Real Property Evictions in Texas

Article by Joanne Cassidy

Although I do not represent people in eviction matters, either from the landlord side or the tenant side, I frequently get telephone calls from people who want information about evictions.  Sometimes a landlord wants to evict a tenant and sometimes a tenant has received notice of eviction and just needs to know what his rights are. This article is intended to provide basic information about the eviction process in Texas and perhaps help the reader determine what steps he should take to protect his interests.

Legal Eviction Procedure

An eviction typically occurs when a landlord wants a tenant to leave the premises due to nonpayment of rent or holding over after the lease term has expired. Texas law provides the procedure that the landlord must use in order to legally evict a tenant.

Notice to Vacate

First, the landlord must give the tenant written notice to vacate.  The lease may specify how many days’ notice is required but if no time period is specified or if there is no written lease, then the landlord must give the tenant 3 days’ notice to vacate prior to filing an eviction suit.  Notice may be given personally to the tenant or to anyone 16 years or older who resides at the property or by mail at the address of the property.  The landlord may also give notice by attaching the notice to the inside of the main entry door, and in some circumstances, to the outside of the door.  The notice period begins only when the notice has been delivered, not when it was mailed.

Petition for Eviction

After the notice period is up, if the tenant is still occupying the property, the landlord must file a written and sworn petition for eviction with the Justice Court in the Justice of the Peace precinct in which the property is located.  The landlord can begin the law suit by himself or have an agent do that for him. An attorney is not required, but most landlords would find it helpful to have legal counsel.

Court Citation

Once the law suit is filed and the appropriate fees paid, the Court will issue a citation, directing the tenant to appear before the Court on a certain day and time.  The county constable or sheriff will then deliver the citation to the tenant. There must be at least 6 days between the date on which the tenant receives the citation and the court date.

Possession of the Property

The parties may opt for a hearing before the judge or request a trial by jury.  Either way, the only issue to be considered is who has the right to possession of the property. If the tenant fails to appear at the appointed time or if the landlord wins the suit after a hearing or trial, the landlord will get a judgment stating that he is entitled to possession of the property.  The tenant then has 5 days in which to appeal.  If the tenant wins the suit, the court will give him a judgment against the landlord for costs.  Under certain circumstance, a landlord or tenant may be awarded attorneys’ fees.

Writ of Possession

If the landlord prevails, after the 5 day waiting period, he can file for a writ of possession that orders the constable to evict the tenant.  The constable is required to give the tenant 24 hours to vacate the premises.  At the expiration of the 24 hour notice period, the constable will go to the property and physically remove the tenant and his belongings.

For further information, I recommend you go to the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts web site at www.jp.hctx.net.  It gives very detailed information about the eviction process and can help both tenants and landlords determine their rights and responsibilities with respect to that process.

Contact a Houston real estate attorney.