Landlord-Tenant Laws for Texas’ Most Populous Cities

Tenant Check November 8, 2019
Apartment building with cars on outdoor parking garage in suburbs area of Dallas, Texas, USA. New development multi-Storey flat unit, group housing complex condos for modern living style
Cora Younie

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Landlord-Tenant Laws for Texas’ Most Populous Cities

Owning a rental property in Texas can be incredibly lucrative. But actually running the property can be a completely different experience for landlords and property managers in the metropolitan areas. In this guide, we will cover what laws you need to know for renting in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.

Dallas

The city of Dallas has limited additional legislation for landlords and rental property owners. There are only a few areas, including fair housing, where knowledge of city-specific laws will be crucial to understand. 

Retaliation Against Tenants

  • Retaliation is defined as raising the rent or cutting off services to a tenant
  • These actions are prohibited if they are done within 6 months of the following:
    • Tenant must file a valid complaint
    • Director issues citation to landlord
    • City attorney files an action lawsuit under Article IV of Chapter 27, 54, 211, or 214
    • Tenant files a written complaint with the city attorney
  • Repairs must be completed in compliance with the written notice or citation
  • Increases in rent or cutting off services are NOT considered retaliation if they meet one of the following criteria:
    • Escalation clause is in the written lease due to change in utilities, taxes, or insurance
    • Changes impacting all tenants in a multi-dwelling unit
    • Rent was delinquent when notified to vacate or eviction filed
    • Tenant was in violation of Chapter 27
    • Tenant’s lease with fixed rent and utilities has expired
    • Tenant stays after given notice to vacate

Minimum Building Standards

  • These standards seem fairly self-explanatory but in areas of Dallas that may not be the case
  • To avoid costly court fees knowledge and compliance with this Article is crucial, some areas to remember include:
    • Remove dead trees and limbs that may cause injury
    • Provide drainage for standing water and flooding
    • Repair and maintain railings for stairs, steps, balconies, and porches
    • Eliminate rodents, insects, and vermin from the property
    • Keep all appliances in working condition

Houston

Houston, like Dallas, doesn’t have much additional legislation in place for landlords and property managers. Here are a few things you need to know if running a rental property in Houston. The Houston government site also offers clarity on some of the guidelines around fair housing.

If you have a swimming pool on your property there are additional requirements to be aware of.

  • Pool or spa can be inspected once every 12 months, including:
    • Public health risks
    • Consumer complaints
    • Reports of illness outbreaks
    • Facilities past compliance history
  • Previous inspection reports must be available and kept at the facility
  • If a facility closes until violations are remedied, a reinspection must occur before resuming operations

Other legislation includes requirements for the landlord concerning the management of graffiti and rat control. This legislation involves many details including what to expect when getting cover-up paint and the dumping of garbage and rubbish to prevent rat infestation. This legislation is best reviewed in its entirety.

Austin

One of the biggest things to consider if you are a landlord or property manager in Austin is that the area you are in is incredibly desirable. It is advantageous to all landlords in this area to follow state landlord-tenant laws. Being in an area that has people moving there every day gives you a good chance at getting your empty unit rented quickly, but if you aren’t maintaining the property or are difficult to contact when there are issues with the property, you may face more problems than a smooth rental experience. Renters can walk away if they don’t think you or your property is a good fit.

Updates to the 2015 Property Maintenance Code

  • A property owner may be charged by the city for failing to comply with a Commissioner order if the city has to do any of the following:
    • Demolition 
    • Board, fence, or secure the property
    • Vacating or relocating occupants
    • Repair, treat, or remediate in accordance with the code
    • This may be recorded as a lien against the property itself
  • Code inspectors can enter the property during reasonable hours whenever it is necessary to conduct an inspection
  • If a property is in violation of the code, a placard must be placed at all entrances and exits of the building until all violations have been remedied.
  • Unsafe conditions include:
    • The structure or any component of the structure cannot perform as intended
    • Wall or column is not anchored to support a floor or roof
    • Stairs, landings, decks, balconies, walking surfaces, handrails, and guardrails cannot perform as intended or are not anchored to a support structure
    • Any part of the foundation is not supported by soil or has cracks or breaks
  • Other violations include:
    • A bedroom being smaller than 70 square feet for one person or 120 square feet for two people
    • Having too many people living in a property where the life, health, safety, or welfare of the occupants could be impacted
    • Proper installation and maintenance of water heating facilities

San Antonio

Fair Housing is an issue at the forefront of San Antonio level legislation. Local ordinances include some of the items outlined below.

  • Protected Classes are expanded from the state requirements to include:
    • Age
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender identity
    • Veteran status
  • Discriminatory practices include:
    • Evicting tenants due to the race of their guests
    • Listing preferences, limitations, or discriminations in advertising
    • Assigning tenants to a particular part of a building
    • Communicating to a potential tenant that they might not be comfortable with current residents, neighborhood, or development
  • Asking any questions regarding the nature or severity of a potential tenant’s disability is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, including:
    • If they can live independently
    • If they have been treated by a mental health professional
    • If they are medicated
    • If they have been hospitalized recently
  • Reasonable accommodations must be made to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy the unit
    • “No pets” policies must be waived for service animals
    • Landlords must not require additional fees for service animals
  • Accessibility requirements include the following:
    • One accessible route
    • Public and common use areas must be accessible
    • Doorways must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs
    • Accessibility through units and with use of light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and environmental controls
    • Reinforcements in bathrooms to install grab bars
    • Usable kitchen and bathroom spaces for an individual in a wheelchair