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 when none are allowed, 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 the Texas State Property Code.
A landlord can give a tenant an eviction notice, or Notice to Vacate, as soon as the landlord discovers the tenant has violated part of the lease agreement. 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. Even if the tenant fixes the lease violation, such as getting rid of a pet when pets are not allowed in the rental unit, the landlord can still proceed with the eviction lawsuit in Texas.
The landlord and tenant could have agreed to a longer or shorter time frame for the Notice to Vacate in the lease or rental agreement, at the time the agreement was made, in which case that time period must be followed (see Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § §24.005(a) and (g)).
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 under Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §24.005(f):
1. The landlord, or an agent of the landlord, can personally hand the notice to the tenant or to someone who is 16 years or older who lives at the rental unit.
2. The landlord can leave the notice on the inside of the door of the rental unit. This option is only available to the landlord if the landlord has a legal way to enter the property, for example, with keys to the unit.
3. The landlord can mail the notice to the tenant through regular mail, registered mail, or certified mail. The landlord must request a return receipt.
4. If the rental property does not have a mailbox to receive mail and the landlord cannot legally enter the rental unit to post the notice inside the front door, then the notice can be posted on the outside of the front door of the property. If the tenant has something on the property that prohibits the landlord from entering the property, such as a dangerous animal or an alarm system, then the landlord can securely post the notice on the front gate or other visible portion of the main entry to the rental property.
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 three days of receiving the Notice to Vacate, then the landlord can proceed to file a summons and complaint with the Texas courts. In Texas, this proceeding is called a forcible detainer case. Even if the tenant fixes the lease violation, the landlord can still proceed with the forcible detainer case to evict the tenant from the rental unit.
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. See the Nolo article Illegal Eviction Procedures in Texas for more on the subject.
More information about filing the complaint can be found in Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § §24.0051–24.0062.
For more articles on landlord-tenant laws in Texas, including illegal eviction procedures and tenant rights to withhold rent, see the Texas charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. For more on eviction-related articles, see the Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease section of the Nolo site. And for information on rent-related evictions, see the Nolo article Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Texas.