7 Things to Know for Texas Landlords

Tenant Check November 8, 2019
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7 Things to Know for Texas Landlords

Texas offers a bit more of a landlord-friendly landscape for rental property owners. Outlined below are the 7 areas of Texas Landlord-Tenant legislation that should be familiar to all landlords and property managers.

Tenant Screening

Texas legislation does not limit the amount that can be charged for an application fee to cover the cost of tenant screening. Notification of tenant screening criteria must be provided to the applicant, and they must sign a verification that they received said criteria.

Landlords and property managers in Texas can take criminal history into consideration when screening potential tenants. They are still held to discrimination laws outlined in the Fair Housing Act and cannot be declined due to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, or familial status.

Eviction

Landlords in Texas must provide a 3-day notice to vacate. It is not required for the landlord to provide an option to pay late rent or remedy the breach of a lease agreement. After the 3 days, if the tenant doesn’t vacate the property, the landlord can file for eviction with their local court.

  • Month-to-month lease, a 30-day notice must be provided
  • Fixed-term lease, the landlord must wait out the end of the lease
  • If the tenant doesn’t vacate, a 3-day notice may then be provided

When an eviction lawsuit is filed and won by the landlord, only an officer of the law may remove the tenant.

Utilities

It is illegal to shut off any utilities if the tenant is delinquent to paying their rent or utilities. Other legislation is applicable to buildings depending on the number of units occupied by tenants:

  • Electricity for rentals with 2 or more units and is master metered
    • Lease agreement must contain a description of the allocation of the electric bill and the average monthly bill for the previous year
    • Landlord may not bill tenant for more than the actual amount charged to the landlord
    • Landlord must maintain records that can be made available to tenant during normal business hours
    • Electric bill must remain independent of other bills and tenant is to have at least seven days to pay
  • Water and Wastewater for rentals with 5 or more units and is billed using an allocation method
    • Lease agreement must include: statement of allocated billing, right to information to verify the billing, average bill amount from previous year, dates the bills are usually issued and due, and a clear description of how it is allocated

Security Deposit

30 days to return the security deposit if the tenant’s forwarding address is provided in writing.
This must include an itemized list with deductions and costs.
Landlords can keep a portion of the security deposit if it is written in the signed lease and has a different name, “carpet-cleaning fee” and “make-ready fee”, for example.
If there is rent due and there is no disagreement over the amount, the landlord is not required to provide an itemized list with deductions.

Entering the Property and Repairs

No limit on when the landlord may enter the property. These limitations should be outlined on the lease, including advance notice. Written notice can be provided by the tenant if entry is permitted under certain circumstances. Entering the property can be for anything from an emergency on the property to showing the unit to prospective buyers or other renters.

Withholding rent until repairs are made is considered retaliation and is putting the tenant at risk of eviction.

Only health and safety repairs are required to be repaired by the landlord. The steps for a renter to request these repairs are outlined in Subchapter B of Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code (§92.051 – §92.061). 

Landlord’s Lien

The state of Texas permits landlords to seize non-exempt property as payment for unpaid rent. This is prohibited if the landlord is receiving housing tax credits. 

The clause explaining the landlord’s right to seize property must be underlined, bold, or clearly highlighted on the lease for it to be enforceable. Property cannot be seized if doing so will be a breach of the peace. A unit may be entered when the tenant is not home. If that is the case, a written notice of delinquent rent due, contact information for who it needs to be paid to, an itemized list of items taken, and that the property will be returned when rent is paid.

Lock Out

You are permitted to change the locks on a unit if that provision is included in the lease and you have provided written notice at lease 3 days prior.

Recent Changes

If a tenant dies in a property, a representative of the estate may terminate the tenant’s rights and obligations to the lease. This is only applicable to properties where the deceased was the only tenant. The representative will be responsible for providing written notification of the termination of the lease, removing the personal property of the deceased, and providing a list of removed property to the landlord. The lease will end on the 30th day after the noticed is provided or when all personal property has been removed and the itemized list provided. This will only take effect for lease agreements signed after Jan. 1, 2020.

When a parking permit is issued to a tenant, the permit must now be effective for the same term as the lease agreement. It cannot be terminated or suspended until the end of the lease term. This will only take effect for parking permits issued after Jan. 1, 2020.

In the case of domestic or family violence, a tenant may terminate a lease and all obligations to it with proper documentation. Documentation now includes an order of emergency protection under Article 17.292. This documentation of the family violence against the tenant or occupant can come from a licensed mental health care provider, licensed health care provider, or advocate assisting the victim. This protection takes effect on Sept. 1, 2019.

If a tenant fails to pay their rent per the terms of the lease, there are new restrictions on what fees may be collected. Fees can only be collected if the fee is outlined on the written lease, the fee is reasonable, and if rent hasn’t been paid for 2 days after the original due date. The other large addition to this legislation is outlining what a “reasonable fee” looks like. This includes limitations based on the number of units in the building, direct and indirect costs and expenses to the landlord, and overhead associated with late payment. An initial fee and daily fees can be combined.