Texas Landlord Tenant Laws You Should Know

Texas landlord tenant rights and laws can be tricky. Texas is in the center of the United States map from east to west. That means investors from east to west want to manage a property in Texas. However, Texas laws are long and hard to digest. So, it’s tough, even if you only have property in Texas.

Residential Tenancies

Texas statutes include a distinction between residential tenancies and commercial tenancies. Most rental properties occupied by tenants living in the unit are residential. For a list of exceptions, continue to the commercial tenancies section.

Finding a Tenant

Looking for tenants to rent your unit can be stressful. The longer it takes, the longer your unit is unoccupied. For every day your unit is unoccupied, you lose money. While the saying goes, “time is money,” rushing to find a tenant could cost you in the long run. Texas has state-specific laws regarding how you handle the application, occupancy limits, parking, and guarantors. Additionally, you should be sure to abide by the Fair Housing Act.

Rental Application

When you give a potential tenant an application, you need to give them a list of eligibility requirements.[1] The selection criteria should include what would be grounds for rejecting an application and what you will be comparing them to other tenants on.

Reasons to deny an application are criminal history, previous rental history, income, credit history, or lying on the application.

You need to get all prospective tenants to sign an acknowledgment of your eligibility requirements; otherwise, a court would assume you never gave one to the tenant. It can be part of the application that the tenant turns in so that you are sure to have received it; however, if it is part of the application, the notice of acknowledgment must be in bold. The acknowledgment should say the following:

Signing this acknowledgment indicates that you have had the opportunity to review the landlord’s tenant selection criteria. The tenant selection criteria may include factors such as criminal history, credit history, current income, and rental history. If you do not meet the selection criteria, or if you provide inaccurate or incomplete information, your application may be rejected and your application fee will not be refunded.

If the tenant doesn’t sign the acknowledgment, you may need to return the application fee and any application deposit, should you be questioned. The tenant can assume that their application has been rejected if they have not heard from you for seven days after submitting the application or seven days after you accepted an application deposit, if there wasn’t an application form.[2]

If you were supposed to return an application fee but don’t, you are liable for $100, three times the amount you were supposed to refund and reasonable attorney fees.[3]

Occupancy Limits

The maximum occupancy you can allow for your property is three times the amount of bedrooms in your property. So if you have three bedrooms, you can have nine tenants. You can only have more than the maximum occupancy if the law requires you to, or if someone in your unit is seeking temporary sanctuary from family violence for less than one month. The maximum occupancy rate is for adult tenants; it does not include children.

In Your Contract

Your tenant cannot waive:

  • The right to know the name and address of the owner or property manager who will be collecting rent
  • The landlord’s duties involving security deposits
  • The right to security devices, like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
  • The landlord’s duty to repair problems affecting the physical health and safety of the tenant
  • The right to leave your unit
  • The right to a jury trial

If when you sign the lease, you only own one rental property, you can put in your contract that your tenant has to make and pay for all repairs.[4] However, the property must be free of any problem that could affect the physical health or safety of your tenant and you have no reason to believe that any problem that could affect the physical health or safety of your tenant will happen throughout your tenant’s lease.

This provision must be in the lease and underlined or bold. The agreement must be specific and clear. The landlord and tenant may agree that, except for problems caused by the negligence of the landlord, the tenant must pay for any damages.

Parking

If you tow cars or have parking rules that apply to the tenant in a multi-unit complex, you need to give a tenant a copy of the rules and policies before the lease is executed. The tenant must sign the rules and policies or they must be part of the lease agreement in all caps, underlined or bold.[5] You can ask the tenant to provide the make, model, color, year, license number and state of registration for the car that they plan to park.

If you change the rules, you have to give the tenant written notice before they need to start following the rules. The rule must apply to all of your tenants within the complex and be based on necessity, safety, or security of tenants. The rules cannot be effective before the 14th day after the date notice of the change is delivered to the tenant unless the change has to do with an emergency. If you violate the above, you are liable for $100 plus any towing or storage costs incurred. You’ll have to pay attorney's fees and court costs. You have the burden of providing proof that you gave your tenant notice. You’re also liable for any potential damage to the tenant’s vehicle caused by the towing service.

Guarantor Liability

The tenant’s guarantor is only liable for the original lease they signed on unless the contract says that they agree to a guarantee a renewal lease.[6] They can be liable again if the lease includes the last date that the lease can be renewed with the guarantor’s guarantee, as specified by the guarantor. It must also include that the guarantor is only liable if the same people on the original lease are on the new lease and the guarantor’s potential financial obligation for rent does not increase.

The Fair Housing Act

According to the Fair Housing Act, you are not allowed to ask a potential tenant questions about race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, any disability, age, or medical history. You cannot deny a tenant rent because of any of these reasons or because of any personal characteristics, like appearance or sexual orientation.[7]

The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination in any process pertaining to finding a home. Landlords are restricted from the following:[8]

  • Refusing to rent or sell a home
  • Making housing unavailable
  • Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale or rental of a home
  • Providing different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely denying that a home is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • Advertising or making any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on national origin, religion, sex, disability, or the presence of children
  • Threatening, coercing, intimidating or interfering with someone exercising their fair housing rights

Additionally, if your tenant has a physical or mental disability, you must:

  • Pay to make reasonable modifications to the property so that the tenant can use the home. You can require that the tenant change it back at the end of the lease.
  • Make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services, if the tenant needs them to live in the home.
A Copy of the Lease

You need to give the tenant a copy of the lease within three business days of when everyone has signed the
lease.[9] If there’s more than one tenant, you don’t need to provide every tenant with a lease. You need to provide extra copies within three business days of when any other tenant asks for a copy of the lease. You can provide the lease in print, through email or in a .pdf file.

Disclosures

The Texas government requires you to give your tenant certain information when they move in. The law requires it so that the tenant is informed of all safety concerns prior to moving into a new home. These disclosures also ensure that you and your tenant can easily communicate with one another.

Owner Name and Address

If the tenant asks, you must disclose:[10]

  • The name of the person who owns the property
  • The street or P.O. Box address of the owner
  • The name and address of your property management company, should you use one

You can give the above information to the tenant in one of three ways.

  1. Give the tenant the information in writing.
  2. Continuously post the information in an obvious place within the unit, or in the office of an on-site property manager.
  3. Within the lease or property rules before the tenant requests the information.

You have acted in “bad faith" if you give your tenant incorrect information when disclosing your name, address and property management company, or if the information changes and you don’t update it.[11]

That means your tenant can do any combination of the following:[12]

  • Get a court order directing you to give up the new information.
  • Seek judgment to charge you for the actual costs of finding out the information.
  • Seek judgment for damages of one month’s rent plus $100.
  • Seek judgment for court costs and attorney fees.
  • Terminate the lease without having to go to court.

If a government official or employee asks for the above information, you must provide it in writing within seven days of when they request the information. The government request must be made in writing. In this case, the official can do the following if you don’t comply:

  • Get a court order directing you to give up the new information.
  • Seek judgment to charge you for the actual costs of finding out the information.
  • Seek judgment for $500.
  • Seek judgment for court costs and attorney fees.
Lead-Based Paint

While you’re not required to remove lead-based paint, you are required to let the tenant know that it is there. If your property was built before 1978, you need to tell the tenant that it’s very likely that the unit is painted with lead-based paint before they sign the lease. As a landlord, you are obligated to tell your tenants about this before they sign the lease. You need to provide the tenant with:[13]

  • A pamphlet about identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards
  • Any information about other units or common spaces that have lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards

Security Deposits

You must keep accurate records of all security deposits.[14]

Security Deposit Refund

You need to refund the security deposit to your tenant within 30 days of when the tenant permanently leaves your unit.[15] You can require in your lease that the tenant gives you advance notice when they are ending the lease as a condition of getting back the security deposit if you write it in bold or underline it.

You need to return your tenant’s security deposit if they break the lease but find you a replacement tenant, or if you find a replacement tenant before the current tenant’s lease ends. If you’re the one who finds the replacement tenant, you can deduct a cancellation fee, if that’s stated in your lease.

You can also deduct any costs related to getting the replacement tenant. You should send the security deposit in the mail on or before the date it’s due.[16] At that point, the law considers the refund returned.

You do not have to give the tenant the security deposit or an itemized list of deductions if you weren’t given a written statement with the tenant’s forwarding address. Mainly because, where would you send it to? However, this doesn’t mean the tenant gave up their right to the security deposit.[17]

Deductions

Before your tenant leaves, you can deduct any damages or charges that your tenant is liable for under the lease. You cannot deduct from the deposit damages due to normal wear and tear; however, you can deduct damages caused by negligence. For example, normal wear and tear would be a cabinet loose from its hinges. Negligent damage would be a cabinet broken in half.

If you retain any of the security deposit, you must give the tenant the balance, a written description of what you spent money on and an itemized list.[18] You’re not required to give the tenant the list if they owe rent at the end of the lease and they don’t disagree with what they owe you. If you keep the security deposit from the tenant for more than 30 days, you owe the tenant $100 + three times the amount of the security deposit and the tenant’s attorney's fees from when they filed the lawsuit against you for the money.

Additionally, if you don’t give the tenant an itemized list and a written description of what you deducted, within 30 days:

  • You lose the right to keep any part of the deposit to pay for damages.
  • You’re liable for the tenant’s attorney's fees.
No Security Deposit Collected

If in the lease it states that you did not require a security deposit, then you must tell the tenant about any damages you are charging them before reporting them to a collection agency.[19] Unless the tenant hasn’t given you a security deposit, then you don’t need to give them notice.

Buying a Leased Property

If you buy a property that already has tenants, you become responsible for the tenant’s security deposit.[20] You also need to take the tenant a signed statement telling them you now own the property, you are now responsible for their security deposit, and how much the security deposit is. The person who owned the property before is liable for the security deposit until you have received the deposit or have assumed liability for the deposit. It is very important that you communicate with the previous owner to obtain the security deposit. You don’t want to be stuck in the position of returning it to the tenant when you never had it.

Collecting Rent

When your tenants pay on time, collecting rent is the most enjoyable part of being a landlord. However, you can be liable for some hefty fines in Texas if you do not follow certain rent collection protocols.

Cash Payments

You must accept timely cash payments unless your lease requires the tenant to pay by check, money order, or other traceable methods.[21] When a tenant pays you cash, you need to give them a receipt and enter the payment date and amount in a record book that you maintain. If you break these rules, your tenant can sue you for court costs, attorney's fees and one month’s rent or $500, whichever amount is bigger.

Late Fees

You can charge a late fee for a tenant failing to pay rent if you have notice of the fee in the written lease and the fee is a reasonable estimate of damages that you couldn’t possibly calculate in advance. You can charge the fee after one full day that the rent has not been paid.[22] If you charge a late fee, and the above is not true, you will be liable to pay the tenant $100, triple the late fee you charged and attorney fees. The fee can include an initial fee and then a daily fee for every day late thereafter. Charging a late fee does not negate your right to end the lease if the tenant doesn’t pay you on time.

Government Fees

You can collect reimbursement from your tenant for fees and fines imposed by a governmental entity if the tenant or a guest of the tenant actually caused the damage or condition on which the fine is based.

Last Month’s Rent

Your tenant cannot keep the last month’s rent from you on the grounds that you can keep the security deposit in its place.[23]

Reason being, the security deposit is meant to cover damages to the property, not missed rent. The damages to the property might exceed the security deposit, and then you’d be left with extra damages to pay for and no last month’s rent. If a tenant tries to keep last month’s rent from you, they are liable for three times the rent they withheld and your attorney's fees in the lawsuit you filed to recover the rent.

Problem Solving

While most tenants are easy to deal with, some may cause you grief. Texas has laws established to protect you and your tenant when situations get out of hand. More so, Texas law indicates protocols you should follow to help you and your tenant find mutually beneficial solutions.

Cutting Off Utilities You Pay For

If the lease says that you are in charge of paying utilities, you are liable for any utilities that are cut off and if the tenant receives written notice the utility will be cut off.[24] The tenant can:

  • Pay the utility company to reconnect services or keep them from being shut off and deduct the amount they paid the utility company from due rent or upcoming rent.
  • End the lease in writing and move out within 30 days of when the utilities are cut off or when the utility company gives notice that they will be cut off. The tenant can also recover a pro rata refund for any advance rent paid for after the date of termination or the date they move out, whichever is later.
  • Recover actual damages, like moving costs, storage fees and lost money from missing work.
  • Recover court costs and attorney fees.

The tenant loses the right to do the above if you give them written proof that the utility bill has been paid in full if they receive notice before taking action.

Cutting Off Utilities the Tenant Pays For

You cannot interrupt utilities paid for directly by the tenant except to make repairs, do construction, or for an emergency.[25] Other than as detailed below, you cannot interrupt water, wastewater, gas or electric services that you pay for, except to make repairs do construction, or for an emergency. You may cut off electricity if the tenant didn’t pay for their electricity if the following conditions apply. Your right to interrupt electricity for nonpayment is in the contract. The tenant hasn’t paid for electricity within 10 days of receiving the bill. You have given the tenant written notice in advance of the cut off by hand or through certified mail. The document must be labeled “Electricity Termination Notice." It must include:

  • The date that services will be stopped
  • Where the tenant can go to pay the bill and avoid interruption
  • The amount the tenant would need to pay to keep services from being cut off
  • A statement that the tenant’s electricity payment cannot be applied to rent or other amounts the tenant owes the landlord
  • A statement saying the landlord cannot evict the tenant for not paying for electricity unless electricity has been gone for at least two business days
  • A description of the tenant’s rights to avoid interruption of electricity, should a resident become seriously ill or more seriously ill as a result

When you cut off electricity, you must put a notice on the door that says “Electricity Termination Notice" in bold or underlined. The statement must include everything that the previous notice included but in the past tense. You cannot discontinue services on a day that you are not available to take the electricity payment and reinstate electricity or the day before. You cannot discontinue electricity if the previous day’s highest temperature was below freezing point or if the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory for any of the two days before you cut off electricity. If you do cut off electricity for any other reason, you are liable to the tenant actual damages, one month’s rent plus $1,000, reasonable attorney's fees and court costs. From that, you can deduct any rent the tenant is behind on.

Removal of Property

You cannot take out a door, window, attic hatchway cover or anything related to a door from a property leased to a tenant.[26] You also cannot remove any furniture, fixtures or appliances from a property leased to a tenant unless you’re making a repair. If you change the lock of a tenant who is behind on rent, you or your property manager must place a written notice on the door of:

  • Where on the property the tenant can go 24 hours a day to get a new key or a telephone that is answered 24 hours a day that the tenant can call to get a key delivered. The key must be delivered within two hours of the phone call.
  • The fact that the landlord must get the tenant a new key at any hour of the day regardless of whether the tenant pays the rent.
  • The amount of rent and other charges the tenant owes.

You only have the right to do this if it’s included in your lease that you can change the locks when your tenant is behind on rent. You have to give the tenant a notice in person three days before or by mail at least five days before changing the locks. The notice must say the earliest date you could change the locks; how much rent the tenant needs to pay to prevent the locks from being changed; the name and street address of where the rent can be discussed and paid; and -- in bold or underlined -- the tenant’s right to receive a key to the new lock at any hour regardless if they pay the rent.

You cannot change the locks on a day or the day before you and your property management company will be unavailable to provide the key. If when you arrive to deliver the key, the tenant is not there, you must leave a notice on the front door of the unit stating what time you arrived with the key and the street address where the tenant can go to get the key during normal business hours.

You can follow this procedure once per rental period, but no one can be inside the unit when you do so.

If you do not follow these rules, the tenant has the right to terminate the lease or recover the property with a writ of reentry. The tenant also has the right to recover one month’s rent from you plus $1,000, actual damages, court costs and reasonable attorney's fees less any delinquent rent or other fees the tenant owes the landlord as a civil penalty. If you ask the tenant to pay due rent to get back into the unit, the tenant can also recover an additional month’s rent from you as a civil penalty.

Repairs

You must make a diligent effort to make a repair if your tenant specifies what’s broken in writing to you or your property management company, is not behind on rent, and the problem either affects the tenant’s physical health and safety or is because it affects the property's hot water.[27] You don’t need to repair anything caused by the tenant or guests of the tenant unless the problem was caused by normal wear and tear.

You must give the tenant written notice of any delays within five days of your tenant’s written request.[28] If not, you have the burden of proof in court that you tried to make the repairs in a reasonable amount of time, or that you did make them in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, the tenant has the burden of providing proof in court.

If the repair needs to be made because of a fire, flood or other insured events, you don’t need to make repairs until you have received insurance money.[29] If the damages make the unit unusable, you need to give your tenant a pro rata refund. Either of you can terminate the lease in writing before repairs are finished. If the event left part of the unit unusable, then the tenant’s rent should be proportionally reduced. This paragraph is null if the event was caused by the tenant.

Liability for Repairs

You are legally liable to your tenant for not completing the repairs if:

  • You were or your property management company was given written notice to repair the problem. The problem affects the physical health or safety of your tenant. The tenant gave you a second written notice after a reasonable amount of time passed and you didn’t make the repair or they sent you the original written notice by certified mail, return receipt requested; registered mail, or any other form of mail that allows tracking of delivery.
  • You have had a reasonable amount of time to repair the property after the first notice or second notice, if applicable.
  • You have not made an effort to repair the problem after receiving the first and second notice, if applicable.
  • The tenant was not behind on rent when they gave you notice.

Seven days is considered to be a reasonable amount of time. You are considered to have received the notice when the post office indicates that they have delivered, or attempted to deliver, the notice to the address the tenant usually pays rent to. In this case, the tenant can terminate their lease, have the condition repaired and deduct the cost from rent or obtain a court remedy.

If your tenant decides to end the lease, they are entitled to a pro rata refund from the date they move out. They can deduct the security deposit from any rent they owe. However, the tenant cannot deduct repair expenses from rent if they end the lease. You must include the above information in your lease underlined or in bold.

If your tenant decides to deduct the costs of repairs from future rent, it cannot be more than one month’s rent or $500, whichever is bigger. If the tenant has subsidized rent, the amount is equal to a full month’s rent, not just the part the tenant pays. The tenant can do this as much as they need to, so long as the cost doesn’t exceed one month’s rent or $500 in any given month.

The above paragraph only applies if the landlord had the duty to make the given repair and the tenant gives the landlord written notice that they intend to pay for the repair and deduct the cost from future rent. The repairs must be made by a company, contractor or repairman listed in the yellow or business pages of the phone book or the classified section of the newspaper.

Affidavit for Delay

The affidavit for delay must summarize the reasons why your repairs have been delayed and the diligent efforts that you have made to get the repairs done.[30] You must also include the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the contractors, suppliers and repairmen you have contacted in an attempt to make the repair. Along with contact information, you must include the dates you contacted the above parties.

An affidavit delays repairs by 15 days, if the delay is caused by the wait for parts to arrive.

If the delay is caused by a shortage of labor, the affidavit grants the landlord an additional 30 days to make the repairs.

You can file extra affidavits to delay even further as long as the total delay isn’t more than six months from when you delivered the first affidavit. You must deliver the affidavit by:

  • Personally delivering it to the tenant.
  • Certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Leaving the affidavit inside of the unit in a place where the tenant will see it, if you said you’d be doing that in the lease.

If your tenant says to the court that you didn’t act in good faith to diligently make the repair after you delivered the affidavit, you have the burden of providing proof that you were diligent.

Buying a Leased Property

If you buy a leased property and don’t know the tenant filed a notice of intent to repair, the tenant will still have the right to terminate the lease or make repairs for problems that affect their health and safety and deduct the cost from rent. The tenant does not have to give you any additional notice to do these things because they already provided the information to the previous landlord. For problems that don’t affect the tenant’s health or safety, if (1) you have given the tenant you or your property management company’s name and address in writing, and (2) your tenant has not already contracted someone to make the repairs, the tenant must give you written intent to make the repairs.[31]

Retaliation

You cannot take action against your tenant because they attempt to exercise a right against you that is granted to them by the law or complains to a governmental entity responsible for enforcing building or housing codes, so long as the action is taken in good faith and the tenant believes the complaint is valid. You also cannot take action if the tenant asks you to make a repair or uses one of the indicated solutions to make a repair. Lastly, you cannot take action against your tenant for joining or starting a tenant organization or “union." You cannot file an eviction, keep your tenant from using the land, decrease services for the tenant, increase the tenant’s rent or engage in a course of conduct that interferes with the tenant’s rights within six months of your tenant doing any of the above.[32]

If you do any of those things, you will have the burden of proving that you did them in good faith, should your client take legal action. You still have the right to do any of the above to the tenant, should your tenant breach the lease.

If you’re found guilty of retaliation in court, you will need to pay a civil penalty of one month’s rent, $500, actual damages, court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.[33] By the same token, if your tenant makes one of the above complaints in "bad faith," you can recover a civil penalty of one month’s rent, $500, court costs and reasonable attorney's fees and you get possession of the property again.

Safety Obligations

To protect your tenants, the state of Texas has the following regulations regarding safety. You must comply with the regulations. While you may have to pay fines and fees for not following the rules, they also help protect your property. For example, a smoke detector can keep a small fire from turning into a large and damaging one.

Fire Alarms and Smoke Detectors

Smoke alarms must:[34]

  • Detect visible and invisible smoke.
  • Be loud enough for someone in the room to hear.
  • Be tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.; the United States Testing Company, Inc.; or Factory Mutual Research Corporation.
  • If requested, it must be capable of alerting a person with a hearing impairment.

There must be a smoke alarm in each bedroom.[35] If the unit is a studio, the room should have at least one smoke detector. If multiple bedrooms run along a hallway or corridor, the hallway should have a smoke detector. If your property has more than one story, there should be at least one smoke detector on each story. You must inspect each smoke alarm at the beginning of each tenancy and if your tenant reports a malfunction. You are not required to provide batteries for the smoke detector throughout the tenancy, so long as it works when the tenant moves in. If the tenant doesn’t complain about a malfunction, you can assume the alarm is working.[36]

If you don’t do any of the above, your tenant can do any combination of the following:[37]

  • Get a court order forcing you to comply.
  • Get a judgment for you to pay damages.
  • Get a judgment for penalty against you of one month’s rent plus $100.
  • Get a judgment against you for court costs.
  • Get a judgment against you for attorney fees.
  • Terminate their lease without penalty.

You have a legal defense to the above, if the tenant is not up-to-date on rent when giving the landlord notice of the malfunction or if when the tenant terminates the lease, they have not paid all the costs owed to you.[38]

Fire Extinguishers

If you’ve installed a non-rechargeable fire extinguisher because of a local law or ordinance, you must inspect it at the beginning of the lease and within a reasonable amount of time after receiving a written request from your tenant.[39] When you inspect your property, you should make sure: the extinguisher is present, the pressure indicator is indicating the correct pressure, and that it satisfies inspection requirements. After an initial inspection, you can assume it’s working until your tenant tells you in writing that it’s not.

If an inspection indicates a fire extinguisher is not working or that the pressure is wrong, or if a tenant tells you they had used it for a legitimate reason, you need to repair it.[40] You don’t need to repair or replace it if it has been misused or damaged. However, if the tenant gives you the money to repair or replace it, then you need to.

Doors and Windows

You are required to provide your tenant with:[41]

  • A window latch on each exterior window of the unit.
  • A doorknob lock or a keyed deadbolt on the entrance door of the unit.
  • A sliding door pin lock on glass doors with access to the outside.
  • A sliding glass door handle latch or security bar for all doors with access to the outside.
  • A keyless bolting device and peephole on the inside of doors that have access to outside.

You must change all of the above locks within seven days of when a tenant leaves the property at your own expense.[42] If the tenant asks you to change the locks at any other point, the tenant is responsible for the cost. If you’re changing the locks so that you can have a new master key, you are responsible for the fee. If the tenant breaks the lease and leaves sooner than expected, the tenant is responsible for the cost of changing the locks. It may be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit, but only if the lease says so in bold or underlined type.

If a tenant informs you of a broken security lock, you must repair it.[43] The tenant can notify you over the phone, in person or in writing unless the lease says that it has to be in writing. The landlord will install any of the following, at the tenant’s expense and request:[44]

  • A keyed dead bolt on an exterior door, if the door has a doorknob lock or a keyless bolting device.
  • A sliding door handle latch or sliding door security bar to a sliding glass door with access to outside that doesn’t have a sliding door handle latch or a sliding door security bar.

You must comply with the tenant’s request within seven days of when you receive it.[45] If you request that the tenant pays for it in advance, then you have seven days from when they pay you to comply with the request. A reasonable amount of time is reduced to 72 hours from when you’re notified by the tenant if:

  • Someone entered or attempted to get into the unit without the tenant’s permission.
  • Someone entered or attempted to enter a unit within the same building as your tenants less than two months before they ask you to change the locks.
  • A crime or violent event happened in the tenant’s complex less than two months before they ask you to change the locks.

An exception to the reasonable amount of time designation can be made if:

  • You didn’t know about the tenant’s request.
  • The materials, labor and/or utilities to complete the task were unavailable to the landlord.
  • You, or one of your immediate family members, is ill or passed away.

You cannot ask your tenant to pay for repair or replacement for a lock that is broken because of normal wear and tear. You can require the tenant to pay for it if an underlined section of the lease gives you the power to do so when the tenant misused or damaged the lock because of negligence.

Ending or Renewing the Lease

Good tenants who rent your unit for many years are very convenient. However, sometimes you part ways with one tenant and look for another. The following are laws applicable to ending leases with tenants in Texas.

Eviction

You can evict a tenant if they are behind on rent; damages property; threatens you or another tenant's personal safety; or breaches the lease. You can ask your tenant to leave or just file the eviction with the court. Also, you can evict your tenant for not leaving at the end of a lease you did not renew. Or, you can evict your tenant for staying in the apartment after they terminated the lease. Additionally, if you feel your tenant will negatively impact other tenant's ability to quietly enjoy their home, materially affect you or other tenant's health or physical safety, or cause damage to your property, you can evict them.

Military Service

A tenant who is a servicemember or the dependent of a servicemember may terminate a lease and avoid paying future rent or early termination fees if the tenant or dependent enters military service after signing the lease, or the servicemember receives a permanent change of station or deploys with a military unit for a period of 90 days or more.[46]

The tenant must give the landlord a written notice of lease termination and a copy of a government document that provides evidence of the reason for leaving. Within 30 days of lease termination, you need to refund all rent or amounts paid in advance of the termination date. However, the tenant still needs to pay you any rent or other fees due.

If you violate this section, you have to pay a civil penalty of actual damages, one month’s rent, $500 and attorney's fees. A tenant cannot waive the right to terminate a lease because of military service. You and your tenant may agree to waive tenant’s rights if they move to military housing within 30 miles of the home. However, the tenant cannot waive their rights to move into housing owned by family or relatives of the tenant or if the tenant moves because of financial loss of more than 10 percent or more of the tenant’s overall home income when joining service.

Family Violence

A tenant that has been victim of family violence can terminate the lease without any liability for future rent or any other sums due for ending a lease before the lease expires.[47] The tenant needs to provide you a temporary injunction, a temporary ex parte order, or a protective order. The tenant has the right to leave the day after a judge has signed any of the above options, the tenant provides you with the documentation, the tenant gives you written notice of termination on or before the 30th day the lease terminates, the 30th day after the date the tenant provided notice expires and the tenant vacates the unit. If you don’t let the tenant leave, you are liable for one month’s rent, attorney fees and $500.

Sex Offenses or Stalking

A tenant can end the lease and avoid paying future rent and any early termination fees before the end of the lease if the tenant is a victim or parent or guardian of a victim of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, indecency with a child, sexual performance with a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child, or the attempt to commit any of the above.[48] The tenant must provide the landlord with a copy of documentation of the abuse of the victim from a licensed health care or mental health services provider who examined the victim, documentation of the abuse from an individual, authorized by Govement Code Chapter 420, who provided services to the victim or documentation of a protective order issued under the Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 7A (excluding a temporary ex parte order). If the tenant is a victim or parent or guardian of a victim of stalking that took place within the last six months on your property, the tenant shall give you documentation of protective order under the Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 7A, or documentation of the stocking from those provided above and a law enforcement incident report or another record maintained by a law enforcement agency.

Commercial Tenancies

Commercial tenancies include:[49]

  • Rooms at hotels, motels, inns, etc.
  • Housing owned or operated by an accredited college or university or preparatory schools accredited by the Texas Education Agency.
  • Rent to own properties.

Disclosures

According to Texas' laws, you need to give the buyer or renter of your property specific information to protect their safety and the safety of their business.

Mold Disclosure

You must give the tenant or buyer a copy of each Certificate of Mold Damage Remediation you have received for the past five years.[50] These are provided to you by contractors licensed to remedy mold on your property.

Storage Tanks

Sellers of property containing underground or aboveground storage tanks must give buyers and renters written notice of the tank owners obligations to register and comply with self-certification and certain construction and notification requirements.[51] It must include the name and address of the seller, the purchaser, the number of tanks involved, a description of each tank and the agency's designated facility identification number.

If you have an underground tank, the notice should include this language:

The underground storage tank(s) which are included in this conveyance are presumed to be regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and may be subject to certain registration, compliance self-certification, construction notification, and other requirements found in Title 30 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 334.

If you have an above ground tank, the notice should include this language:

The aboveground storage tank(s) which are included in this conveyance are presumed to be regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and may be subject to certain registration, delivery prohibition, installation notification, and other requirements found in Title 30 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 334.

Security Deposits

You need to give your tenant a refund of their security deposit within 60 days of when the tenant leaves your property and gives you a forwarding address.[52] You can deduct damages and charges that the tenant is legally responsible for under the lease or from breach of the lease.[53] You cannot keep any portion of the security deposit to cover normal wear and tear, or deterioration that results from using the property for its intended purpose. It does not include deterioration from negligence, carelessness, carelessness, or abuse of the unit or equipment from the tenant or the tenant’s guests.

Regardless, you need to give your tenant a written description and an itemized list of what you’re deducting unless:

  • The tenant owes you rent when they give you the property.
  • Your tenant is completely okay with the amount you are deducting.
Buying a Leased Property

If you buy a leased property, you are responsible for returning the security deposit as listed above to your
tenants.[54] You’re not obligated to return the security deposit until the tenant gives you a written statement with a forwarding address.[55] You wouldn’t know where to send the security deposit if the tenant didn’t give you this statement. Though you don’t have to give the tenant the security deposit without this information, the tenant has not forfeited the right to the security deposit.

You must return the security deposit within the 60 days or you will need to pay the tenant $100 + three times the cost of the security deposit + legal fees for the lawyer they used to sue you. You’re also liable for that amount if you don’t give the tenant a list of itemized damages.[56] Additionally, if you wait more than 60 days, you forfeit the right to deduct anything from the security deposit for damages the tenant caused. If your tenant brings a lawsuit against you to ask for the deposit, you’re the one who needs to prove that withholding the security deposit was reasonable. The tenant does not need to provide any proof that you were unreasonable.

Keeping the Security Deposit

You can deduct any damages or charges that your tenant is legally liable for or charges that came about because they breached the lease from their deposit before returning it.[57] However, you cannot retain any part of the deposit to cover normal wear and tear.

If you keep any part of the security deposit, you need to provide the tenant with the balance of the security deposit -- if any -- along with a written description and an itemized list of deductions.

If your tenant doesn't give you a written document with their forwarding address after leaving your unit, you don't have to give back the security deposit or a written description of what you deducted from it.

Mind you, the tenant hasn't given up the right to the deposit or description because they didn't give you a forwarding address. You simply can hold onto it until you receive that from the tenant. If you never get a forwarding address, you can technically keep the money indefinitely.[58]

If you keep the security deposit in "bad faith," you are liable for $100, three times the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld and attorney fees the tenant accrued in the suit to retrieve their security deposit.[59]

Should you not give the tenant a written description and itemized list of charges, you forfeit the right to keep any part of the deposit or to sue the tenant for damages. You're also liable for the tenant's attorney fees in the suit to recover the deposit.

You have the burden of proving that keeping a part of the security deposit was reasonable.

Collecting Rent

Texas has few laws regarding rent collection for commercial properties. They are detailed below.

Last Month's Rent

Your tenant cannot keep payment of rent from you the last month of their lease on the grounds that the security deposit will cover the unpaid rent.[60] The purpose of the security deposit is to cover the cost of damages. While you (the landlord) can choose to use it to cover rent the tenant owes you, that is not the ideal situation and the law agrees.

A tenant who attempts to withhold last month's rent, for this reason, has acted in "bad faith." The tenant is liable for three times the cost of rent wrongfully withheld and your attorney fees from the lawsuit you used to recover the cost of rent.

At the End of the Tenancy

You can keep part of your tenant's security deposit if they owe you rent.[61] You do not need to give your tenant a written description or itemized list if you deduct from their deposit for this reason.

Safety Obligations

Your tenant has the right to the items originally part of your unit when they moved in. These rights protect your tenant's safety and are easy to comply with.

Removing Property

You cannot remove doors, windows or attic hatchway covers and anything connected to them like locks, latches, hinges, hinge pins, door knobs, or other mechanisms.

You also cannot remove furniture, fixtures, or appliances that you had in the property when you rented it to the tenant. However, you can remove any of the above if you need to make a repair.[62]

Utilities

You cannot purposefully or accidentally shut off your tenant’s utilities if they directly pay for them. The only exception is if it’s to make repairs, do construction, or for an emergency.[63]

Ending a Commercial or Residential Lease

A monthly tenancy can be ended by the tenant or the landlord as long as notice is given. The date of termination should be a month later because the lease will not end less than one month after notice is given.

If the tenancy is shorter than month-to-month -- for example, week-to-week -- the tenancy can end no sooner than after the end of this period. So, in the above example, the tenancy must last at least one more week. If the tenancy ends after the end of the rent pay-period, the tenants are only responsible for rent up to the day that they leave.

The above does not apply if both you and the tenant signed a document specifying different time periods for lease termination.[64]

Last Month’s Rent

Your tenant cannot avoid paying you last month’s rent because you haven’t given back their deposit.[65] If your tenant does this, they are liable for three times the amount of the last month’s rent and your legal fees in the lawsuit you file to recover the fee.

Removing Property from a Unit

In a commercial lease, you cannot prevent your tenant from entering the unit they have rented unless:[66]

  • A judge has given you writ of possession.
  • You need to make repairs or do construction work.
  • There is an emergency.
  • You are removing the contents of an apartment that has been abandoned by a tenant.

A property is considered to be abandoned by the tenant if the following is true:

  • A substantial amount of their property has been or is being removed by the tenant.
  • Removing property isn’t something the tenant usually does.

You can remove and store anything that the tenant leaves on the property after they have abandoned it. The tenant has 60 days to pick up their property. You must send the tenant written notice by certified mail that you can dispose of their property if they don’t pick it up by a certain date.

  • You are changing the locks of a tenant who hasn’t paid at least part of their rent.

If you’ve changed the locks because the tenant is delinquent on rent, you must give the tenant the opportunity to pick up a new key during business hours if they pay the owed rent. You must write a written notice on the tenant’s front door with the name and address of the person they can pick up the key from and pay the rent to. Should you fail to comply, you will owe the tenant actual damages, one month’s rent or $500, whichever is greater.

Additionally, you’ll need to pay the tenant’s attorney fees and court costs, minus the amount of rent they owed. At that point, the tenant can either recover possession of the property or terminate their lease. To recover possession of the lease, the tenant must file a sworn complaint for reentry with the justice court in the precinct where the unit is located.[67] The complaint must specify the facts of the lockout by the landlord or a representative of the landlord. The tenant must also take an oath with the justice that what they say is true.

The judge can then file a writ of reentry that gives the tenant immediate, though possibly temporary, possession of the premises. The writ is temporary because the decision is pending a final hearing. The sheriff or constable can also use reasonable force to give the tenant access to the unit.

The writ must be served to the landlord or landlord’s representative by the sheriff or constable. It must include the landlord’s right to a hearing. The hearing must take place within seven days of the landlord’s request for one. The tenant must request the hearing within seven days of being served the writ, or the landlord will be held liable for damages.

If you fail to comply with a writ, it is grounds for being deemed in contempt of the court.[68]

Additionally, your tenant can get an affidavit to a judge. If the judge finds you have disobeyed the writ, they can place you in jail without bail until you purge yourself of the contempt in a manner and form that the judge approves of. If you comply with the writ after the judge demands your presence in court but before you appear, the judge may find you in contempt of the court and assess a punishment.

If your tenant does this to you and you are not guilty, you can recover the cost of damages, one month’s rent or $500 from them, whichever is more. They will also need to pay your attorney's fees, the cost of the court, and any other sums that they are liable to you for.

Public Indecency

You can end your tenant’s lease if they are arrested for public indecency, they used your unit for it, and is no longer trying to appeal the conviction.[69] The state defines public indecency as prostitution, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual contact, sexual conduct, and sexual intercourse.[70]

You Breached the Lease

If you breached the lease and your tenant is not in default, you are liable for damages.[71] The tenant can collect the damages by getting a lien on your property or by deducting the money from owed rent.

Fixing the Damages

You are, unfortunately, responsible for fixing any damages your tenant leaves behind. Any section of your lease that says otherwise will not stand up in court. You can use the security deposit to fix things, but you cannot charge the tenant for any further damages.[72]

Sources

  1. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.3515
  2. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.352
  3. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.354
  4. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.006
  5. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.0131
  6. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.021
  7. Civil Code Section 51
  8. The Department of Housing and Urban Development
  9. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.024
  10. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.201
  11. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.204
  12. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.205
  13. Environmental Protection Agency regulations
  14. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.106
  15. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.103
  16. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.1041
  17. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.107
  18. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.104
  19. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.110
  20. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.105
  21. Property Code Title 8 Section 92
  22. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.019
  23. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.108
  24. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.301
  25. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.008
  26. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.0081
  27. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.052
  28. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.053
  29. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.054
  30. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.0562
  31. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.0562
  32. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.331
  33. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.333
  34. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.254
  35. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.255
  36. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.258
  37. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.260
  38. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.261
  39. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.263
  40. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.264
  41. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.153
  42. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.156
  43. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.158
  44. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.157
  45. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.161
  46. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.017
  47. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.016
  48. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.0161
  49. Property Code Title 8 Section 92.152.
  50. Texas Occupations Code Section 1958.154 (b)
  51. Title 30 Texas Administrative Code Section 334.9
  52. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.005
  53. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.005
  54. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.007
  55. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.009
  56. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.011
  57. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.006
  58. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.009
  59. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.011
  60. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.010
  61. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.006
  62. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.002
  63. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.002
  64. Property Code Title 8 Section 91.001
  65. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.010
  66. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.002
  67. Property Code Title 8 Section 93.003
  68. Government Code Title 2 Subtitle A Chapter 21.002
  69. Property Code Title 8 Section 91.003
  70. Penal Code Title 9 Chapter 43
  71. Property Code Title 8 Section 91.004
  72. Property Code Title 8 Section 91.006