States vary as to how and when a landlord may evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent. For example, under Pennsylvania eviction laws for nonpayment of rent, the tenant has ten days to pay the rent or move before the landlord can file for eviction. In Texas, however, a landlord can start the process to evict a tenant for not paying rent the very day after rent is due.
This article summarizes the basic rules and procedures for evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent under the Texas State Property Code.
Rent is typically due on the first day of the month, regardless of whether this is a weekend or holiday, unless different terms are specified in the lease or rental agreement. For example, a Texas rental agreement may provide that the rent will be due on the next business day if the first of the month or other specified rent due date falls on a weekend or holiday.
Unless otherwise agreed to in the lease or rental agreement, rent is considered late the day after it is due. For example, if the tenant does not pay rent that is due on the first of the month, the landlord can start the eviction process on the second.
In some states, when given an eviction notice, tenants have the option to either pay the late rent or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant pays the rent, then the eviction proceedings do not continue. In Texas, the landlord gets to decide whether the tenant has the option to pay the rent or move out.
If the landlord chooses to give the tenant the option to pay the late rent, then the landlord must notify the tenant in writing that the tenant owes rent. This notification must happen before the landlord gives the tenant an eviction notice, called Notice to Vacate. If the landlord provides this notice to the tenant, then the Notice to Vacate can give the tenant the option to either pay the rent or move out. If the tenant pays the rent, then the eviction proceedings will not continue (see Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §24.005(i)).
If the landlord does not send notice to the tenant about owing rent before sending the tenant a Notice to Vacate, then the only option that will be available to the tenant in the Notice to Vacate is to move out.
Under Texas property laws (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §92.019), a landlord must provide at least a one-day grace period before charging a tenant late fee. But under state law, there is no grace period before a landlord can give a tenant an eviction notice for failure to pay rent. This means that a landlord can give a tenant an eviction notice the day after rent is due).
Once the landlord gives the tenant a Notice to Vacate, the tenant has three days to pay the rent (if that option is available to the tenant) or leave the rental property. The three days begin on the date the notice is delivered to the tenant. Weekends and holidays are included in the three-day period. Under state property law (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § §24.005(a) and (g)), the lease or rental agreement may allow for a longer or shorter time period than three days, in which case that time period must be followed.
The Notice to Vacate must be in writing, and include the following information:
If the tenant has the option to pay rent, then the notice must also include a statement that the tenant has three days to either pay the rent due and owing or move out.
If an eviction notice is missing key information, such as the time and date the tenant must be moved out of the rental unit, then the eviction notice will not be considered valid and the three days' notice will not start. The landlord would then have to give a new notice to the tenant, restarting the three-day timeline, and the notice would have to include all of the information listed above.
Landlords in Texas have four options for serving a Notice to Vacate under Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §24.005(f):
1. The landlord, or an agent of the landlord, can personally give the notice to the tenant or to someone who is 16 years or older who lives in the rental property.
2. The landlord can post the notice on the inside of the front door of the rental unit. The landlord can only use this option if the landlord is able to enter the premises legally, for example, with a key.
3. The landlord can mail a copy of the Notice to Vacate by regular mail, registered mail, or certified mail. If the landlord mails the notice, then the landlord needs to 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 a dangerous animal, such as a guard dog, or an alarm system, that prohibits the landlord from entering the property, then the notice can be securely posted 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 three days' notice will not be in effect until the landlord serves the tenant in one of the ways listed above.
What happens next depends on the tenant’s response to the eviction notice:
The landlord must successfully win the forcible detainer case in the court before an officer of the law can legally take possession of the property. It is very important that landlords do not engage in "self-help" practices (such as changing the locks or shutting off the utilities) and that they follow the procedures for filing the forcible detainer complaint.
More information about filing the complaint in justice court can be found in Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § §24.0051–24.0061.
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.