Evictions are usually a lose-lose situation. You lose money and the tenant loses a home. No one likes eviction because nobody wins, but sometimes you don’t have much choice. A tenant who doesn’t pay rent or damages property should not be allowed to continue causing you financial losses just because the alternative is a legal hassle.
The costs of eviction might also cause you to take pause. In Texas, the low-end cost of legal fees alone is $500. Some evictions end up costing landlords thousands of dollars, but that’s still preferable to keeping a tenant who has breached the lease and is refusing to leave your property.
The process of eviction is relatively simple, if not time-consuming and expensive. Find out where you can start and what you can do in the future to mitigate the risk of eviction.
What are evictions and why do they happen?
Eviction is the act of expelling someone from a property. It happens when the contract between a tenant and landlord or property owner has been violated and the parties can no longer agree on terms under which the tenant can stay in the home. An eviction usually comes about when the tenant can’t or won’t leave the property. This occurs quite often in the United States, typically at a rate of 3.6 million per year.
Many of these eviction cases are the result of a foreclosure. Foreclosure is a legal process that enables a lender to recover some or all of the losses caused by mortgage default, which is a failure to make payments according to the agreed schedule, by reclaiming possession of the home and selling it to a new buyer. In 2019, there were more than 55,000 foreclosures on the market report. If a tenant who no longer has a legal right to be in the home refuses to leave after a foreclosure, the tenant is likely to be evicted by the new buyer. If the tenant is not the party responsible for the loan and still has a legal lease, the new owner must honor the lease.
Evictions also happen to renters. A significant lease violation can give a landlord the right to terminate a lease and evict the tenant from the property. A lease violation is a failure of either party to abide by the lease that both parties entered into. On one hand, a tenant may choose to terminate a lease and leave the property if a landlord fails to uphold his or her responsibilities. On the other hand, a landlord can legally evict a tenant who fails to pay on time, has unauthorized animals, etc.
Texas Eviction Laws
Evictions are legal processes that have to be carried out in accordance with the laws of your state. Generally, they are the fastest and most effective way through due process of law. State laws lay out a foundation for landlord responsibilities, tenant responsibilities, and legal remedies for breaches of contract and matters of health and safety. Once a lease has been broken, the law provides a structure for the processes that must be carried out in order to remedy the situation or move forward with termination of the lease and, if necessary, eviction. In Texas, eviction is legally referred to as “forcible entry and detainer”. A tenant who no longer has a right to occupy a property but refuses to leave is committing a “forcible detainer.”
Eviction Process (How to Evict Someone in Texas)
As defined by state law, there are several steps that have to be taken before a person can be evicted from their place of residence. Before initiating any type of legal remedy, it’s essential to speak to an attorney who specializes in property law in your state to ensure the correct language is used and the correct steps are followed. Technical errors in your Notice to Vacate can nullify the entire thing and force you to start over from the beginning.
When a tenant is late on rent, a late payment notice must be sent. If the landlord decides to terminate the lease based on late or missed payment, he or she must provide the tenant with a Notice to Vacate. You can find the Texas eviction notice form here. The demand to vacate gives the tenant three days to leave, starting the day after the notice is delivered. The notice must either be delivered by mail, in-person to someone age 16 or older in the home, or taped to the inside of the entry door. If you can’t access the home or deliver in person, you can attach it to the outside of the main entry door in a sealed envelope and mail another copy by 5 PM the same day.
The envelope you attach to the door must have the tenant’s name and address written clearly on it, as well as the words “IMPORTANT DOCUMENT”. The mailed copy must come from the same county as the property in question.
Filing the Eviction Suit
Your filing requirements might be a little different depending on your county, but they all follow the basic structure. Prepare the following before you file:
- Tenant information
- Contact info
- Move-in date
- Military affiliation
- Landlord name and contact info (or landlord’s attorney)
- Address of the property
- Description of the property
- Reason for eviction
- Date and method of Notice to Vacate
- The amount owed (under $10,000)
- Filing fee (depends on county and number of tenants)
If the tenant owes you more than $10,000, it cannot be included in the eviction suit.
The tenant will receive a Service of Citation to let them know they’re being sued for eviction.
The hearing will be scheduled between 10 and 21 days after the tenant is served. The burden of proof in an eviction suit is on the landlord. That means that if you and the tenant don’t agree on how things went down, the tenant is presumed innocent unless you can prove otherwise.
Make sure that you and any witnesses you bring are on time and that you have all the evidence you need to support your claims. Evidence can include a copy of the lease agreement, rent receipts, complaints from neighbors, pictures and video of damage, copies of correspondence, etc.
The hearing can go a few different ways. The tenant might not show. In that case, you win and the tenant will have five days to vacate or appeal. If the tenant does show, you might still win, in which case the tenant would have five days to vacate or appeal. He or she might also be ordered to pay you for damages, court costs, owed rent, etc.
If you lose at the hearing, you can appeal within five days. If you don’t have an attorney already, this is where you need to get one.
Writ of Possession
A tenant can appeal if he or she is being evicted due to non-payment. He or she must pay the amount due within 5 days of the ruling. After five days, if the tenant hasn’t appealed and is still occupying the property, the landlord can ask for a writ of possession, which authorizes the county sheriff to physically remove the tenant and their belongings from the property.
The sheriff’s office will let the tenant know they have 24 hours to be gone before entering the property and arresting them. Their belongings might be placed outside or in a storage unit.
Due to COVID-19 and the economic impact it’s had across the country, a federal eviction moratorium was placed in effect through the end of the 2020 which obviously affects many landlords. A tenant in government-assisted housing can sign a declaration provided by the CDC and give it to his or her landlord to protect him or herself from eviction. Individual states are offering supplemental eviction protection as well.
How long is the eviction process in Texas?
The entire eviction process can be handled in less than a month, but court backlogs can drag your eviction out for several months. Technical errors and appeals complicate the process and can cause an entire eviction case to be thrown out, forcing the landlord to start over. Texas is considered a landlord-friendly state, so the process of eviction in Texas is faster than in other states that prioritize the needs of the tenant. It is estimated that counties without backlogs in Texas take about three weeks to process an eviction from the time the Notice to Vacate is delivered.
It is virtually impossible to avoid dealing with an eviction as a landlord. The more properties you own or manage, the higher the likelihood. There are some steps you can take to mitigate the risk of eviction, starting with tenant screening.
The best way to minimize evictions is to thoroughly screen your applicants with background checks, references, employment history, rental history, and credit checks. Keep your standards high regarding what’s acceptable in an applicant. The more information you can collect on an applicant before approving them for a lease, the less risk you’ll take on.
Be sure that when screening applicants, you’re complying with fair housing laws in Texas. You must treat every applicant and tenant equally in applying established rules.
To mitigate your risk further, be proactive and responsive to lease violations. When a lease is breached, act immediately to address it. In many cases, there’s no need to terminate the lease after speaking with the tenant and agreeing that the violation will not continue to happen. If you do find yourself needing to terminate a lease, try offering “cash for keys”. Tenants who are unable to pay their rent would often rather take the payout than go to court, get an eviction on their record, and be ordered to pay a large sum. A condition of “cash for keys” should be that the property is in good condition when the tenant leaves. Otherwise, reserve your right to file a lawsuit for damages.
Having an attorney on your side for eviction can not only make the process go faster, but also can ensure that you get back more of what you’re owed for damages. Experienced attorneys know what to watch out for in eviction hearings and trials, including tenants who have been through multiple evictions and know how to play the system. In Texas, you can find quality legal aid for the eviction process at Texaseviction.com.
What to Do If You’re Dealing with an Eviction
Hire legal representation immediately. Don’t wait until you’ve lost your opportunity to recover your losses. If a “cash for keys” deal is better for you financially, do your best to speak with the tenant and work something out that doesn’t involve this long and expensive process.
Let Someone Else Deal with It
Hiring a property management firm can take a lot of the stress off your plate. A self-managing company will handle evictions for you and will even help find more qualified tenants going forward, so your risk of future evictions will be reduced.
Texas landlords have many great choices for property management. In the Houston area Emerson Property Management is a great choice for your Houston property management. We recently had an interview with Emerson Property Management’s Cameron Tope to discuss their experience with Texas evictions, take a look at the interview below.
Decide if You Want to Keep Dealing with the Property
Another option for ridding yourself of eviction headaches is to sell your house. Many property owners get to a point where the investment has become more pain and work than it’s worth. A sale to the right buyer can eliminate the stress and initiate an exciting new chapter in your life with a large lump sum.
If you decide to sell, it’s important that you look for the right buyer. The traditional way to sell your house may require that you make repairs/updates, deal with existing leases, and work with finicky buyer financing. Fink Buys Houses is a local Houston house buyer where we buy houses as-is. That means you don’t have to make repairs and can sell the home in it’s current condition. Best of all, we can buy your house with problem tenants in place. We have purchased homes with squatters, non-paying tenants, and uncooperative tenants that just won’t leave. If you’re finding yourself wanting to sell your house fast, with minimal headaches, call us at 713-322-6645 or fill out the form below 👇.