When roommates renege on their lease agreements, it can be a stressful experience. If you've lived together for any length of time, there will be an emotional bond to consider, and this can make the process more difficult than that between strangers. The least stressful way to evict someone from your house is to consider it strictly business, and follow the Texas law to the letter, according to Section 24.001 of Texas property code. This will guarantee that the legal system will be behind you, in case you have any problems accomplishing your goal.
What Is an Eviction?
The most basic definition of an eviction is when a landlord forces a tenant to move out of a rental property. There are many ways to achieve this goal, from delivering a simple notice telling the tenant when to move out and why, to undergoing an elaborate legal dispute. The length of time for an eviction varies, depending on the individual circumstances of the case. In general, tenants being evicted without cause are allowed more time to move than are tenants evicted with cause.
The two basic types of evictions are those with cause and those without cause. Evictions without cause are often real-estate based: a landlord wants to sell the property without tenants or needs to rehab the property. The most popular with-cause evictions are due to non-payment of rent, but can also be for any number of other lease violations.
Courts have outlined specific methods for evicting a tenant, with very clear steps in every situation. A landlord must first give notice of his intention to evict, including a designated number of days in which the tenant can move out without any further legal problems. If the tenant refuses to move out in the designated time, the case will escalate into court. A judge will hear arguments on the merits of the case, then decide whether the landlord has the right to evict. If the tenant still refuses to move, the landlord can hire the sheriff or marshall to come and force the tenant off the property.
When Can You Evict Someone?
In the state of Texas, the law on evictions that apply to your property depend entirely on what type of lease you have with your tenant and the reason for the eviction.
Evictions with cause are those that have a legal reason to exist. Some of the more common reasons you might encounter include, for example, your tenant being very late with rent, constantly having loud parties that involve a police presence or running a business out of his garage against the rules of the lease. In any case, it's imperative that you document your reasoning behind the eviction so you can show the proof in court, should it come to that.
Evictions without cause are due to nothing the tenant has done. They're all about the landlord's plans for the property. If you want to sell the building and your buyer wants it empty, if you want to completely rehab the interior or if you want to recover the property to allow a relative to live there, you might be able to take advantage of an eviction without cause. In the state of Texas, that depends on the type of lease you have with your tenant.
If the lease is on a month-to-month basis, or you don't have any lease at all, you're free to take advantage of an eviction without cause. If, on the other hand, your tenant has a lease for a longer length of time, you have to wait until the end of the lease period to evict the current tenant.
Read More: How Do I Evict Someone When There Is No Lease?
How to Evict Someone in Texas
Texas laws are very specific about when and how to conduct eviction proceedings. Tenants have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of the property until and unless you go through a series of legal steps designed to remove them from the property.
The first step to an eviction in Texas is to legally terminate the tenancy. State law requires that you do this by giving the tenant written notice. The length of notice depends on the reason for eviction. This notification must follow the requirements in Section 24.005 in Chapter 24 of the Texas property code.
If your tenant doesn't pay her rent or breaks any agreement in the lease, you're allowed to evict her with cause. As the property owner, you must first give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate the property. You're not obligated to give her a second chance by allowing her to pay the back rent or fix any lease violations she may have incurred. If she doesn't move out by the end of the three days, you can escalate the case into an eviction lawsuit.
If you want to terminate the tenancy without cause, you can only do it if the tenant is on a month-to-month lease. In this case, you have to give the tenant a 30-day notice to vacate the property. The notice must include the date by which the tenant has to move out.
If, on the other hand, your tenant has a long-term lease, you cannot terminate the tenancy until the lease is up. You won't have to go through an additional waiting period, though. If your tenant's lease is up on December 1, she has to be out of the property by the next day. If she doesn't leave by this date, she's considered a holdover tenant in the eyes of the law. You'll need to give her a three-day notice to vacate the property in order to take the next legal steps.
In all cases, if the tenant refuses to move out by the designated date, you'll have to take the next step in order to evict him. File an eviction lawsuit, also known as a forcible entry and detainer suit, in court. You and the tenant are both allowed to present evidence about your side of the case, and the judge will determine whether or not you have the right to evict the tenant.
After winning the lawsuit, Texas law prohibits you from evicting the tenant personally. The judge will authorize an officer of the law to do this. If you personally get involved, you can cause the eviction to become invalidated.
How to Get an Eviction Notice
Texas law is very clear on the requirement of all eviction notices. Each notice has to be in writing and must include a comprehensive list of details, including:
- The date you serve the notice on your tenant
- The reason for the eviction notice (for example, the fact that she has two dogs when animals are strictly prohibited)
- The name of the tenant or tenants and the address of the rental property
- A statement that the tenant has either three or 30 days in which to move out
- The final time and date by which the tenant must have left the property
- The statement that the landlord may pursue legal eviction proceedings if the tenant does not move out
- A statement about how the notice was delivered to the tenant, either by mailing it to him or by hand-delivering it
If you're allowing the tenant the option of catching up on back rent to avoid eviction, you must also include a statement that he has three days to pay the rent due or move out of the property.
If an eviction notice is missing any of the above key information, it won't be considered valid, and the time clock won't start on the eviction. In order to make the process begin moving again, the landlord must deliver a new eviction notice including all the correct information, which would then begin a new three- or 30-day timeline.
How to Evict Someone From Your House
If the person you want to evict lives in your house with you, eviction proceedings can get a little complicated. Just the fact that you're legally forcing someone out will make for a tense atmosphere in the home (although it's probably tense already if you want to evict him). In general, evicting someone in your house follows the same rules as other evictions, but the process may depend on who he is and whether he's signed a formal lease.
If the person being evicted is a roommate, boarder or tenant, general eviction laws apply. If this person has signed a lease, you should treat her exactly the same as if she were living in a separate property you own. If she has a lease, you'll need to wait out the terms of the lease before you can evict her. If she's on a month-to-month lease, or if she never signed a lease at all, you are allowed to give her a three-day notice to vacate the property, then proceed with all normal eviction procedures like with any other tenant.
Not all families are happy ones, and sometimes the best thing you can do for someone (or for your well-being) is to make her leave your home. Relatives who have overstayed their welcome don't just look like crazy Uncle Harold who's staying in the garage. Other examples of unwanted guests who happen to be related to you are:
- College kids who have dropped out
- Grown children who refuse to get a job
- Ex-husbands or wives who refuse to leave the family home
- Cousins who stay for an emergency but never manage to make their way back home
- In-laws passing through on a vacation that never seems to end
When a guest legally becomes a tenant, you're required to go through the same legal steps you would for any stranger in order to get him to leave your home. Some signs that your guest is actually a tenant include receiving mail at your address, paying rent or regularly pitching in money for food or other expenses. Other indicators include moving furniture or pets into your home or making requests for you to do maintenance on your property. For relatives/tenants like this who have overstayed their welcome, treat them like month-to-month tenants with all the same legal rights and responsibilities.
Things to Avoid During Evictions
Evicting unwanted tenants can be a tedious, frustrating process, and it can make you want to take things into your own hands. This can be the last thing you want to do, though, as some actions can actually negate the eviction process, causing you to have to begin all over again.
Avoid these things during an eviction process:
- Don't accept any rent during the eviction process. It may give your tenant more rights for staying right where they are.
- Don't take the law into your own hands by changing the locks, putting your tenant's property on the lawn or turning off the utilities
- Don't mail a notice to quit using the regular post. Always file the notice to quit using certified mail or an official delivery service, so you'll have proof of delivery.
- Never start eviction proceedings unless you have concrete evidence that the lease has been broken.
Texas housing law has designed the process of eviction so that it can work as smoothly as possible, considering the complex issues it covers. Failing to follow through with the correct steps can only delay or prevent your successful eviction proceedings.
- You can appeal the judge's decision if he denies your eviction.
- If the other tenant fails to show at the hearing, the judge will automatically grant your request.
- You must be able to prove your allegations of unpaid rent or other breach of duty. The court will not evict a tenant on the basis that you do not get along.
Victoria Bailey has a degree in Public Law and Government. She has spoken before state Supreme Court justices and her photograph is on the back cover of Bill Clinton's autobiography. As a former member of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, Bailey worked closely with lawmakers to help set public policy. Bailey's work appears on numerous websites, and she's currently writing the text for a governmental information app.