Legal FAQs for Renters in Texas

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on Nov 10th, 2022. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

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Emergency Protections during COVID

Emergency Protections during COVID


Are there any special protections for Texas renters during the COVID-19 emergency?

Texas's statewide emergency protections for renters have expired.

The Texas Supreme Court also is now requiring landlords who want to file an eviction lawsuit to certify that the property is not covered by the CARES Act's eviction protections.

There is an eviction diversion program in Texas for renters who are behind on their rent and sued for eviction. See more about the program here.

What do the eviction protections mean for Texas renters?

Since emergency protections have expired, then for renters in Texas:

  • Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
  • Your landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against you.
  • The court may allow the eviction trial to move forward.
  • The court can still issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
  • Law enforcement can enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.

Do I still have to pay rent during COVID-19 in Texas?

Yes, Texas renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.

Check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Apply for rental assistance: If you need financial assistance for housing costs like rent or utility bills, you may be able to get help. Texas has an online rental application process at Texasrentrelief.com.  Tenants may also apply over the telephone at 1-833-9TX-RENT (1-833-989-7368).
  • Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
  • Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
Can my landlord evict me during COVID-19 in Texas?

Texas landlords can sue tenants for eviction since the statewide protections ended.

Beginning May 19, 2020, the courts were allowed to hear eviction cases again.

Beginning May 26, 2020, the courts were allowed to post and enforce writs of possession against renters.

If you receive a notice to vacate from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

Can my utilities be shut off during COVID-19 in Texas?

The Texas Public Utility Commission has ordered that no shutoffs can occur for residential tenants who show proof of unemployment. Some utility companies have voluntarily suspended shutoffs for all customers. Check with your local companies to see if you have protections.

Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off water, gas, or wastewater in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. (In Texas, landlords can cut off electricity if it is submetered or allocated, and the tenant does not pay the tenant's portion within the specified time period.) Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

What if I need repairs to my home during COVID-19 in Texas?

Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.

The emergency may delay your landlord's ability to make repairs, but if they are urgent you should call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible.

Emergency repairs could be for problems with:

  • Running water or hot water
  • Heat or air-conditioning
  • Stove, refrigerator, or oven
  • Electricity
  • Bathroom use
  • Missing doors, locks, or windows
  • Pests

If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter by certified mail or regular mail. Email notice is not sufficient. Keep a copy of this communication.

Reach out for legal help for additional guidance.

Can I break my lease during COVID-19 in Texas?

You may be able to break your lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.

Your lease is still valid despite the emergency period.

However, you can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing. If you leave without written agreement from the landlord, you are liable for rent through the end of lease term unless the landlord re-lets the premise at which time your liability for the rent ends.

You will still have to pay any re-letting fees set forth in the lease and any other damages suffered by the landlord.

Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID-19 in Texas?

Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.

It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must file an eviction lawsuit, win the case, and get an eviction order from the court. Only a law enforcement official can remove you after the writ of possession is issued. The official will first attach a 24-hour warning to your front door before executing the writ of possession.

Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.

Find legal help to protect your rights.

Are eviction cases still proceeding through Texas court?

Yes, eviction cases began to move through the courts again as of May 2020. Check with your local courts for more up-to-date information.

Earlier in the pandemic, some courts had stopped hearing eviction cases. All Texas eviction hearings were suspended until May 18, 2020, unless the landlord filed a sworn complaint showing that the actions of the tenant, household members, or guests threatened or posed an imminent threat of (i) physical harm to the landlord, the landlord's employees, or other tenants, or (ii) criminal activity.

Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?

Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

  • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
  • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
  • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?


My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in Texas. What should I do?

You do not have to leave your home yet.

In Texas, your landlord must give you an official notice that they may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent (or other reasons).

This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.

These are the Texas requirements for an eviction notice:

  1. The notice must be written down.
  2. The notice needs to say that you have three days to move out. Check your lease - your landlord may give you less time if it’s written there.

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Texas?

A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way.

Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

Do I have to leave my home in Texas by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date?

No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the notice to vacate.

You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.

After the date on the notice to vacate passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in Texas. What if I can't afford to pay it?

You still have time to reach out for rental assistance, and stop the eviction from moving forward. You should talk to your landlord and let them know you are trying to raise the money to pay the rent owed. Keep your landlord informed.

Be sure to let the local group know that you have received a notice to vacate and what its deadline is. They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, or work with your landlord to reduce the amount or put you on a payment plan.

Find local financial help in Texas here.

How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Texas?

Check your lease. In Texas, your landlord does not have to accept your late rent unless it says it in your lease.

Your lease and the notice should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?

Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?


My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Texas. What should I do?

You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit. In Texas, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:

  1. Only certain people can give you the lawsuit's Summons and Complaint. The landlord can not give you these papers - it has to be a person not involved in the case. This can be the sheriff, a constable, or any person over 18 authorized by written court order.
  2. One of these people will attempt to deliver the notice to you in person. If after two attempts they still can not reach you, they will post the papers somewhere visible outside your home and mail you a copy.

You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Texas?

In Texas, you are not required to file a written response if you want to avoid the eviction.

The citation delivered by the constable will state the date and time of the hearing on the first page. You must appear there if you want to defend yourself against the eviction. But you do not have to submit anything to the court or your landlord before this hearing.

Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Texas?

You can come to an agreement with your landlord, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.

You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.

Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.

Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.

You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.

Find local legal help in Texas here.

Behind on Rent?

Behind on Rent?


Who can help me with rent that I owe?

If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.

Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.

Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.

Am I eligible for rent relief?

Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.

You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.

You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.

You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.

Does immigration status matter for rent relief?

Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.

Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?

Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply.

Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.

The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.

Get Help From Local Groups

State information is taken from these sources:Princeton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerTexas Supreme Court OrderTexas Supreme Court updates

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