The reality is that when someone invests in a rental property, they imagine all of the positive aspects: passive income, increasing asset value over time, and owning their own business. No one imagines having to evict tenants who haven’t paid their rent.
Nonetheless, eviction is an unfortunate yet real part of owning a rental property. For a number of reasons, tenants may not meet the requirements of a rental agreement, meaning it’s time for them to move on. As a landlord, you’ll want to be a compassionate homeowner by knowing the rules and regulations around evictions in Texas.
Evictions can be emotionally charged and legally complex, but understanding the laws and following proper procedures is essential to protect both landlords' and tenants' rights.
In Texas, evictions fall under the Texas Property Code and are governed by specific statutes. The most common reason for eviction is non-payment of rent, but there are other permissible grounds such as violating lease terms, illegal activities, and holding over beyond the lease term.
It is essential to have a written lease agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the tenancy to avoid confusion during an eviction.
An HOA does not have the authority to directly evict a homeowner, but it may have the right to evict a tenant if the homeowner is leasing their property. This means that if the homeowner's lease agreement with the tenant was not properly authorized by the HOA, they may have grounds to initiate an eviction.
The HOA's governing documents may contain additional provisions or limitations concerning rental properties, further influencing their ability to handle tenant-related matters. It’s important to look at these documents in order to further understand the capabilities of your neighborhood's HOA or HOA property management company.
Before initiating an eviction, consider alternative solutions such as negotiating with the tenant or setting up a payment plan if the issue is non-payment of rent. Document all communications with the tenant to have a clear record of attempts to resolve the situation amicably.
In Texas, if a tenant is delinquent on rent, the landlord must provide a written notice, allowing at least three days for the tenant to address the issue before filing for eviction. The notice can be delivered via mail, in person to someone at least 16 years old at the property, or taped inside the main entrance door. In case the standard methods are not possible, such as encountering a dangerous dog or an empty home, the landlord can tape the notice outside the door and mail a copy the same day.
The notice period depends on the reason for eviction, and it is crucial to adhere to these timelines strictly. For non-payment of rent, the landlord must provide a three-day notice to vacate. For lease violations, the tenant must be given a notice to cure, allowing them a reasonable time to correct the violation before initiating eviction.
If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the property owner can proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit in the appropriate county court. The tenant will receive a summons, and a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, both parties can present their case, and the judge will make a ruling.
Should the tenant choose to appeal the eviction due to non-payment, they must pay the owed rent to the court within five days of the ruling. If no appeal is made and the tenant has not vacated the property after five days, the landlord can request a "writ of possession," empowering the sheriff to physically remove the tenant and their belongings.
It's important to note that hiring an attorney for representation in court is not mandatory. The Texas Property Code covers various aspects of eviction procedures, including recovering unpaid rent, tenant appeal rights, determining the rent owed, the possibility of the tenant being responsible for the landlord's legal fees, and the sheriff's actions during the execution of a writ of possession.
When dealing with tenants with disabilities, landlords must be aware of fair housing laws. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on disability, and this includes eviction. If a tenant's disability is perceived to be the reason for eviction, the landlord must demonstrate that the eviction is not related to the disability and is solely based on lease violations or other valid reasons. Put simply, you cannot evict an individual based on their disability in any way.
If a tenant files for bankruptcy during the eviction process, there is an automatic stay that halts all collection activities, including eviction. Landlords must adhere to bankruptcy laws and seek legal advice to navigate this complex situation properly.
Tenants may claim retaliation if they believe the eviction is a response to actions they took, such as filing a complaint with housing authorities. To protect against retaliation claims, landlords must maintain detailed records of the reasons for eviction, demonstrating that it is unrelated to any tenant actions protected under the law.
In a noteworthy and compassionate step toward supporting low-income renters, Texas legislators recently passed a law to eliminate a discriminatory practice used by homeowners associations to prohibit certain tenants from residing in their neighborhoods.
This legislative action, championed by state Rep. Chris Turner, specifically targeted a North Texas community that sought to evict tenants receiving assistance from the federal housing choice voucher program, commonly known as Section 8, and prevent new tenants from replacing them. The Section 8 program aids low-income households by subsidizing a portion of their rent, and the new law aims to protect the rights of these vulnerable individuals.
Navigating eviction laws in Texas requires a thorough understanding of the legal process and adherence to strict timelines and procedures. As property and community managers, it is crucial to approach evictions professionally and with empathy, understanding the emotional toll it can take on tenants and landlords alike.
By following the guidelines provided in this blog and seeking legal advice when needed, you can ensure a smoother eviction process while upholding the rights of all parties involved. Remember to communicate clearly, document everything, and always be aware of fair housing laws and regulations to navigate eviction situations effectively.