In Texas, a landlord must legally terminate the tenancy before evicting a tenant. The landlord must first give the tenant a written notice, as required by state law. If the tenant does not move out after receiving this notice, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also called a forcible entry and detainer suit).
In Texas, a landlord can terminate a tenancy early if the tenant does not pay rent or violates the lease or rental agreement (for example, by having a dog when none are allowed or continually throwing loud parties). Before filing an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must first give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate, unless the lease or rental agreement provides for a shorter or longer notice period. The landlord does not have to give the tenant the option to fix the violation or pay the rent. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit at the end of the three days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also known as a forcible detainer suit) with the court. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.005 (2020).)
The rules for terminating a tenancy without cause vary depending on whether the tenancy is month-to-month (pursuant to a rental agreement) or for a fixed term (pursuant to a lease).
When a Texas landlord wishes to end the tenancy of a tenant who has a month-to-month rental agreement, the amount of notice required depends on how often the tenant pays rent:
This notice must state the date by which the tenancy will end and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 91.001 (2020).) For more information on ending a month-to-month tenancy in Texas, see Texas Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy.
A landlord cannot end a fixed-term tenancy early without cause—a lease guarantees tenants the right to stay at the property (so long as they don’t violate its terms) for the duration of the time stated. When landlords wish to have tenants with a lease move out without having cause (such as a failure to pay rent), they must wait until the term ends. However, the landlord is not required to give the tenant notice that the lease isn’t being renewed, unless the lease specifically requires it. For example, if the tenant has a year-long lease that expires in December and the tenant has not requested a renewal, the landlord does not need to give the tenant notice to move out of the rental unit by the end of December (unless such notice is required in the lease). When December comes around, the landlord can expect the tenant to move out of the rental unit by the end of the month.
When tenants don’t move out at the end of a lease, they become holdover tenants—tenants who do not have the protection of a lease. To remove a holdover tenant in Texas, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate. If the tenant does not move out by the end of the three-day period, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.005 (2020).)
When tenants decide to fight an eviction, the duration of time between the service of the notice to vacate and the actual eviction can increase significantly. Depending on the circumstances, tenants might have several reasons why they shouldn’t be evicted (defenses). One of the most common—and most successful—defenses is that the landlord did not follow all the rules when terminating the tenancy. For example, when a landlord improperly serves the notice to vacate or doesn’t wait long enough before filing the eviction lawsuit, a tenant who asserts these defenses will likely win the eviction suit, and the landlord will be back at square one in any attempt to remove the tenant. Other potential defenses to eviction in Texas include a landlord’s failure to maintain habitable premises and a landlord’s unlawful discrimination.
The only legal way to remove a tenant from a rental unit in Texas is for a landlord to win an eviction lawsuit (forcible entry and detainer suit) in court. Even after winning the lawsuit, it is illegal for a landlord to take self-help measures to remove the tenant. The only person who can do that is an officer of the law, authorized by the judge who allowed the eviction to occur. Texas law has made it illegal for the landlord to personally remove the tenant from the rental unit. See Illegal Eviction Procedures in Texas for more information on the topic.
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Texas law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the court can refuse to issue an order of eviction. Although these rules and procedures can seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, with the end result being that evicted tenants lose their homes. The rules help ensure that evictions are justified and that evicted tenants have enough time to find a new place to live.