Texas Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Texas Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Last Updated: December 30, 2022 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions
  • Unpaid rent
  • Costs of damage
  • Costs due to a breach of lease
  • Other charges listed in lease
Return Deadline 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required (with exceptions)
Penalty for Late Return 3x Deposit + $100 + Attorneys’ fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Texas, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Texas

In Texas, the following things can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Costs incurred by the landlord as a result of a breach of the lease
  • Other charges as outlined in the lease

Most states, such as Texas, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If a tenant breaches the lease by ending the lease term early, and they find a replacement tenant satisfactory to the landlord, the landlord can only make the following deductions as a result of the change in tenant:

  • A cancellation fee as described in the lease agreement
  • Actual expenses incurred by the landlord in securing a new tenant

However, the replacement tenant must move in on or before the last day of the original lease. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord may make the standard deductions, such as damage and unpaid rent.

If the cost of damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear & Tear vs Damage in Texas?

Normal wear and tear is damage that is expected when a rental unit is used in a normal way, such as gently worn carpets and faded walls. Damage is the destruction caused by abusive or negligent use of a rental unit, like ripped carpets and heavily stained walls.

“Normal wear and tear” is defined by Texas Property Code as “deterioration that results from the intended use of a dwelling, including…breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition.” Put simply, it is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

Damage” is indirectly defined by Texas Property Code as “deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, equipment, or chattels by the tenant, by a member of the tenant’s household, or by a guest or invitee of the tenant.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Texas?

Yes, landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way. However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Texas?

Yes, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures. However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Texas?

In Texas, landlords are allowed to charge a cleaning fee if mentioned in the lease or if the tenant causes damage that requires cleaning.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Texas?

Yes, in Texas, landlords can charge for painting, but only if the tenant causes damage, rather than normal wear to the paint, or if the tenant repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement.

Normal wear includes minor scrapes from daily use, fading due to sunlight, or minor cracks in the original paint. Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Texas?

No, a security deposit cannot be used for last month’s rent in Texas. If a tenant refuses to make the final rent payment and demands the use of the security deposit for rent may be held liable for three times the rent withheld plus reasonable attorney’s fees.

Security Deposit Returns in Texas

Landlords must return a security deposit by mail with a written notice to the tenant’s forwarding address no later than 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental unit. However,the landlord is not obligated to return the security deposit until the tenant provides a forwarding address in writing.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Texas?

Texas landlords have 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental unit to return any unused portion of the security deposit by mail, except the landlord is not obligated to return the security deposit until the tenant provides a forwarding address.

The tenant’s failure to provide a forwarding address does not mean that they forfeit their security deposit.

The security deposit is considered returned to the tenant on the day it is postmarked.

A landlord may require the tenant to provide advance notice to vacate the rental unit as a condition for returning the security deposit, but only if the condition is included in the lease agreement. The condition must be underlined or printed in conspicuous bold print on the lease.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Texas?

Landlords in Texas do not owe interest on security deposits, unlike in some states, such as New Jersey.

How Do Landlords Give Notice / What Information Do They Have to Provide in Texas?

Written notice must be mailed to the tenant’s forwarding address and must include the amount of the security deposit due, if any, to the tenant, plus a written list of deductions. However, a written list of deductions is not required if the tenant owes rent and there is no controversy over the amount owed.

A template of a security deposit return letter is available to download on our website.

Security Deposit Disputes in Texas

If a tenant provides a forwarding address and the landlord does not return the security deposit within the 30-day period, the tenant can file a claim in court for up to three times the amount of the deposit plus $100 and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to provide written notice when required to do so
  • Unreasonable deductions such as for normal wear and tear

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Texas?

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court, called Justice Court in Texas, if the amount of damages is less than $20,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file in the local County Court or District Court, depending on where the case is filed.

A small claims case for a residential lease agreement must be filed within 4 yearsand an attorney is not required but allowed. Cases are filed in the Justice Court where the defendant lives or the rental property is located. Filing fees are typically $54 but may vary depending on your local Justice Court.

Our website provides more information about the process of filing a dispute in Small Claims Court.

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