How to Evict a Tenant
June 2, 2022
Before you can evict a tenant you must first give them formal notice. Only then can you pursue the legal eviction process rightfully and responsibly without any legal risk.
If evicting tenants isn't something you want to do yourself, then property management services in Texas can handle the process of how to evict a tenant for you if you want.
What Is an Eviction?
The tenant eviction process results in their eviction — this is nothing more complicated than physically removing them from the property in question. It usually applies to tenants who have originally signed leaseholders after they failed to keep up with rent or other conditions of their lease.
However, it can sometimes be used to evict squatters that never had any legal right to call a certain property their home in the first place. There might even be cases of "professional leaseholders" who sign a rental lease but then never pay any rent so they can live free until they are evicted.
No eviction situation is fun to deal with, and each case can be pretty unique. However, when you have tenants that are a big enough problem, you must handle them promptly.
The Steps for Eviction
Any eviction procedure is going to have multiple steps to eviction. It's not a process many property owners or managers ever look forward to, but it is a crucial part of the industry. Removing tenants who don't pay or otherwise violate their leases is essential to restoring your income and peace of mind for all those involved. Doing this means you minimize lost income and hopefully increase retention rates among your good tenants.
1. Understand Eviction Laws
It's one thing to know how to handle noise complaints from tenants. It's quite another to know your local eviction laws. Even if you think you have grounds to evict a tenant, if you don't do it right, then you might wind up being in legal trouble yourself. Don't let things get turned around on you like that. Before you get started, familiarize yourself with Texas eviction laws. Certain resources you can use include:
- A real estate lawyer.
- Your property manager.
- Legal resource websites, such as Nolo.
- Local municipal resources are available to property owners and landlords.
2. Determine the Reasons for Eviction
There are many potential reasons for eviction that you might pursue against your tenants, including but not limited to the following:
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Damage to the property.
- Using the premises for illegal activities.
- Being disruptive to neighboring tenants.
- Unauthorized subletting.
- Remaining on the premises after the lease is terminated.
- Lease agreement violations.
Violating any of these is potential grounds for eviction from a Texas rental property. Being in violation of multiple conditions at the same time makes your case considerably stronger if you go to court though you will likely only be able to evict for one of the reasons listed.
3. Reason with Tenants
Many landlords send out a pest control notice to tenants reminding them to keep their units clean. The response you get from this can help you understand which tenants are reasonable and which ones aren't. Trying to work with tenants is something you might want to try when:
- You're not sure you legally can evict them.
- You don't want to go through the stress and cost involved with the legal process.
Always stay calm when dealing with tenants you might want to evict. Be compassionate about what they might be going through, but also hold firm that they need to correct any situation breaching their lease.
Never attempt to evict them on your own, change the locks while they are living there, or turn off any utilities if you have control over that. Texas residential laws give renters certain rights, and you should never violate them. If you do, you could wind up being in considerable legal trouble yourself even if the renters were the ones originally in the wrong.
4. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction
When all attempts to communicate or reason with the tenant have failed, then you need to give them a formal eviction notice. You have three different ways to do this based on the circumstances:
- Notice to pay or vacate: This is for tenants that are behind on rent and need to pay what they owe or move out.
- Notice to cure or vacate: This is when tenants violate specific lease terms and either need to stop or vacate.
- Unconditional quit notice: When there's no way a tenant can remain in the property, it's usually due to property destruction, public nuisances, or criminal activity.
Any eviction notice needs to contain certain criteria in order to satisfy Texas courts:
- The address of the property.
- The date by which tenants must correct matters or move out.
- The specific amount they owe.
- A clear reason why they are getting the notice.
- The current lease status.
- How the notice was delivered.
5. File Eviction Suit
The time will come to file for eviction. Gather the necessary documentation, and then head to your local Texas courthouse. The clerk will look over your paperwork. If everything looks in order, they will require you to pay a filing fee and then schedule your eviction hearing. The court will handle the tenant summons to the hearing, so you don't have to worry about that part yourself. A real estate attorney can help you improve your odds of success.
6. Prepare for and Attend the Court Hearing
The laws on eviction proceedings will mean you going to court for eviction hearings. If you don't know how to prepare for eviction hearing, then be ready to learn the documents you might need to present at your hearing, including:
- Photo identification.
- The general warranty deed.
- The lease agreement with the renter in question.
- Payment records.
- Copy of your written eviction notice.
- Proof of service that it was delivered (a photo of delivery would suffice).
These are all crucial components to convincing a judge that you've taken the legal steps required of you.
7. Evict the Tenant
Once a judge rules to evict tenant residents you are pursuing, they only have a certain amount of time to physically leave the property. Texas eviction laws typically give residents a 30-day notice to vacate the premises, but that might be before an actual eviction ruling. Then, they might only have seven days to depart the property. If they fail to physically do so in the prescribed time, you will need to file for a writ of possession from the courthouse to enlist the support of local law enforcement in actually removing them from the residence and then changing the locks so they are not able to go back in. Keep in mind that you will need to move out everything that is on the property when you go out with the writ and the constable.
8. Collect Any Past-Due Rent
Based on how your local court system handles things, you might be awarded a court order to collect past due rent. Even after a tenant is evicted, you might be able to collect this by pursuing them through a collection agency or even wage garnishment through their employer. A small claims lawsuit in the Texas court system might be necessary to pursue this. Still, eviction proceedings often automatically go through that part of the judicial system anyway in a typical case.
Any tenant should be a source of income for you, and good tenants do so without stressing you. However, bad tenants might not be worth it, and you might need to evict them. If you don't want to handle such details yourself, then consider hiring property management services such as Keyrenter Houston. Contact us and we will help you!