Texas Eviction Process
November 15, 2023
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Eviction In Texas
If you own and rent properties in the state of Texas, you are responsible for complying with Texas eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in Texas.
Texas’s eviction laws can be found at Tex. Prop. Code § 24.
Eviction Process in Texas
- Landlord serves a three- to 30-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Tenant files an answer.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Tenant gets 24 hours to move out.
- Sheriff returns to forcibly remove the tenant.
According to the process for eviction in Texas, tenants can be evicted for failing to pay rent, holding over after the lease expires, or violating the lease. Landlords in Texas can also pursue eviction after buying a property at a tax foreclosure sale which is currently occupied.
1. Landlord Serves a Three- to 30-Day Eviction Notice
The first step of the eviction process in Texas is sending a formal notice. If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve a Texas eviction notice and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are two possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Texas:
- Default 3-day notice to quit. This notice applies in several different scenarios:
- Nonpayment: If rent is unpaid when due and the lease does not say how many days’ notice will be given, the landlord must deliver a three-day quit notice. This notice should state the amount of unpaid rent and the date on which the lease will terminate. The landlord is allowed to specify a longer or shorter notice period, but it must be included in the lease (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005(a)).
- Holding Over: If a tenant remains in possession of a property after the expiration of their lease (tenancy “at sufferance”), the landlord should give the tenant at least three days’ written notice to vacate, unless a longer or shorter period is agreed on in the written lease (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005(b)).
- Lease Violations: If a tenant violates a provision of the lease, the landlord should provide a three-day notice to quit, unless a longer or shorter period is agreed on in the written lease. The landlord is not required to provide the tenant an opportunity to cure the breach to avoid eviction (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005(b)).
Note: For the above three-day notices, if the lease or the law requires the landlord to provide the tenant an opportunity to respond or “cure” the breach, the landlord must provide that period before filing for eviction (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005(e)).
- Notice of Tax Foreclosure Sale: 30 days to quit. If the property is being purchased at a tax foreclosure sale and the tenant is not otherwise in default, the buyer must give that tenant at least 30 days’ written notice to vacate if they do not want to continue the lease (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005(b)).
All eviction notices should be either delivered in person or by mail to the rental property. Personal notice can be either to the tenant directly or to any person living at the unit at least 16 years old.
If no one is home, the landlord is also allowed to post a copy of the notice to the inside of the main entry door. If the property has no mailbox and a keyless bolting device, alarm system, or dangerous animal that might reasonably cause harm to whoever serves the notice, they can alternatively securely post the notice outside the main entrance in a sealed envelope labeled appropriately as to get the tenant’s attention. This must be done no later than 5:00 pm, and a copy must be mailed to the tenant as well (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005(f)).
For all evictions, the landlord may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
The next step in the Texas eviction process is filing a complaint in court. If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period, the landlord can then file an Eviction Petition (or eviction lawsuit, downloadable here) in Texas Justice of the Peace Court in the precinct in which the property is located (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.004).
The petition will include:
- The case number, precinct, and county
- The names and information of the landlord(s) and tenant(s)
- The address of the rental property
- The cause/reason for the eviction
- A verification that the landlord served the proper notice to vacate
- The grounds for eviction (e.g., nonpayment of rent or other fees, holding over, personal violations of the rental agreement, property damage, etc.)
- The type of judgment requested (e.g., rent, attorney’s fees, and/or post-judgment interest)
- The date and the landlord’s signature
The landlord should also attach copies of the eviction notice, the lease, and the tenant’s rental application (although the court does not require the landlord to enclose these). The landlord will also be required to pay a filing fee at this time, which is $54, plus $22 if a jury trial is requested.
There is also an option to file for “immediate possession” in Texas. To request immediate possession, the landlord must additionally file a sworn statement and post a bond in cash or surety, in an amount approved by the judge. This bond is intended to cover the tenant’s damages (e.g., additional rent, attorney fees, court costs, etc.) if a writ of possession is wrongly issued and later revoked after the tenant appeals (Tex. R. Civ. P. Part V, Rule 742(a-b)).
If the landlord files for immediate possession, a notice will be sent to the tenant warning them that if judgment is rendered against them, they may only have 24 hours to move out. It will also inform the tenant that if they want to remain living in the property during an appeal, they must post a counterbond (Tex. R. Civ. P. Part V, Rule 742(c-e)).
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
After the landlord files a claim, the court will issue a summons to be served to the tenant with a copy of the petition. In Texas, the summons is referred to as a “citation.” The citation will command the tenant to appear in court for the eviction hearing between seven and 14 days from the date the landlord filed the petition (Tex. R. Civ. P., Part V, Rule 741).
The citation will also include the following:
- A copy of the petition and all documents filed by the landlord
- A statement informing the tenant that if they want a jury trial, they can request one by paying a jury fee at least three days before the trial
- A statement directing tenants to consult the Rules of Civil Procedure 550-575 and 738-755 for additional assistance
- The following warning: “FAILURE TO APPEAR FOR TRIAL MAY RESULT IN A DEFAULT JUDGMENT BEING ENTERED AGAINST YOU.”
Methods of Service
Unless the court authorizes other methods, the citation must be served by a sheriff or constable. The landlord will need to take the appropriate documents to the sheriff’s office and request service. Then, the sheriff or constable will deliver a copy of the citation and petition either personally to the tenant or by leaving a copy with another person over 16 years old at the unit at least six days before the hearing date.
If the sheriff attempts service twice unsuccessfully and all possible addresses of the tenant are known, the judge may allow the sheriff to instead leave copies of the documents at the rental unit, either through a mail chute, slipping them under the door, or posting copies to the front door. If any of these alternative methods are used, the sheriff must also mail copies of the citation and petition to the tenant by first class mail (Tex. R. Civ. P., Rule 510.4(b-c)).
The fee to have the sheriff serve the citation varies by county. For example, the service fee is $30 in Denton County.
4. Tenant Files an Answer
After the summons/citation has been issued, the tenant has the option of contesting the eviction formally by filing a written answer. If the tenant wants to file an answer, they have 14 days to do so after receiving the citation and petition. However, tenants are not required to file an answer.
Additionally, either party may request a continuance (delay) of the hearing for good cause up to seven days. Texas eviction laws allow a continuance to be longer than seven days if both parties agree in writing (Tex. R. Civ. P., Part V, Rule 746).
5. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards issue a judgment. If the tenant does not appear at the hearing, a default judgment will be entered in the landlord’s favor, and the tenant will be notified within 48 hours by first class mail (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.0061(c)).
If the tenant does attend the hearing but the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, a judgment will be entered for the landlord’s possession of the property, court costs, attorney’s fees, and back rent, if any. At the landlord’s request, the court will also issue a Writ of Possession after five days have passed since the judgment was entered. A writ can no longer be issued after thirty days have passed (Tex. R. Civ. P., Part V, Rule 749).
6. Tenant Gets 24 Hours to Move Out
After the writ has been issued, the landlord must take it to the sheriff’s office and request service upon the tenant. The sheriff or constable will serve the writ, providing the tenant at least 24 hours to move out (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.0061).
7. Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
If the tenant does not move out within the 24 hours, the sheriff will return to forcibly remove the tenant and return possession of the property to the landlord. The sheriff may take longer but cannot remove the tenant before the 24-hour final notice period expires.
After an eviction, Texas eviction laws dictate that any personal belongings remaining in the unit should be placed outside the rental unit nearby, but not blocking any public sidewalk, passageway, or street and not while it’s raining, sleeting, or snowing outside. Some municipalities may provide free, portable, closed containers for the tenant’s belongings. If the tenant does not recover their property from the containers within a reasonable time, the municipality may remove the containers and dispose of their contents by any lawful means (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.0061).
The writ may also authorize the officer to remove and store personal property at their discretion. The sheriff could, for example, hire an insured warehouse owner to store part of or all the property at no cost to the landlord. The warehouse owner then has a lien on the property for reasonable storage and moving charges. The officer is not allowed to require the landlord to store the property, and neither are liable for damages to it. The tenant should be notified that their property is being stored by first class mail to their last known address within 72 hours after execution of the writ, along with a notice stating the address and telephone number of the warehouse. The property must be stored for 30 days, after which the tenant must either pay storage charges to redeem it or it may be sold (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.0062).
Evicting a Squatter in Texas
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Texas, squatters must have occupied the property for:
- 3 years with color of title
- 5 years with color of title, paying all property taxes, and cultivating the land, or
- 10 years of improving the landlord
to invoke Texas squatters rights and claim right of possession (Tex. Prop. Code § 16.024-16.026). Their possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in Texas to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Texas, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Texas eviction laws.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Texas Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of an eviction in Texas, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Action||Approximate Cost (Justice of the Peace)|
|Jury trial fee||$22|
|Service of court summons||Varies by county|
|Issuance of writ of possession||$5|
|Service of writ of possession||Varies by county|
|Notice of appeal filing fee||Varies by county|
|Average locksmith fees||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies|
Texas Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the eviction process in Texas. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||3-30 days|
|Service of summons||At least 6 days before the hearing|
|Tenant Answer period||14 days after case is filed|
|Maximum continuance||7 days|
|Eviction hearing||7-14 days|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||5 days|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||24 hours|
|Storage period||30 days (notice within 72 hours)|
- Commonly Requested Legal Forms – Landlord-tenant eviction forms from the Texas state law library.
- Texas Rules of Civil Procedures, Part V – Rules of Practice in Justice Courts – This document includes the specific rules of civil procedure and court policies in Texas.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Texas laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.