy at will. This type of arrangement forms when there’s a landlord-tenant relationship without fixed terms, often based on a verbal agreement. If you let a friend live in your home without a lease and they receive mail there and/or contribute to expenses, you might unknowingly create a tenancy at will.

This is critical because in such cases, formal eviction processes are necessary to ask the person to leave. Simply telling your friend to move out may not suffice if they refuse. You would then be required to follow the legal eviction procedures that apply to tenants, not just house guests. 

To prevent any confusion, it’s wise to set clear expectations and possibly even a written agreement at the start of their stay, specifying the conditions and duration of their visit. This helps protect both parties and ensures that your generous offer doesn’t unintentionally become a more permanent arrangement.

What is the Difference Between a Holdover Tenant and a Tenancy at Sufferance? 

A holdover tenant is someone who remains in a rental property after their lease has expired or been terminated, without the landlord’s permission. This situation often requires the landlord to take legal action to remove the tenant if they refuse to leave voluntarily. On the other hand, a tenancy at sufferance occurs when a tenant stays in the rental property after the lease has ended, but the landlord has not yet taken steps to evict them. They are basically waiting for the landlord to make the next move, either to renew the lease or to ask them to vacate.

Both scenarios involve tenants who stay beyond their lease terms, but the key difference lies in the landlord’s response. In the case of a holdover tenant, the landlord does not consent to the extended stay, which often leads to eviction proceedings. For a tenancy at sufferance, the landlord has not yet acted to end the tenancy, which leaves the tenant in a sort of limbo until the landlord decides to take action.

The Tenant is Refusing to Leave. Can I Just Change the Locks?

If you have a difficult tenant who refuses to leave, you might be tempted to take matters into your own hands and make things so unbearable that they finally get out. However, these so-called self-help evictions are not only illegal but could also cause a lot of problems for you.

The only lawful way to evict a tenant in Texas is by winning an eviction lawsuit, known as a forcible entry and detainer suit, in court. Even after a successful lawsuit, the landlord can’t personally remove the tenant from the property. Texas law strictly prohibits landlords from engaging in self-help measures such as changing locks, shutting off utilities, or physically removing the tenant and/or their personal property.

Once the court rules in favor of eviction, only an officer of the law, authorized by the judge, can carry out the eviction. This ensures that the process is handled professionally and legally, minimizing the risk of complications and ensuring that both parties’ rights are respected.

Speak to an Evictions Lawyer in the Woodlands Today

For landlords and property managers seeking to manage evictions with confidence, the assistance of a Texas eviction lawyer is invaluable. At White & Mejias, our experienced attorneys can provide trusted legal advice, ensure that all applicable rules and laws are strictly followed, and represent your interests in court. 

Let us help you streamline the eviction process, minimize legal risks, and maintain the integrity of your property management efforts. For more information or to schedule a free consultation with a licensed attorney, call (713) 818-7116 or contact us online today.


Category: Evictions