Landlords hate to think about eviction. They envision tossing tenants out onto the street and walking into a property that’s been destroyed. It doesn’t always go that way, but you do want to avoid evictions whenever possible.
The best way to avoid evictions, of course, is by doing a thorough job with your tenant screening. The chances that you’ll have to evict a tenant increase dramatically when you place someone who has been evicted in the past, doesn’t earn enough income to afford your rent, or is unable to provide positive landlord references.
When you do a little checking during the screening process, or hire a professional manager to place a tenant for you, there is less of a chance that your rental experience will include conflict and late rent. However, even the best tenants can run into unexpected problems. Someone could lose a job, get divorced, or face some huge financial downfall.
The eviction process in Dallas is not complicated, but you need to follow the law, and you need to make sure everything is done correctly. You can do an eviction on your own in Texas, but we always recommend you talk to a property manager or an attorney before you file for eviction.
Reasons to Evict a Tenant in Dallas
Most evictions occur because a tenant has not paid rent. In Texas, you can also evict when a tenant is violating the lease. If a lease violation is discovered, you are not required to give your tenant the opportunity to cure, or fix, it. You can simply file a notice to vacate and then evict.
When a tenant has not paid rent, the first thing you need to do is consult your lease agreement. There might be a grace period or a late fee, and you need to be prepared for how to approach the tenant. Once any grace period has come and gone, you should contact your tenant to notify them that you have not received the rent. Ask them when they plan to pay, and remind them to include any late fees that the lease stipulates.
If you cannot reach your tenants, or they refuse to respond to your attempts at contact, you need to move forward quickly. Most evictions in Texas take between three and six weeks. The longer it takes you to resolve this situation, the more money and time you will lose.
Three Day Notice to Vacate
Serve a Three Day Notice to Vacate to your tenants. The tenants now have three days to leave the property, and if they don’t, you can pursue a legal eviction. It’s your choice on whether you want to accept any rent at this time. If you just want the tenants out, you can continue with the eviction process. However, if the tenants have otherwise been good renters and they usually pay on time, you might want to consider accepting the late rent and halting the eviction process.
This notice will explain why you are asking the tenants to leave. The clock starts ticking on those three business days as soon as you have served the notice. It’s best to have it personally delivered or to send it via certified mail. This will provide you with the documentation you need to prove that you sent it to the tenants. Other things to remember include:
- Make sure the notice lists all of the occupants on the lease.
- Include your name and contact information as well as the tenant’s.
- Explicitly state the amount that is due.
- Use a form that’s provided by your local court, an attorney, or a property manager.
Save two copies of the Notice to Vacate. You’ll want one for your own files, and one will be filed with the court if you move forward with the eviction.
Forcible Entry and Detainer Lawsuit
Three days have come and gone and presumably your tenant has not vacated or caught up with the rental payments. Your next step is to file for an eviction in court, which is called a Forcible Entry and Detainer lawsuit.
If your tenant contacts you and asks for more time to pay, or proposes a payment arrangement, you can consider the offer. Make sure you put something in writing, and hold the tenant accountable to sticking with the terms of your agreement. Perhaps they can pay half now and half in two weeks. This is fine, but it’s a good idea to continue pursuing the eviction process. You can call it off at any time, and you want to make sure you actually get the full rental payment before you put the brakes on the eviction. Otherwise, you’ll need to start all over.
You or your attorney will file the lawsuit in court, pay the filing fee, and receive a date for your hearing. The constable will serve your tenants a notice that the lawsuit is being filed.
The things that happen next will depend on your tenants and their response. Most tenants will either pay you the rent that’s owed and stay in the property or vacate before the eviction goes much further. Some tenants, however, will contest the eviction and provide a defense. The most common tenant eviction defenses include:
- The landlord followed improper procedures during the eviction process. Your tenant could try to prove that you incorrectly served the Notice to Vacate, or didn’t wait long enough to file the lawsuit.
- The landlord did not maintain a habitable environment. Keep all of your maintenance records available in case you need to document that your property is, in fact, well-maintained and habitable.
- The landlord discriminated against the tenant.
Dallas Eviction Process: Having Your Day in Court
When your court date arrives, you’ll need to appear in front of the judge with all your evidence and documentation. Make sure you have a copy of your lease, your payment ledgers, and a copy of your Notice to Vacate. The judge may ask you questions or ask for clarification, but if your tenant does not have a defense that’s acceptable and you can show that the rent has not been paid, you will likely get a judgment in your favor.
Even if you win, there is a five day period in which your tenants can appeal. After the five days pass, if your tenants have still not left the property, you’ll need to file for a Writ of Possession. This is a court order that grants you possession of your property.
This doesn’t mean you can forcibly and physically remove the tenant from your property. The constable will issue the writ, and an authorized representative of the court, such as a sheriff, will be responsible for removing any tenants who will not depart on their own. You should be there on the day that this is scheduled. Bring a locksmith so you can immediately change the locks. You should also bring along some people who can help move out any personal belongings that the tenant does not take.
Texas Eviction Tips and Advice
There isn’t a lot you can do to make the eviction process pleasant. It’s not fun for you or for the tenants. If you can establish and maintain a good relationship with your tenants, the entire experience doesn’t have to be dreadful. You can talk to your tenants about vacating if they absolutely cannot come up with the rent. This will save you from the entire eviction process, and the tenants will leave your property faster.
Remember to remain professional throughout the process. You cannot illegally try to get your tenants out of the property, no matter how long they have gone without paying. You cannot change the locks before you have your Writ of Possession, and you cannot shut off the electricity or the water. You are not permitted to make threats, and you should never show up at the property and demand that they leave. Not only is this illegal, it’s also dangerous for you and for the tenants.
We are always talking about the benefits of having a professional property manager take care of your investment home, and usually a landlord has to go through an eviction only once in order to realize how valuable a service professional management really is. Evicting a tenant is still not fun when you have a professional manager, but at least you know you’re relying on someone who has the experience to see the process through correctly and responsibly.
When you’re looking for professional property management companies in Dallas, ask about their eviction rates and their process. You don’t want to work with a company that has to evict a lot of the tenants that they place. This demonstrates that someone has gone wrong in their screening process. But, a management company with eviction experience is helpful. We rarely have to evict the tenants we place in properties, but we have taken over for landlords who became frustrated and needed to remove nonpaying tenants. We can help you, too.
If you have any questions about the eviction process or you’d like to talk about property management in Dallas, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Specialized Property Management.