Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I am bankrupt. I cannot pay my debts or rent. I talked to my landlord the other day and he was threatening to throw me out and change the locks on the doors. Can he do this? Are there any laws that will protect me until I can pay my rent?”
What protections are offered to tenants against their landlord?
If you have questions about what your landlord can do if you fail to pay your rent the first thing you need to do is review your lease agreement. Although there are tenant and landlord protections outlined in state and local statutes (i.e. Texas property statutes can be found at Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §§ 91.001 to 92.355.), your lease should list information about the following:
- The amount of rent you are required to pay each month
- The date the rent is due and where you need to send it
- How you must pay the rent
- How your landlord can increase your rent
- How much you will be charged if the rent is late
- The process for terminating the lease agreement if the rent is not paid
Legally evicting a tenant from a rental property
Since you specifically asked about eviction rules and regulations and what your landlord is legally allowed to do to force you to leave your apartment, let’s take a closer look at that process. State laws vary so we will review Texas procedures. If you live in another state you will need to review the laws in your state for more information.
As mentioned above, your lease agreement should clearly outline the expectation for rent payment, when it’s due, and what will happen if you fail to pay your rent. If you have not paid your rent your landlord may have the right to begin the eviction process. Fortunately for you, however, this does not include immediately tossing your possessions onto your front yard.
Legal steps to force and eviction in Texas
- Your landlord must give you notice to vacate.
Under Texas law the landlord must provide you with a Notice to Vacate. Under Texas law, however, you have 3 days to pay the rent or leave the rental property. The date begins on the date the notice is delivered.
- Filing a forcible entry and detainer lawsuit against you.
Next, if you do not pay your rent or you do not leave your property the landlord is legally allowed to file a forcible entry and detainer lawsuit against you. The lawsuit papers are generally served by a constable.
- Answer the eviction suit.
If you are served with an eviction suit you may have the option to answer it either in writing, over the phone or by appearing in court. Review the suit and determine what you need to do and contact a lawyer if you have questions.
- Appear at the eviction hearing.
You may be required to appear at an eviction hearing. Although there are valid defenses against an eviction- the eviction case was filed too soon, the landlord discriminated against you, or landlord retaliated against you for asking for certain repairs- you will need to make sure you have all of your information together for your defense before you go to court.
Failing to pay your rent is a violation of your lease agreement, and your landlord may have the legal right to evict you from your property. If he does something illegal like changing the locks or removing your property without first following the proper steps, however, you need to seek legal help.
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