The Landlord Eviction Process for Tenants Who Don’t Pay Rent
The process of how landlords can evict tenants for not paying rent.
Being a landlord is great but isn’t always the easiest thing. Hopefully you never have to evict anyone but if you do, you need to know how it works.
I live in Houston, Texas so this process is based on Texas law and is formally known as the “Eviction Case Process.” Technically, an eviction is a lawsuit and must be filed in the Justice of the Peace precinct in which the property in question is located regardless of where the landlord lives.
But first, talk to the tenants
Sometimes it’s legit and sometimes it’s not. I have been in instances where I was willing to work something out with my tenants provided they were responsive and proactive to work something out. If nothing can be worked out between the landlord and the tenant then you need to evict.
The Eviction Case Process
This process needs to be followed in order to make the entire process legal and enforceable.
According to the state: An Eviction Case is a lawsuit brought to recover possession of real property, usually by a landlord against a tenant. A claim for rent may be joined with an Eviction Case if the amount of rent due and unpaid is not more than $20,000 (or $10,000 if the case was filed prior to September 1, 2020), including attorney fees, if any, but excluding statutory interest and costs.
- Notice To Vacate: you must give the tenant a notice to vacate that says that they have 3 days to vacate the property or you will file for the eviction. Evictions go on credit history so this gives them a chance to try to do something before their credit is affected and the courts get involved. The WAY you deliver this notice is also important. I recommend you turn in the notice to an actual person versus posting it on the door. The court will want some kind of proof that somebody received this notice to vacate. You can do certified mail so someone has to sign for it. The court says as long as someone over the age of 16 gets this notice then it’s valid.
- Going to Court: Both the landlord and the Tenant must go to court on the scheduled date. If the tenant does not show up then the court will automatically rule in favor of the landlord. This is the way it works in Harris County and pretty much every other county. You will need to have all your documentation in order to file the petition and talk to a judge. Petition: This is the info you’ll need:
- Landlords full legal name (bring a drivers license or a passport) (plaintiff).
- All your contact info including information of any attorneys you may be using.
- Full contact info for the tenant(s) (defendant).
- Full address and legal description of the property.
- A description of the facts and ground for the eviction.
- A description of when and how the Notice to Vacate (see above) was delivered.
- The total amount of rent due and unpaid at the time of filing.
If the court rules in your favor you now have the right of possession. However, if the tenant shows up and provides any kind of valid reason and explanation the courts will see if a deal can be worked out. My personal experience is that rarely, if ever, do tenants show up to court. Not that they won’t but it’s very rare. Note that EACH tenant who has signed the lease must be at the court.
- Writ of Possession: If the court rules in the landlord’s favor and gives you the right of possession then they will issue a document called a writ of possession that now gives you the legal right to go reclaim your real property. The court will give 5 to 60 days for the tenant to vacate the property. Normally, it’s 30 days but they have no less than 5 and up to 60. The court will formally make sure that both parties received this notice. Sometimes the core will give the constables a copy of the Writ and the constables will deliver it to the tenant and if the tenant is not there they will post it on the door. I find this part rarely happens. The fee for a writ of possession is $125 according to the Harris County website however there may be other fees on top of that.
- Writ of Reentry (aka Writ of Restitution): Now that you have the right to go claim your property a writ of reentry is when you pay the $125 fee for the constables to schedule a time to go with you to enforce your writ of possession. Just because you got the writ of possession does not mean the Constable will enforce it. The writ of reentry is when you pay to make sure that you can go to the property on the scheduled date and the constables will be with you. Most of the time the Constable is there in order to make sure that it is a peaceful proceeding. Depending on the Constable themselves they might go knock on the door and do some talking or will just be there in case of anything. The reason the courts require this entire process to be done is to help avoid even getting to this stage. We recommend you get a writ of reentry to be executed on the date of the actual eviction as based on the writ of possession. Getting this scheduled can take two or more weeks so planning it in advance ensures that you’re not waiting longer than you need to.
So that is the Eviction Case Process. You can pay a lawyer to do it for you or you can represent yourself. The process isn’t that complicated but it does need to be followed correctly.
Recently, we helped someone who had a Writ of Possession but not a Writ of Reentry. We went with the owner to the house and spoke to the tenants. Having a third party involved helped the tenants understand the gravity of the situation and they did eventually leave though it was about a week after the date on the writ of possession.
Here is the link to all the Texas details on eviction proceedings.
Eviction isn’t easy so good luck!
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