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Ending the Lease: Reviewing Landlord and Tenant Laws

In Texas, a landlord can terminate a lease term early if the tenant does not pay rent or violates the lease agreement. Before filing an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must first give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate (unless the lease gives a shorter or longer notice period). This notice must state the date by which the tenancy will end and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time. The landlord does not have to give the tenant the option to fix the violation or pay the owed rent. If the tenant does not move out of the rental in three days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.

A landlord cannot end a fixed-term lease early without cause because a lease guarantees tenants the right to stay at the property as long as terms are not violated for the duration of the time stated. When landlords wish to have tenants with a lease move out without having cause, they must wait until the term ends.

When tenants don’t move out at the end of a lease, they become holdover tenants, which are tenants who do not have the protection of a lease. To remove a holdover tenant in Texas, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate. If the tenant does not move out by the end of the three-day period, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court.

Depending on the circumstances, tenants might have several reasons why they shouldn’t be evicted called defenses. One of the most common defenses is that the landlord did not follow all the rules when terminating the tenancy. For example, when a landlord improperly serves the notice to vacate or doesn’t wait long enough before filing the eviction lawsuit. Other potential defenses to eviction in Texas include a landlord’s failure to maintain habitable premises and a landlord’s unlawful discrimination.

The only legal way to remove a tenant from a rental unit in Texas is for a landlord to win an eviction lawsuit (forcible entry and detainer suit) in court. Even after winning the lawsuit, it is illegal for a landlord to take self-help measures to remove the tenant. The only person who can do that is an officer of the law, authorized by the judge who allowed the eviction to occur.

Evictions during Covid-19

The CARES Act, passed by Congress on March 27th, placed a 120-day eviction moratorium on all housing that receives government subsidies or federally-backed loans.

This federal moratorium expired July 25, 2020, BUT some cities and counties are still protecting the tenants. For example, Austin banned landlords from residential and commercial evictions due to nonpayment of rent or lease violations until September 30, 2020. Also, landlords who own single-family properties that are FHA-insured or Fannie-Mae or Fannie-Mac backed mortgages cannot evict tenants until at least August 31, 2020.

Evictions have become more complicated when deciphering the applicable laws and requirements. We recommend seeking legal help. If there is something our office can help you with, please call us at 903-347-3060.

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