Landlord Tenate Disputes & Litigation

Tenant & Landlord Disputes & Litigation

In Texas, generally, the Texas Property Code (Ann. §§ 91.001 to 92.355), governs the landlord-tenant relationship. Often times, disputes arise between the landlord and tenant relating to issues involving possession, payment of rent, security deposits, eviction, etc. The attorneys at J Lowe Law are well-versed in handling all issues associated with landlord tenant law, from lease review and negotiation to eviction.

Tenant and Landlord Disputes and Litigation

Common Issues that Arise During Landlord-Tenant Relationship

Below are some common issues that arise during the landlord-tenant relationship, including, but not limited to, the following:

It is imperative that there be a well-written and comprehensive lease agreement between the landlord and tenant. If there is no lease agreement or if the lease agreement is poorly written and not comprehensive, then the landlord and tenant will be inviting confusion and conflict.

According to the Texas Property Code (Sec. 92.3515), landlords may use the following information to decide if they should approve a tenant: Income, Criminal History, Rental History, and Credit History.

Under Texas law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement), such as the identity of anyone authorized to act on the landlord’s behalf and the tenant’s rights when the landlord fails to make necessary repairs. There are also many more required landlord disclosures that must be included in the lease. 

Texas state law does not limit how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. However, landlords must return security deposits within 30 days of the tenant’s departure. Landlords who retain some or all of the deposit to cover damage and unpaid rent must provide an itemized, written accounting (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 92.104). Texas law specifically requires landlords to “keep accurate records of all security deposits,” but does not elaborate on what that means (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 92.106). 

Tenant Protection Against Retaliation, and Other State Laws in Texas

Several other landlord-tenant laws in Texas affect both property owners and renters, including:

  • tenant protections against landlord retaliation for exercising a legal right;
  • complaining about an unsafe living condition;
  • special protections for tenants who are victims of domestic violence;
  • procedures for how landlords must handle abandoned property left behind by tenants; and
  • fair housing rights (discrimination is also prohibited by federal law).

Eviction

There can be many different reasons to support an eviction. Below are some of the most common examples supporting eviction, as well as a general description of the eviction process in Texas. 

Rent is usually considered late a day past its due date; however, a grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement. Before a landlord can start the eviction process, they are required to give the tenant an official written Notice to Vacate (also known as a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit). If the tenant pays the rent within those three days, then the eviction process does not move forward. If the tenant is unable to pay, the landlord reserves the right to offer them a second chance; however, in Texas, landlords are not obligated to offer a second chance. Once the three days have expired, the landlord can proceed with the eviction process immediately.

Lease violations may include: Staying longer than indicated on the lease; Disturbing the other tenants with loud activity; Damaging rental property; Smoking in non-smoking areas; and Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.

If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice to Vacate. Examples of illegal activities are: involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of illegal drugs; subletting without the landlord’s approval; and theft, violence, assault.

Eviction proceedings do not mean that a tenant will immediately be removed from their home. There are many steps in the eviction process that each take a certain amount of time. Until a writ of possession is issued, the tenant can remain in their home.

  • Step 1: Written Notice to Vacate. Unless the lease agreement says otherwise, the landlord must give the tenant at least 3 days to move out. They cannot file an eviction suit before they give this notice in writing. The federal CARES Act requires a 30 day notice in certain evictions where the property participates in certain federal programs or the property owner has a federally-backed mortgage.
  • Step 2: Filing of Eviction Suit. The eviction hearing cannot take place for at least 10 days after the petition is filed.
  • Step 3: Judgment. Once a judgment has been issued, no further action can take place for 5 days. This time gives the parties the opportunity to appeal.
  • Step 4 (optional): Appeal. If the tenant files an appeal, the hearing cannot take place for at least 8 days.
  • Step 5: Writ of Possession. Once there is a final judgment, the landlord can ask the judge for a writ of possession. The constable must post a 24 hour notice before “executing the writ” and removing the tenant’s property from the rental. 

The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the Notice to Vacate. The landlord must have allowed enough time to pass before filing for eviction.

Before a landlord can start legal eviction proceedings, they must give the tenant proper notice in writing. A written notification that the landlord would like the tenant to move out because the tenant has broken the lease is called a “notice to vacate.” Texas law is very specific about how the notice must be given to the tenant and what it must contain.

The notice must include:

  • The amount of time the tenant has to move out or fix a certain problem before an eviction suit is filed. This must be at least 3 days unless the lease specifically states otherwise. The federal CARES Act requires a 30 day notice if the property participates in certain federal programs or the property owner has a federally-backed mortgage.

The notice can be given to the tenant in one of the following ways:

  • In person to the tenant or someone in the household who is 16 years of age or older
  • In person by affixing the notice to the inside of the main entry door
  • By regular mail, certified mail, or registered mail, with return receipt
  • If the rental does not have a mailbox and if there are things that would prevent the landlord from attaching notice to the inside of the main entrance (such as keyless security systems or dangerous animals), they may affix it to the outside of the main entrance. It must be sealed in an envelope with appropriate markings. The landlord must also mail it on the same day.

If the notice is given in person or sent via the mail, the time given to move out before the landlord files an eviction suit starts running once it is delivered. If it is attached to the outside of the main entrance, the time starts running once the notice is affixed to the outside of the door, regardless of when the copy in the mail is delivered.

Once the time stated in the notice to vacate has passed, a landlord can file a suit to evict. This suit should be filed in the justice court where the rental property is located. 

Once the suit has been filed, the tenant must be served with papers at least 6 days before the trial. A sheriff or constable may serve the tenant with papers by delivering them to the tenant or to a member of the household who is 16 or older. If they have tried to deliver papers twice and are unsuccessful, a judge can allow the landlord to serve the tenant in another method. Other methods include slipping it through a mail slot, slipping it under the front door, or affixing it to the front door.

In justice court, the tenant is not required to file a written answer. They are allowed to do so if they disagree with the claims in the suit. If the tenant does not file an answer, the tenant will need to show up to the hearing or risk a default judgment against him/her and in favor of the landlord. The hearing will be set for no sooner than 10 days after the suit was filed and no later than 21 days.

A tenant has the right to request a jury for their hearing. This request must be made at least 3 days before the trial.

After the hearing, a judgment will be issued. If the court rules against the tenant, the tenant will have the opportunity to appeal before the tenant’s property is removed from the rental. 

Once a final judgment has been entered and all deadlines have expired, the landlord may ask the judge to issue a “writ of possession.” This is the final step in the eviction process. “Executing a writ of possession” is when a tenant and all their belongings and property are removed from the rental unit.

Our Experienced and Insightful Team Can Help You With

We offer decades of combined litigation and dispute resolution expertise to resolve common civil, commercial, and business-related issues, including:

Landlord Tenant Disputes

The attorneys at J Lowe Law are experienced in handling all aspects of the landlord tenant relationship, from lease review and negotiation to eviction. The landlord tenant laws in Texas can be complex, so it is vital to have an experienced landlord tenant attorney by your side throughout the process. Whether it be reviewing a lease or dealing with an eviction, you can trust that the attorneys at J Lowe Law will protect your rights and interests.

Construction Litigation

Construction litigation can be both complex and costly. When dealing with such complex issues, it is important to have an attorney with experience in all aspects fo construction. The attorneys at J Lowe Law have just that with over 18 years of experience in construction disputes. When it comes to construction litigation, you can trust that the attorneys at J Lowe Law will be there to protect your interests and minimize your liability.

Insurance Litigation

Insurance law is highly complex and litigation cases are costly and protracted. Let our attorneys at J Lowe Law deal with your complicated insurance litigation issues by using our strong legal counsel to advocate for your best interests. Whether it be a coverage dispute or other insurance issue, the attorneys at J Lowe Law are here to assist you every step of the way.

Business Litigation

Business disputes can have a serious negative impact on a business’ stability and bottom line. We handle complex business disputes where stakes and risks are at their highest. You can trust that the attorneys at J Lowe Law will be there to zealously advocate for you and your business.

Real Estate Litigation

Here at J Lowe Law, we offer legal representation when it comes to real estate disputes. Whether it be a property dispute, title insurance dispute, easements, licenses, nuisances, etc., the attorneys at J Lowe Law are ready to represent and protect your interests.

Tailored Advice

J Lowe Law litigation and dispute resolution attorneys leverage their experience and creative legal skills to add value when representing private and business clients in a variety of disputes. We utilize highly customized mediation, negotiation, arbitration, and trial strategies to help clients overcome challenges.

Place Your Trust in a Proven Litigation & Dispute Resolution Law Firm

It’s safe to say that a prudent settlement is better than prolonged, stressful, and costly litigation. While our attorneys at J Lowe Law excel in State and Federal Court trial proceedings, we advocate the use of alternative dispute resolution measures to resolve litigation matters quickly and efficiently. Our attorneys are skilled at maintaining objectivity in litigation and dispute resolution cases. We are an experienced and skilled advocate in both litigation and dispute resolution practices, including arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and other non-traditional processes. Through our tailored litigation and dispute resolution law services, we help reduce the costs and delays often associated with civil, business, and commercial litigation.

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