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Eviction Process in Harris County: A Guide for Landlords to Avoid Eviction
Dealing with the eviction process can be a daunting and challenging task for landlords, especially in Harris County Texas, which encompasses the greater Houston, TX area. As local investors ourselves, we understand the difficulties landlords face when tenants fail to meet their obligations. In this article, we aim to educate landlords about the step-by-step eviction process in Harris County, the associated costs, and provide two alternative options to avoid eviction altogether. We made this article and put this video together to connect with investors in the greater Houston area. Like you, we understand the challenge of dealing with an unwanted eviction. Be sure to reach out to us if we can help.
Eviction Process in Harris County:
Successfully navigating the eviction process requires careful adherence to the legal procedures in Harris County. Any mistakes can result in delays, additional costs, or even the need to restart the process entirely. We are not attorneys so this article will give you a high level overview of the process. There is a lot of value attorneys can bring to you and this article should help you understand the steps involved.
Notice to Vacate:
To initiate the eviction process, landlords must provide tenants with a “Notice to Vacate” in a specific format. It’s important to note that phone calls and emails do not fulfill this requirement. The most common method of delivery is personal delivery to the tenant and affixing the notice to the inside of the main entry door. The notice typically allows tenants a minimum of three days to vacate the premises. There are other ways to deliver the notice but if you sit in the court rooms you will hear 90% of the cases will deliver this way. There are reasons why they do this. 🙂
Filing the Eviction Case:
Once the notice period expires and the tenant remains on the property, landlords can proceed with filing the eviction case at the Justice Court in the Justice of the Peace Precinct. It is essential to include all tenants who have signed the lease in the eviction proceeding. Some key information to be filed includes the landlord’s contact information as the plaintiff, the defendant’s name and contact details, the property address, grounds for eviction, description of the notice to vacate, and the total rent due at the time of filing. Landlords can also indicate whether they are seeking attorney fees to be paid.
Payment of Filing Fees and Issuing the Citation:
Landlords must pay the required filing fees, and upon completion, the court clerk will issue a citation. The citation serves as notice to the tenant of the lawsuit and specifies the date they must appear in court. It is the responsibility of a sheriff or constable to serve the citation to the tenant.
Both the landlord and tenant must appear in court for the trial. The proceedings are formal, and the judge may ask questions of both parties. It is essential for landlords to provide supporting documents, including the lease agreement signed by both parties, proof of property ownership (deed), a copy of the notice to vacate, evidence of delivery of the notice, rent records, communications and correspondence between the landlord and tenant, maintenance records, photographs or videos if necessary, and any required witnesses.
You will be assigned a time and a large group of people will have the same time you do. You will all enter the court together and be called one by one to the front to go through your case. The whole process can take 3-4 hours so the judge will want to see that you have your paperwork well organized, accessible and that you have properly followed the process up to this point.
Before ruling in favor of the plaintiff (the landlord), the judge issues a judgment. If a mistake is made during the process, the judge may submit a Notice of Intention to Dismiss, allowing landlords an opportunity to re-submit with good cause. You will have a period of time where you can resubmit paperwork or fix whatever issue the judge found with your case. Once this is submitted, it is reviewed and a date is set. Keep in mind that it took nearly 30 days to get to the first court case and if you make a mistake it may be another 30 days before you can have your second hearing. If the judgment is awarded to the plaintiff, the process moves to the next step.
Writ of Possession:
After the waiting period (typically around six days), landlords can request a Writ of Possession by completing the necessary form and paying the required fees. The sheriff or constable will then serve the writ to the tenant, granting them a limited timeframe to vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to comply, the sheriff or constable will proceed with the execution of the writ and remove the tenant from the property. This is usually within a couple of days.
Costs to Consider:
The eviction process in Harris County can be financially burdensome for landlords. It is crucial to be aware of the potential costs involved, including court fees (approximately $300), lost rent for a period of 2-4 months, ongoing mortgage, tax, and insurance payments during the process, repair costs ranging from $3,000 to $20,000, locksmith expenses (around $150), and the need to advertise the unit to attract new tenants. If you list with a realtor this is typically 50%-100% of the first month’s rent.
Options to Avoid Eviction:
Eviction should be a last resort, as it can be time-consuming, costly, and may require considerable clean-up and repairs. Landlords should explore alternative options to resolve tenant issues before proceeding with eviction. Here are two options to consider that can help you skip the eviction process in about a week or two:
Cash for Keys:
Landlords can offer tenants a cash incentive to voluntarily vacate the property, known as “Cash for Keys.” In this scenario you deliver the required three day notice for the tenant to vacate, this starts the eviction process. At the same time you give them an option to avoid an eviction on their record and YOU pay the tenant cash ($500-$1,000) for their keys. You will want them to sign a document that states they are no longer leasing your property and you tell them that they need to have all of their stuff moved out and the house swept clean before you pay them. I know this sounds crazy because the tenant is the one that broke their word and is not paying you but this can be a win, win situation. You win because you save thousands in an eviction that is rarely paid back and the tenant wins because they get money for a deposit on the next place. In this situation let the tenant know if they don’t follow through on the agreement they will be evicted. Be prepared to follow through with it!
Selling the Property to J&A Home Buyers:
As local investors, J&A Home Buyers specializes in purchasing properties and the rights to existing leases. We buy houses, as-is, with your problem tenants in the house. We offer a quick closing process, often within a week, allowing landlords to transfer the property and tenant responsibilities without the need for direct involvement or interaction with the tenant. This option provides a seamless exit strategy for landlords seeking to avoid the eviction process entirely and you walk away with cash from your well earned equity in the house.
Navigating the eviction process in Harris County requires landlords to follow specific procedures diligently. However, eviction should be viewed as a last resort due to the associated costs, time investment, and potential property damage. By exploring alternative options, such as Cash for Keys or selling the property to J&A Home Buyers, landlords can find effective solutions to tenant issues while saving time, money, and maintaining their sanity.
For more detailed information about the eviction process in Harris County, please visit the official website of the Justice of the Peace Courts in Harris County: [http://www.jp.hctx.net/evictions/filing.htm].
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