The only thing more intimidating than renting out a property as a tenant is being the landlord in that situation. Many people don’t realize how many rights and responsibilities property owners actually have in the state. Let’s talk about that.
Comfort, Safety, and Security
Under Texas law, all tenants in the state are entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their own home. This means, in no uncertain terms, that a landlord cannot evict a tenant without just cause, nor can they enter a tenant’s home unannounced excepting emergency scenarios. A landlord is also obligated to protect a tenant against wrongful or illegal actions taken by other tenants.
Other landlord obligations include:
- Changing the locks after the previous tenants leave. If they fail to do this, the tenant is within their rights to deduct the cost of changing them from your next rent payment.
- Installing a deadbolt, a keyless lock, and a peephole on all exterior doors.
- Installing a pin lock and a security bar on all sliding glass doors.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms.
- See to basic maintenance and repair any conditions in the home which could be deemed unsanitary or unsafe.
- Install working latches on all windows.
The Application Process
In order to lease a property, a tenant must first complete a rental application and submit it to either the landlord or the property manager. They will be charged a non-refundable application fee, usually somewhere around $20-$40. Note that if you are the property owner, you are obligated to explain the selection criteria for the property, but not obligated to notify tenants of rejected applications.
The Rental Agreement
All tenants must sign a rental agreement which establishes the following:
- How much rent will be charged each month
- When rent is due
- How long they will be leasing for, if at all
- Any deposits or late fees
- Circumstances under which you have the right to enter the property.
- A written copy of rules and regulations such as pet policies, visitor policies, and insurance requirements
Understanding Your Security Deposit
Note that there is no limit to how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit, though you do have to return it after the tenant moves out. The exception is if the tenant has caused damage exceeding normal wear and tear or have failed to pay their last month’s rent.
We advise that you document the exact condition of a property before moving in with both text and photos, and obtain a signed confirmation from the tenant – that way, if they cause severe damage, they can’t claim it was like that when they moved in.
Texas is not a rent-controlled state, so there is no minimum or maximum rent. You may not raise rent based on race, religion, or gender, nor can you raise the rent in response to a legitimate complaint against them. You may choose to raise the rent with a one-month notice if you’re renting month to month or when a lease ends, but you may not raise the rent for a tenant who has signed a lease.
If a tenant is more than three days late on a rent payment, you may legally evict them from your property. You must give at least three days notice.
Breaking Your Lease
If you wish to terminate a lease for any reason other than nonpayment of rent, you must give at least one month’s notice. You must also provide the tenant with a written reason for the termination. A tenant who wishes to break a lease must similarly give you at least a month’s notice, and you are obligated to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the property.
If you cannot find a new renter, the previous tenant is obligated to pay the remainder of their rent. There are only a few circumstances under which a tenant may break a lease without consequence.
- They are drafted into active military service
- They or a family member who lives with them are the victim of targeted stalking or sexual assault.
- The unit in which they live is not up to Texas Health or Safety codes.
- You have violated the tenant’s privacy rights or harassed them in some fashion. These may include things like changing the locks, removing windows or doors, turning off utilities, giving a key to your suite to an unauthorized third party, etc.
Last but certainly not least, keep the following in mind:
- Subletting a property is prohibited without your prior approval.
- If a co-tenant fails to pay their share of the rent, the other tenants are responsible for paying the difference.
- You must give a written notice of a tenant’s right to terminate a lease under the circumstances described in the previous section.
- If a tenant chooses to fix a safety violation or severe issue in your rental property out of pocket, they can deduct the cost of the repair from your monthly rent, provided it is either under $500 or the equivalent of a month’s rent.
It’s important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a landlord – because unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who don’t. That’s as true in Texas as it is elsewhere. And ultimately, if you’re ever in doubt, give Bormaster a call.
Real estate is one of our many specializations, and we’ve successfully represented property owners, real estate developers, brokers, and agents both in and out of the courtroom, handling a wide range of different disputes and issues.