You love your new house or apartment, but unfortunately you’ve fallen on hard times. Maybe you had an unexpected medical bill or were laid off. If you’re at the point of risking eviction, you want to avoid a lengthy legal dispute with your landlord. It is very likely they have more time and resources than you do. What steps can you take to avoid an eviction?
What is an Eviction?
An eviction is the forcible removal of a resident from a property he or she is renting because of a violation of the lease agreement. There must be documented evidence that the tenant has violated the lease both parties signed to warrant an eviction. Otherwise, the eviction order will not stand in court. For example, landlord can’t remove you from your residence just because he doesn’t like you or has decided to rent to someone else.
The Easiest Way to Avoid an Eviction
You can probably guess this one – the easiest way to avoid an eviction is to follow the terms of your lease agreement. Be kind and polite, pay your rent on time, don’t destroy any property, and you will have no problems with the legal system. Evicting a tenant can easily become very expensive for a landlord, so they are typically willing to work with you in the event of an inability pay. Most property managers would rather figure out a payment plan with an existing tenant than have to hire a lawyer to assist in an eviction.
Eviction: 3-day Notice
If you’ve received a 3 day notice, it means your landlord believes you have violated your lease agreement in someway and is giving you 3 days to fix the error and resolve the situation. Any court proceedings regarding eviction will take the 3 day notice and its results into account, so take it seriously. 3 day notices are most often sent for failure to pay rent on time, so if you have received one now is the time to ask for help from friends and family, work extra shifts, or whatever it takes to pay rent in time to avoid the start of the eviction process.
The Eviction Process
You won’t be ambushed with an eviction – stormtroopers won’t show up at your door and toss you in the street. The legal eviction process any landlord must follow goes as follows:
- The 3 day notice must be issued with entirely correct information.
- The method and details of delivery of the notice to vacate must accurately follow state eviction rules (in our case, Texas Property Code Sec. 24). Your landlord has the burden to prove that this occurred. It is a defense to eviction that the landlord failed to properly provide you with notice BEFORE they went to the court and filed a lawsuit.
- Documented evidence must be provided that the notice to vacate has not been satisfied by the end of the time period allowed (3 days, 7 days, 30 days, etc.)
- The landlord must go to court and submit all the above documentation proving a breach of lease and grounds for eviction. If the landlord fails to bring a signed copy of the lease agreement to court, you are entitled to something called an “abatement” until they can show up with a signed copy of the agreement.
- Documented evidence must be provided to prove that you violated your lease, or otherwise are not entitled to keep living there. If your landlord accepted rent payment from you before trial, then he has waived his right to pursue the eviction against you and the case must be dismissed as moot.
- The judge will make a decision. If there are any mistakes or a lack of evidence, the judge will throw out the eviction case, and if not, he will rule to evict you. After that time, you will have only 5 days to appeal to a higher court if you feel like the judge made a mistake, and in some cases, just need more time.
If you get Evicted by the Court
If the judge rules against the tenant, the landlord must wait 5 additional days before asking the court to issue a writ of possession, only if you still have not moved out. After that a constable will come and place a 24 hour notice on your door that tells you to get out, or they will be back to forcibly remove you and your belongings in 24 hours. When they come back, they will either peacfully come into the unit, or kick the door down. Then, a tenant’s belongings will be removed from the dwelling by the police, and they will not take the same care of your items as you would have done. The police will also ensure that any persons remaining in the dwelling are physically and forcefully removed; if they arrive and you are onsite, it is not uncommon for you to be handcuffed and sat to the side until they complete moving your things out. They will not let you help, or go back into the unit for any reason. In some states the landlord is required to store the belongings of an evicted tenant for a period of time, but this is not the case in Texas, and your items can usually be sold to cover any debts owed to the landlord.
An eviction is a very difficult and traumatic experience. It costs time and money, damages your credit score, and can mean significant loss of property by the tenant. Many landlords won’t rent to prospective tenants with an eviction in their history. We recommend doing everything within your power and within the law to avoid an eviction. Most people successfully avoid ever being evicted – be responsible, talk to your landlord, and follow your lease agreement and you should hopefully avoid any disputes.
If you’re worried you may be evicted or believe you are being or have been wrongly evicted, get in touch with us and we will discuss your options.