Texas Landlord Tenant Laws
Rental law in Texas is generally favorable to landlords. However, there are protections for both landlords and tenants included in state statutes, and it is important for both parties to have a general knowledge of these regulations in case a dispute should arise. This article focuses on state statutes that apply throughout Texas, but keep in mind that there may be added statutes at the individual city and county level, especially in areas where the state has no formal laws or terms.
For tenants, tornado insurance is absolutely vital in the parts of Texas where they are known to touch down. Texas state law does not guarantee that a tenant can terminate a lease in the wake of a natural disaster if the dwelling is still deemed to be at least partially usable. Local codes may offer more protection, and landlords will generally show compassion and work with tenants when a crisis occurs, but the only absolute guarantee of protection is a form of renters insurance that covers tornado damage.
New Texas landlords or those who may be getting back into property management after an absence should note that the state made significant revisions to eviction rules in 2013 that apply to all counties. Small counties where precinct judges are not available full-time are now required to set dates for eviction hearings within a window of 10 to 21 days from filing. Landlords are also now required to take every tenant on the lease to court.
The information listed here is accurate and current as of the date of publishing, but should never be considered to be legal advice or to substitute for the assistance of a qualified lawyer who is licensed to practice in the state.
What Laws Cover Landlord-Tenant Relationships in Texas?
The general law that cover rental agreements in Texas is Title 8, Chapter 91 (Landlord and Tenant General Provisions). Title 8, Chapter 92 further establishes regulations for residential tenancies, while Chapter 93 covers commercial tenancies. Landlords and tenants should also be aware of Title 15, Chapter 301, better known as the Texas Fair Housing Act. Condo owners and renters will want to review Title 7, Chapter 32, the Uniform Condominium Act.
Security Deposit Rules
Texas has very little in the way of statutes at the state level regarding the terms of security deposits. What rules there are can be found in Property Code Chapter 92, Subchapter C.
Landlords must return a security deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease. If they retain any money for damages, they must provide an itemized list of their charges, unless the tenant still owes rent at the end of the lease. The landlord is considered to have returned the security deposit on the date that it was postmarked. The 30-day period does not begin until the tenant provides the landlord with their forwarding address, but the tenant cannot waive their right to the deposit by not providing such an address.
If a landlord is found to have retained a security deposit in bad faith, they can be held liable for three times the amount of the deposit plus $100 and the court and attorney costs of the tenant.
There are no state statutes governing the maximum amount of a security deposit, the paying of interest, or where the deposit is kept. Pet fees and other miscellaneous fees are allowed and there are no statutes governing them, but it is important to check with the local city and county to see if they have any added regulations.
Lease, Rent and Fee Rules
Fees and withholding terms are governed by Chapter 92.012.
There are no requirements for a landlord to provide advance notice of a rent increase. There are no limits on returned check fees, but late fees must be “reasonable” under the wording of the statute.
There are no statutes allowing the tenant to withhold rent for failure to provide needed utilities. However, tenants do have some right to make repairs and deduct rent if they give prior written notice. They may only deduct $500 or the equivalent of one month’s rent in a year, however.
Both landlords and tenants are allowed to recover court and attorney fees if they win a court case. Landlords are allowed to terminate a lease immediately if a tenant is convicted of public indecency. If the tenant leaves for any reason prior to the end of the lease, however, the landlord is obligated to attempt to mitigate damages including making every reasonable attempt to re-rent the unit.
Utility shutoffs are never allowed in the state. Texas is one of the very few states that allows lockouts if a tenant breaks the lease, but only in certain narrow circumstances governed by Chapter 92.0081. Landlords cannot do this unless the tenant is delinquent in their rent, and must place a written notice on the front door that instructs tenants where to go to retrieve the new key. The new key must also be available 24 hours a day. The landlord must also be immediately available after they change the locks. Landlords who change locks illegally can be held liable for one months rent by the tenant.
Notice and Entry Rules
Rules about notice and entry are covered under Chapter 91. Tenants generally have to give one month’s notice to terminate their lease, but landlords can agree to a shorter term in the lease if they choose to. There are no statutes governing advance notice of a move-out inspection.
Landlords have to give tenants three days written notice if they are evicting for non-payment. The tenant has the right to bring payment current during that time to restore the lease, however. There are no statutes governing termination for a lease violation, but landlords have the right to evict a tenant immediately if they are convicted of public indecency.
State statute does require the landlord to give some amount of advance notice before entering the premises, but it does not specify an amount of time. 24 hours is a general industry standard. There are no statutes about entry during an extended absence by the tenant or about emergency entry.
Required Disclosures and Notes
Required disclosures are covered under Chapter 92.014.
Landlords are required to identify their own name and address in the lease, as well as that of any property manager that might be appointed. If a tenant notifies the landlord of needed repairs and they cannot or will not make them, the landlord is required to provide tenant with written notice of their right to repair and deduct from the rent (as described in the Lease, Rent and Fee Rules section above).
Texas does offer some protection for domestic violence victims under Chapter 92.016. A residential lease can be terminated early if the landlord is provided with a copy of a protective order or a temporary injunction that is part of a divorce proceeding. If the perpetrator of the domestic abuse lives with the victim, the victim can terminate the lease immediately with no penalty. If the perpetrator lives elsewhere, the victim must give 30 days notice to terminate the lease without penalty. They can request that the landlord change the locks immediately at their expense, however. Landlords are also required to inform their tenants of these rights in writing.
If a tenant passes away, the landlord has the right to remove their personal property after 30 days if no one has claimed the items. They are required to send notice by certified mail to the point of contact that they have on record.
Small Claims Court
The small claims court limit in Texas is $10,000. Evictions are heard in small claims court in the state, but may not be filed by companies that primarily make their income by lending money at interest or by collections agencies or agents.