Landlords and tenants usually draft a rental lease agreement before a tenant moves in. These agreements may differ slightly depending on each states' laws, so it's vital that, as a landlord, you keep them in mind before drafting one of these documents.
Each agreement has a particular set of rules and responsibilities for all parties involved. Landlords in Texas are free to include specific criteria in their documents as long as they follow Texas law. Read below for an overview of the Texas landlord-tenant law.
What is the Texas landlord-tenant law?
According to the Texas Property Code (Ann. §§ 91.001 to 92.355), the Texas landlord-tenant laws involve the rights and responsibilities that both landlords and tenants have regarding a rental agreement (also known as a lease agreement).
A lease agreement has to provide thorough information on all the requirements needed for a healthy landlord-tenant relationship. These documents also help settle any legal issues that may arise in the future, so it's important that landlords keep them as clear and detailed as possible.
In the state of Texas, a lease agreement is only required for tenants who are planning to live in a rental property for more than 12 months. However, it's still recommended that landlords draft a lease agreement regardless of the amount of time the tenants are planning to stay on the property; this adds an extra layer of legal security to the process.
Texas state law also requires landlords to provide a copy of the entire lease document at least three days after the agreement ends, just in case there are any disputes and the tenant can't find the original.
Selection criteria for tenants in texas
According to the Texas Property Code (Sec. 92.3515), landlords may use the following information to decide if they should approve the tenant:
- Criminal History
- Rental History
- Credit History
Keep in mind that this is a general overview, and landlords can include any other criteria that they consider appropriate for their property. If the tenant can't disclose that information, the landlord may consider that when making a final decision.
Landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities
Overall, the key to maintaining a healthy relationship throughout the duration of the lease agreement is following the terms specified in it. This legal document includes information on what tenants can and cannot do while on the property, as well as the landlords' responsibilities to keep the property safe.
Here's an overview of both tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities in Texas.
Landlord rights and responsibilities
According to Texas state law, landlords have the right to collect rent as specified on the lease agreement, deduct repair costs from extreme damages to their property (more than normal wear-and-tear), and other miscellaneous items.
On the other hand, Texas law doesn't require any landlord to provide a specific number of utilities. According to the "Warranty of Habitability" law, a landlord is required to provide utilities in good condition and also repair services for normal wear and tear.
Whenever a tenant sends a written notice to their landlord about any damages that need repairs, the landlord must make necessary repairs within seven days after receiving the notice. If the landlord fails to do so, then the tenant has the right to seek legal counsel. Learn more about repairs and deductions in Texas.
Tenant rights and responsibilities
In general, Texas tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment (peace and quiet) and general health or safety conditions within the rental property. As said before, if the landlord fails to comply with minimum health and safety measures, the tenant can seek legal advice.
Aside from the right to live in peace while on the property, a tenant must do the following things to maintain a good relationship with their landlord:
- Pay rent on time.
- Keep the property in good condition.
- Repairs damages that are not considered normal wear and tear.
- Promote a healthy environment for other tenants and neighbors.
- Other miscellaneous terms specified by the landlord.
If the tenant cannot comply with the rules listed above, or they cause excessive damage, the landlord may choose to evict them, withhold a portion or all of their security deposit, or sue for damages.
Rent payment clauses
When it comes to paying rent, Texas laws don't impose too many regulations. There are no state laws about rent control measures like in New York , so landlords can charge as much as they want without any issues.
A landlord is also not required to give written notice to the tenant if they're planning on raising the rental price. They can increase the price as much as they please. Below are more payment details.
According to Texas landlord-tenant laws, the landlord must provide a receipt for cash rent payments received. If the tenant pays with any other method, a receipt is not required, but it's recommended. Using a good rental property management software can create receipts for you, and even show your tenants every payment and receipt in their tenant portal online.
A landlord is not required to charge late fees if they don't want to. However, most landlords in Texas tend to charge late fees to motivate tenants to pay rent on time. According to the Texas Property Code, these fees should be estimated by considering any damages that may come to the landlord or property due to late payment (like the inability to pay the mortgage, utilities, or subcontractors).
The average grace period for late payments in Texas is one day. This means that the tenant must pay rent within one day after the due date; otherwise, the landlord can declare the tenant in default or give them notice to vacate and start the eviction process.
A tenant may not withhold rent under their "Repair and deduct" right if the damages don't affect their physical health. Tenants who withhold rent may be exposed to an eviction lawsuit.
Eviction and lease termination
A tenant has the right to terminate the lease early for several reasons, such as an early termination clause, landlord harassment, sexual assault, un-habitable conditions, etc. However, the tenant can also wait until the lease ends to terminate it. In the case of a monthly lease, the tenant needs to provide written notice within 30 days of the end date. While the legal recommendation is 30 days, this amount can be modified.
Alternatively, a landlord may evict their tenant before the lease ends. This is known in Texas laws as "Eviction," "forcible entry and detainer," and "Forcible detainer suits," and it can be applied for the following reasons:
- Breach of lease terms
- Criminal activity
- Nonpayment of rent
According to Texas landlord-tenant laws, the landlord must send a three-day eviction notice before the tenant vacates. If a landlord wants to evict a tenant, make sure they follow all the laws for eviction and lease terminations in Texas.
See our full guide on the eviction process and laws for Texas.
Most landlords use a security deposit to cover normal damages. Landlord-tenant laws in Texas don't ask for a specific security deposit amount, which means that landlords can ask for any amount they want.
Normally, the amount of a security deposit is set at one month's rent, but it's not mandatory to set it at that amount. It's recommended that landlords draft a receipt of the security deposit to prevent future issues when returning it.
A security deposit needs to be returned within 30 days of the tenant leaving the property. If a landlord is not returning the full amount of the security deposit, they must draft an itemized list of repair costs. The landlord has to make these repairs in the itemized list before the 30 days of notice passes.
Keep in mind that a tenant may seek legal help if they feel that the landlord is withholding the security deposit without cause. If the lawsuit passes, the landlord may have to pay up to three times the security deposit amount. Read more about security deposit liabilities in Texas.
Right to entry laws
According to state and federal laws, a landlord must send notice before entering their rental unit. There's no specified amount of notice, so the landlord might choose one they feel comfortable with. On the other hand, a landlord can enter without notice in cases of emergency.
Normally, a notice is sent via certified mail to avoid issues. If the landlord fails to send this notice, the tenant may seek a lawsuit.
Housing discrimination laws
The "Fair Housing Act" and the "Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs" laws protect people who are discriminated based on their color, religion, familial status, race, etc. Tenants who feel discriminated by their landlord in any way can file a written complaint.
Small court claims
State courts can hear security deposit cases with a maximum value of $10,000. This usually happens whenever the landlord refuses to return the security deposit without valid reasons.
Landlord-tenant laws are the foundation of a proper lease agreement, and they have to be followed if all parties want to maintain a good relationship throughout the lease period. If you need any additional details, consider checking our resources below or seeking legal help.
Can the locks be changed on a property in Texas?
A lock can only be changed once per rental period. However, there are some special circumstances in which a tenant can ask for a lock change, such as sexual assault, harassment, etc.
What information about lead based paint must be disclosed to the tenant?
State laws require every landlord to disclose information about lead paint if their home was built in 1978 or before.
Under what conditions may the lease be terminated?
From 2021 and onward, a tenant can terminate the lease under special conditions. According to landlord-tenant laws, the landlord has to specify these special conditions under the lease agreement.
What information aboout authorized parties in Texas must be disclosed by the landlord?
The landlord has to disclose information regarding all the parties involved in the rental unit. This information involves names, addresses, and general contact information.