In Texas, an oral or written rental agreement is considered as valid when a landlord accepts regular payments for inhabiting a property. According to Texas law (TX Property Code Chapter 92), a rental agreement allows certain rights to the tenant, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to take at least one form of alternative action.
Landlords also have certain rights, such as the right to collect rent on a regular basis and deduct for costs from damages that are beyond normal wear and tear.
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
Landlord Responsibilities in Texas
In Texas, landlords are required to maintain a habitable unit and must respond to repair requests in a timely manner (7 days). If they do not, the Texas tenants have the right to make the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from future rental payments.
Texas is one of the few states where the laws do not enumerate specific amenities that the landlord must provide. Instead, Texas works on a very open-ended warranty of habitability which only requires landlords to make repairs to existing amenities that “materially affect the health or safety of an ordinary tenant.” The only exception to this is hot water, which must be readily available at all times.
It is illegal for landlords to evict tenants in retaliation for exercising their housing rights (i.e. filing a health and safety complaint.)
Tenant Responsibilities in Texas
Apart from paying rent in a timely manner, Texas tenants must:
- Keep the unit in a safe and habitable condition
- Keep fixtures clean and sanitary
- Make small repairs and maintenance
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
Evictions in Texas
Texas landlords are empowered to evict tenants for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent, then the landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit, after any applicable grace period. If the terms of the notice are not met then the landlord may initiate formal eviction proceedings.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs then the landlord may immediately send a notice to quit. It is customary for landlords to give 3 days to fix the issue but not required. If the terms of the notice are not met, then the landlord may file for eviction.
- Illegal acts – If the landlord has documentation of illegal activities on the premises, then they may file a 3-Day Notice to Quit. If the violation involves public indecency, then the landlord may terminate the lease without prior notice.
At-will tenants are entitled to at least 30 days’ advance notice if they rent on a month-to-month basis. It is illegal for landlords to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.
Security Deposits in Texas
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – None.
- Time Limit for Returns – 30 Days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Texas landlord wrongfully withholds rent then they may be liable to pay up to 3 times the value of the deposit plus a $100 fine per instance, along with relevant attorney fees.
- Allowable Deductions – Cost of repairs, unpaid rent.
Lease Termination in Texas
Notice requirements. If a Texas tenant wishes to terminate a periodic lease, then they must give the following amounts of notice:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
|Month-to-Month||30 Days (can be modified)|
Early termination. Texas tenants may legally break a lease early for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Landlord harassment
- Domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking
Texas tenants who break a lease may be liable to pay the remainder of the original lease agreement. Most landlords will allow tenants to sublease an apartment to take over this obligation.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Texas
- Rent control. Current state law prohibits any kind of policy that would amount to rent control on both a state and local level. As such, landlords in Texas can charge whatever they want for rental prices.
- Rental increases. Texas landlords are not required to give prior notice before raising the rent and are not limited in how much they raise rental prices.
- Rent-related fees. The state neither limits late fees nor returned check fees so landlords can charge what they wish.
Housing Discrimination in Texas
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Texas state law does not extend protections to any extra groups not outlined in the Fair Housing Act.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs handles issues relating to housing discrimination. They have highlighted the following behaviors as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group:
- Misrepresenting unit availability
- Requiring different leasing conditions
- Advertising that indicates a discriminatory preference
- Harassment, verbal intimidation, sexual advances
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
- “Steering” tenants towards neighborhoods and complexes that may be seen as segregated
Tenants who believe they have been the victim of housing discrimination may file a complaint here. Specific penalties vary on a case-by-case basis.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Texas
Landlord Right to Entry in Texas
Landlords in Texas are required to give notice before entering a property, but the law does not state how much. Landlords and tenants can set their own entry notification terms in a lease agreement. Landlords are not required to get permission to enter in case of emergencies.
Small Claims Court in Texas
Texas small claims court will hear rent-related cases valued up to $10,000. Residential lease contracts have a 4-year statute of limitations.
Mandatory Disclosures in Texas
Texas landlords must make 4 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. If a landlord owns a home built before 1978, they must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized agents. Texas landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in managing the unit.
- Right to repair and deduct. Landlords in Texas must provide documents that express, in clear language, their right to repair and deduct if repair requests are not met.
- Right to break a lease for special conditions. Starting in 2021, landlords must include language in a lease agreement that specifies the tenant’s right to terminate the lease under special conditions.
Changing the Locks in Texas
Texas law has certain provisions that allow for lockouts in a limited number of circumstances. However, landlords may only change tenant’s locks once in a given rental period.
Local Laws in Texas
Dallas Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Dallas provides extra protections for tenants. Landlords are not allowed to increase rent or diminish services as a response to a formal complaint. More info can be found here.
Austin Landlord Tenant Rights
Tenants in Austin are entitled to take part in a variety of programs relating to fair housing and landlord-tenant mediation. These programs are provided by the Austin Tenants Council which can be contacted here.
San Antonio Landlord Tenant Rights
San Antonio maintains several housing programs designed to help in-need tenants who need financial support. More about these services can be found here.
Houston Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Houston has the “Security Device Law of 1993” that requires security devices be installed in rental units that meet certain city standards. This covers lock systems, bolted doors, and window locks. Basically, their requirements make more specific housing standards. More info can be found here.
Fort Worth Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Fort Worth requires landlords to provide notice if the failure to pay utility bills will result in their cessation. The landlords must wait 7 days then provide a 5-Day Notice to pay. If the terms of this notice are not met, the landlord may shut off the utility.
Check your local county and municipality for additional land-lord tenant regulations.