Evicting A Tenant In Harris County? Avoid These 10 Mistakes

October 24, 2017 by Michael Brown

I have a lot of problems
Nobody rents out a property thinking they’ll need to evict a tenant later on, but sometimes eviction becomes necessary. A tenant who starts off stable could lose their job unexpectedly and be left without a reserve to pay their rent. Sometimes tenants are on their best behavior until they get into the unit and then show their true colors.

If you find yourself up against an uncooperative tenant, before you contact them, give them any kind of notice to vacate, or start the formal eviction process, you need to be aware of Harris County eviction laws. Ignoring even one of these laws could result in fines, and give your troublesome tenant more rights to your property than they deserve.

To maintain control over your property, avoid these ten mistakes during the eviction process:

  1. Stop accepting rent payments from the tenant

If you’re in the process of evicting a tenant, or if you’ve just realized you need to begin the process, stop accepting payments from that tenant immediately.

A situation that has escalated to eviction is already out of control. Accepting payments in any amount will only prolong the chaos.

The eviction process isn’t pleasant for anyone, and knowing you still need to pay your mortgage can make it tempting to accept partial payments. But receiving some money isn’t actually better than receiving no money. Accepting even a partial payment is a legally binding agreement that voids the current eviction process and you’ll need to start over.

  1. Don’t give the tenant any options

Any reasonable person would agree that communication can solve most problems, but when you’re dealing with an eviction, that may not be the case. If you’ve already started the eviction process and your tenant contacts you to beg for a second (or third) chance, don’t engage in that conversation. Let them know your decision is final, and you’ll be in contact with them when necessary.

If they’ve already missed a deadline to remedy the situation, you can count on them to repeat that behavior for every second chance you provide.

  1. Don’t wait too long to file the paperwork

There are many reasons landlords wait to file eviction paperwork. Usually, it’s because they already know how cumbersome the process is, or they’ve heard stories of how nightmarish the process can be.

The eviction process is time-consuming and stressful, but it’s better than allowing a rogue tenant to remain in your property, creating extensive damage, and never seeing a dime for rent.

When a tenant has a history of late payments, you can’t believe them when they tell you they’ll have the rent next week. File the paperwork as soon as you can get to the courthouse.

  1. Don’t verbally engage in any argument

We all know that arguing doesn’t solve any problems, but sometimes it happens. When it comes to a tenant you’re trying to evict, refuse to engage in any conversation that appears to be a setup for an argument.

Sometimes tenants facing eviction are reasonable people who ended up in a bad situation and communication is possible. Be discerning. You’ll know the difference.

  1. Don’t verbally give the tenant any reasons for the eviction

To be on the safe side, it’s best not to engage your tenant in conversation about why you’re evicting them, even if you’ve already given them the notice to vacate. Here’s why: the law is limited in its definition of acceptable reasons for eviction, and to make it legal, you’ve had to translate your real-world experiences into a legally acceptable reason for eviction.

For example, if your tenant violated the lease, when you give them a 3-day notice to vacate, the reason will be clearly stated as a lease violation. In a verbal conversation, however, you may be tempted to tell the tenant everything about their behavior that bothers you.

When you go to court, that tenant might tell the judge you evicted them because they called you at 3 a.m. to repair the toilet – and anything else you said to them verbally.

Once you’ve delivered the notice, keep quiet. Go through the paperwork and don’t verbally engage the tenant.

  1. Never shut off the utilities

It’s illegal to shut off the utilities when you’re trying to evict a tenant from your property. If the utilities are in your name, and they’re not paying those utilities, you’ll need to cover them until you can get them out.

Shutting off the utilities sounds like a great way to force someone to leave, but it’s also the fastest way to get hit with hefty fines.

  1. Follow all Texas state eviction laws

In most states, including Texas, you can’t just slap an eviction notice on someone’s door and expect them to move out the next day. There are strict laws governing the eviction process and they should be followed to the letter. This includes how the notice to vacate and eviction notices are delivered.

The complexity of the eviction process is best handled by an experienced property management company. That’s why tenant eviction services are just one of many services we offer at Green Residential.

  1. Don’t enter the unit illegally

During an eviction, you may be inclined to enter the unit to find out if there’s any property damage. Don’t do it. The only reason you should enter the unit is if there’s an emergency. Even giving the tenant proper notice to enter is likely going to keep the tension and hostility high.

If you must enter the unit, bring a friend or a police officer with you – don’t go alone.

  1. Don’t change the locks

Until a formal judgment is made, the tenant you’re evicting has a legal right to occupy the property. Changing the locks will put you in hot water with the judge.

  1. Don’t tell the tenant they’ve lost their security deposit

Security deposits can only be used to cover damages, and cannot be used to cover rent during the eviction process. A security deposit can only be used for legitimate repairs performed after the tenant has vacated the property.

Telling a tenant they aren’t getting their security deposit back could be an open invitation for vengeful damage.

The eviction process is taken seriously by the courts, and the judge will uphold the tenant’s rights. At Green Residential, we know the process is difficult, even for experienced landlords.

If you need to evict a tenant in Harris County, we can help. Our eviction services handle the nitty gritty like sending a three-day notice to vacate, filing the eviction suit, attending the hearing, seeking judgment for possession, and filing for writ of possession if needed. Contact us today to get started!

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