Texas landlords cannot evict tenants without following Texas law. This means that removing doors or windows in an effort to force tenants to move is not okay. Some of the steps in the legal process of evicting a tenant, however, can be modified by the lease, so tenants should always read leases carefully. To evict a tenant, a Texas landlord must first give the tenant notice. The landlord may then file suit for eviction.
Texas Termination Notices
Landlords in Texas interested in evicting a tenant must first give the tenant a notice to vacate. The landlord must have a reason to terminate the lease, such as for non-payment of rent or breach of the rental contract in another way.
If you have a month-to-month agreement, either party (landlord or tenant) may end the tenancy with 30 days notice. If you have a lease agreement, and the landlord wishes to end a tenancy earlier, he or she may do so by serving the tenant with an appropriate notice. In Texas, the landlord must first give the tenant notice to vacate, and must allow the tenant three days (unless otherwise specified in the lease but never less than 24 hours) to vacate the premises. After waiting the time specified in the notice to vacate, if the tenant has not moved, the landlord must then file a forcible detainer suit with the local Justice of the Peace (Tex. Prop. Code sec. 24.002).
For more information, see this local government guide on the eviction process in Texas.
In Texas, evictions are handled by your local Justice of the Peace. Find your county's Justice of the Peace precincts at Texas Courts Online. Many of the county websites will have the forms necessary for beginning eviction proceedings available for download. But be aware that while it may seem easy to remove a tenant by simply filling out a form, sometimes events do not unfold as smoothly as planned. If you are unsure of the termination and/or eviction process at any point, you may wish to hire or consult a Texas landlord tenant attorney. Consult the Questions to Ask Your Texas Evictions Lawyer below for help when choosing an attorney.
Self-Help Evictions in Texas
Self-help eviction is not legal in Texas for residential leases (the law is different for commercial tenants). A landlord may change the locks on the tenant's dwelling for delinquent rent, but the tenant can get a key to the new lock without paying the delinquent rent. If a landlord violates the procedure for changing the locks on a tenant, the tenant is entitled to the following:
- Recovery of the premises or termination of the lease;
- One month's rent plus $1000;
- Actual damages;
- Court costs and attorney's fees;
- In some circumstances, another month's rent.
See the Texas statute for more details.
Questions to Ask Your Texas Evictions Lawyer
- How many evictions cases have you handled?
- How many were successful/unsuccessful?
- How long will the eviction process take?
- For tenants: How long do I have before I MUST move out?
- For landlords: Will I be able to get a judgment for back rent for the amount of time the tenant has been living in the rental property illegally?
- What do you charge?
- For landlords: If I hire you, will I be subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?