Residential landlords need only complete four steps to evict a tenant in Texas, but they must complete each of the steps to the letter of the law. If you want to pursue an eviction, either invest the time to ensure you understand chapters 92 and 24 of the State Property Code or hire an attorney. A single uncrossed “t” or undotted “i” could result in your lawsuit being thrown out, which means your money is gone and that troublesome tenant is not.
Issue a Notice to Vacate
Texas law mandates that tenants receive a written notice to vacate allowing them a minimum of three days to move. The notice must expire before any eviction suit is filed. If there is rent due and payable, a demand for it can be included in the notice. You can deliver it by mail, posting or hand to any occupant of the residence who is at least 16 years old. Do not skip this step.
If a savvy tenant proves to the judge either that he did not get a written notice to vacate, or that you filed before the notice expired, your case will be thrown out and your filing fees forfeited.
Reviewing the list of procedural and other defenses to eviction available to tenants provided by the Texas Tenant Advisor will help you ensure you haven’t overlooked anything.
File Your Lawsuit
If the notice to vacate has expired, but the tenant has not moved, file a Forcible Entry and Detainer for eviction in the Peace Court precinct where the property is located (Sec. 92.009.(b). The process is the same in all 254 Texas counties, but costs vary from one county to the next. For example, in Travis County, the fees exceed $100 as of publication, but Tarrant County landlords pay less than $50.
Find the forms and costs to file your lawsuit on the county website where your property is located.
Appear in Court
The court date is usually set when you file the eviction suit and notated on every copy of the citation. If you can’t locate your court date, time or location, call the court clerk and he will tell you. Do not miss court. A default judgment, which means you lose, can and likely will be entered against you if you fail to appear for trial. (Following Sec. 24.0051) If your suit relies on witnesses to establish a violation such as property damage, ensure they are in court. Also, remember to bring proof you delivered a written notice to vacate, a copy of the tenant’s lease and any supporting documents. On your court date, the judge listens to you and your tenant’s evidence and decides whether to grant your petition. If she rules in your favor, the tenant has five days to appeal before you can precede to the last step.
Request an Order for Possession
If the tenant does not appeal or vacate by the sixth day, go back to the court that issued your judgment and request a Writ of Possession. This court order instructs the sheriff or constable to return possession of your property to you by force if necessary. (Sec. 24.0061.) Once you complete the court-provided form and pay the fees, the court will post a notice on the tenant’s door advising her of the date after which her forcible removal from the rental unit will be effected. Law enforcement typically requires landlords to provide the labor to remove the property from the unit. Check with the overseeing agency if you need to know what services it provides.