- The process for residential evictions in Texas is fairly streamlined.
- The landlord must deliver a notice to vacate and can then file for an eviction and possession of the property.
- If the landlord wins at trial, the court will issue a writ of possession giving the landlord the right to the possession of the property.
Texas is a great place to live. I reckon I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. It obviously has its faults. But overall, it’s a very friendly, inviting place to be. And it’s a great place to generally do business and set out to make your mark on the world.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is its overall business friendly environment. Our culture is one of encouragement for folks who are taking risks and trying to make things better. And the state laws are set up that way.
In general, this applies to laws governing landlords and developers.* The eviction process in Texas is a fairly streamlined process that ultimately is good for both landlords and tenants because it helps keep overall costs down and encourages more development. So this week, lets talk about how that process works.
Commercial Evictions Show Importance of Commercial Lease Documents
In this article, I am going to specifically focus on residential evictions. But to start, I will say that commercial evictions are generally very straightforward. I will write a separate article on this in the future, but courts basically just apply the language of the commercial lease agreement when determining the landlord’s eviction rights. As a result, it is extremely important to make sure your commercial lease document is well drafted.
Texas Residential Evictions are Streamlined
The residential eviction process, though, is (not surprisingly) a little more complicated. It begins with a notice to vacate.** The notice must be in writing and state the reason for the eviction. The notice must also provide a deadline for the tenant to vacate the premises. The deadline must be at least three days from the date the notice is delivered to the tenant.
If the tenant fails to vacate the premises by the deadline, the landlord next files an eviction lawsuit with the justice of the peace court in the county where the property is located. The lawsuit must include a copy of the notice to vacate, proof of service of the notice to vacate, and any other relevant evidence, such as a lease agreement and the property records showing the tenant’s failure to pay (for an eviction for failure to pay rent).
Once the lawsuit is filed, the JP court will set a hearing date. At that hearing, the landlord will present its evidence for eviction. And, of course, the tenant can make his or her argument. We generally think landlords are sufficiently knowledgeable to attend this process without having to hire an attorney.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the court will issue a write of possession. This is a court order that allows the landlord to take possession of the property. The writ of possession must be served by a constable or sheriff. The tenant will be given 24 hours to vacate the premises after the writ of possession is served.
If the tenant does not vacate the premises after the writ of possession is served, the constable or sheriff can physically remove the tenant and his or her belongings from the property. The landlord can then change the locks and take possession of the property.
A tenant can appeal the JP court’s eviction order. If the tenant chooses to appeal, he or she must file a notice of appeal with the justice court within five days of the judgment. The tenant must also post a bond with the court. The bond amount is set by the court and is usually equal to the amount of rent owed. The bond is used to cover the landlord’s damages if the tenant loses the appeal. If that the tenant cannot afford the bond, he or she can file a pauper’s affidavit to get the bond waived. And the landlord is able to challenge the tenant’s declarations in that affidavit.
After the notice of appeal is filed and the bond is posted, the case is transferred to the county court. The county court will set a new hearing date for the appeal. The appeal hearing is a new trial, and both parties can present new evidence and arguments. At this point, we strongly encourage landlords to hire an attorney – such as Bukowski Law Firm, for example.
If the tenant wins the appeal, the judgment is reversed, and the tenant can remain in the property. If the landlord wins the appeal, the writ of possession is issued, and the tenant must vacate the property within 24 hours.
While this may seems like a convoluted and difficult process, I can say for certain that it is much easier and more streamlined than a lot of other states. And, as a result, overall rental rates are likely lower than they would be without this process.
* City of Austin notwithstanding.
** Except in Austin. See previous blog articles about the 30 day notice of proposed eviction.