Being a landlord of a residential property in Texas can be both rewarding and frustrating. While we would love to live in a world where all tenants and landlords followed their leases to a ‘T’ and peacefully resolved any issues, we know that this is not the case. When a landlord decides it is time to evict a tenant, there are several things that must happen first. As you read this blog, keep in mind that tenant and landlord laws may vary between counties and are subject to change.
Make Sure You’ve Done Your Part
Leases are incredibly important for both the landlord and the tenant. In fact, before ever leasing out a property to a renter, it is a good idea to consult with a real estate attorney who can draw up a binding lease for you that covers all of your bases. Otherwise, you might end up with a lease that contradicts itself, violates Texas tenants’ rights, or does not protect the landlord.
Just as your tenant has a responsibility to follow the terms of the lease, so do you. Most leases will outline grounds for eviction as well as what actions the landlord might take if these terms are violated. For example, one thing that a Google search for “How to evict a tenant in Texas” will tell you is that you, as a landlord, have the right to change the locks while a tenant is away if they are not out by the eviction date. However, you don’t really have the right to do this unless it is explicitly stated in your lease.
As the eviction process begins, consulting with a real estate lawyer can help you get all of your documentation together and make sure you truly have a case for eviction before heading to the courts.
Reasons For Eviction
Before you send a tenant an eviction notice, you will need sufficient grounds to evict. Grounds for eviction might include, but are not limited to:
- Not paying rent
- Smoking in a non-smoking unit
- Lying about credit score or other factors on lease application
- Violating pet policies outlined in lease or renter’s handbook
- Causing damage to the property
- Letting unauthorized persons live at the property
- Conducting illegal activity on the premises
- General violation of terms of the lease
If you find that your tenant is committing any of the above, you have the right to file for eviction, though, it is usually a good idea to speak with them face-to-face first.
Try To Resolve The Issue Out Of Court
Some tenants simply need a wakeup call, and taking a tenant to court or going through the process of evicting them can cause a lot of stress and financial loss for the property owner. Of course, sometimes eviction is necessary and it is better for you as a property owner to evict a tenant now than to allow them to cause excessive damage to your property or continue to live there without paying rent.
Before filing for an eviction with the courts, attempt to contact the tenant and resolve the issue. You can be firm and let them know that an eviction is on the table if they cannot resolve the issue. Be sure to explain the grounds for eviction and bring a copy of their lease to show them. Give them a deadline to either willingly vacate the property without going to court or to fix any issues, such as removing a pet or unauthorized roommate from the premises.
Before You File For An Eviction, Speak With A Real Estate Lawyer
The last thing you want is to file for an eviction of a tenant only to be countersued by that tenant. As a landlord, you have certain responsibilities to your tenant, most of which should be outlined in the lease, but some of which are regulated under Texas Property Code. You have a responsibility to maintain a safe living environment for your tenant. If your tenant is withholding rent because you refuse to fix a safety hazard in their unit or they have a registered service animal that is exempt from a no-pets rule, you might end up doing more harm to yourself than to them by trying to evict them.
A real estate lawyer can also walk you through the steps necessary for evicting a tenant and ensure you have all of your ducks in a row, so to speak. This includes consulting with you on which steps to take before you file for eviction with the courts and which documents you will need in order to do so.
Do I Need A Real Estate Lawyer To Evict A Tenant?
This is a question that a lot of landlords have. While a real estate lawyer is not legally required to evict a tenant, working with one during the eviction process can ensure you do not violate the rights of your tenant and end up with a bigger problem on your hands. They can also become an ally for you throughout your time as a landlord, ensuring that all of the boxes are checked with each new tenant or property. If you are dealing with a complicated eviction situation, get in touch with our Texas real estate attorneys today for advice and consultation. With law offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Victoria, and throughout southern Texas, the experts at Alex R. Hernandez Jr., Business Law are never far away.