Most states, including Texas, have laws allowing a landlord to evict a tenant for violating a portion of the lease or rental agreement. Lease violations include having a pet despite a no-pets policy, willfully damaging the rental property, and not moving out of the rental property at the end of the lease period.
This article explains how a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the lease agreement under Texas law.
In Texas, landlords can send tenants a notice to vacate terminating the tenancy as soon as they discover a lease violation. The notice to vacate requires the tenant to move out of the premises within three days. The three-day time period begins on the date the notice is posted or given to the tenant, and weekends and holidays are included in this time frame. Notices to vacate are unconditional, meaning that if the tenants don't move out by the end of the three days, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit—even if the tenants fix whatever the situation was that led to the notice to vacate.
Landlords and tenants in Texas are allowed to agree to a shorter or longer notice period in the lease or rental agreement. If the lease or rental agreement provides for a notice period other than three days, the landlord must provide at least whatever amount of time agreed upon. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § § 24.005(a) and (g)).
Landlords and tenants may also agree in the lease or rental agreement that the tenant will have the opportunity to respond to a notice of proposed eviction. (Local law might also require the opportunity to respond to a notice of proposed eviction.) If so agreed (or required by law), the landlord cannot give the tenant a notice to vacate until the period provide for the tenant to respond to the eviction notice expires. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.005(e).)
The notice to vacate must be in writing and include the following information:
If an eviction notice is missing key information, such as clearly telling the tenant what the lease violation is, then the eviction notice will not be considered valid and the three-day time period will not start. The landlord would have to give a new notice to the tenant, restarting the timeline, and the notice would have to include all of the information listed above.
The landlord has four options for serving the notice to vacate:
If the landlord does not serve the notice properly, then the landlord must create a new notice and start the process over. The time frame for the tenant to move out will not start running until the landlord serves the tenant in one of the ways listed above.
If the tenant moves out of the property within the three days, then the threat of an eviction is over. The landlord can use the tenant's security deposit to cover any damages (if any) made to the rental property. If the security deposit does not cover all the damage, then the landlord can sue the tenant to pay for the amount still needed to fix the damaged property.
If the tenant does not move out of the property within the time period given in the notice to vacate, then the landlord can proceed to file an eviction lawsuit. In Texas, this proceeding is called a "suit to evict," a "forcible entry and detainer" suit, or a "forcible detainer" suit.
The landlord must win the forcible detainer case in the justice court before an officer of the law can legally take possession of the property on behalf of the landlord. Landlords must not engage in "self-help" practices (such as changing the locks or shutting off the utilities) and must carefully follow all of the procedures for filing the forcible detainer lawsuit. Landlords who self-help might be subject to penalties for illegally evicting tenants.
Texas Property Code sections 24.001 through 24.011 is the complete set of Texas state laws on eviction procedures.
If you're dealing with tenants who haven't paid rent in Texas, you'll want to evaluate your options for sending eviction notices for nonpayment of rent in Texas.
The charts in Nolo's State Landlord-Tenant Laws section contain more state-specific landlord-tenant information, including laws regarding illegal evictions and tenant rights to withhold rent. For more on eviction in general, visit Nolo's Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease.