In the Lone Star State of Texas, landlords and tenants navigate a complex network of local and state rental laws. These regulations, commonly referred to as landlord-tenant laws, have a profound impact on the rights and obligations of both property owners and renters, shaping the dynamics of their interactions. Understanding and adhering to these laws can be a significant challenge, even for experienced landlords and renters.
To help overcome this challenge, we've put together a Texas-sized guide to answer questions surrounding key rental topics like tenant screening, rent payments, lease agreements, evictions, and so much more. Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Texas's rental laws, as outlined in the Texas Property Code Title 8, Chapter 92 (here).
Landlords will discover how to safeguard their rental properties and cultivate positive tenant relationships, while tenants will acquire the knowledge needed to assert their fundamental rights.
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Texas state law grants landlords basic rights that allow them to manage their rental properties protected from legal and financial issues. A few of their main rights include:
Texas rental owners also have a set of obligations to uphold that ensure a safe and smooth tenancy for renters. Their key duties are:
Same as landlords, tenants in Texas also have fundamental rights that work to protect their safety and well-being while living in a rental unit. Their key rights include:
Texas renters have a range of responsibilities to uphold. Generally, these duties ensure the rental is maintained and the landlord goes financially unharmed. In Texas, tenants must:
Texas’s tenant screening and rental application laws are relatively simple and straightforward. For instance, there is no limit on how much a landlord can charge for a rental application fee, but the fee must be applied solely to tenant screening costs. Application fees do not have to be refundable unless the prospective tenant was rejected. Additionally, landlords should not ask any questions on the application that could lead to discrimination as outlined in the Federal Fair Housing Act.
To run background checks, landlords must first obtain the potential renter’s written consent. Landlords can run background checks including criminal history, credit history, rental history, and current income.
Lease or rental agreements of less than one year may be written or oral. However, it’s always advised to document leases in writing as it attributes important responsibilities to both parties.
Texas leases should include the following information:
Learn what else you should include in a lease agreement today!
To terminate a lease, a landlord must provide a 30-day notice for month-to-month leases. There are no notice requirements for other lease types.
Texas renters may also terminate lease early for the following reasons:
Texas state law allows landlords to collect a security deposit at the start of the lease to cover unforeseen costs. Similar to a handful of other states, Texas does not limit how much a landlord can charge for the security deposit.
Texas’s only security deposit regulation is that the landlord must return the tenant’s deposit within 30 days of the lease ending. Landlords may make deductions from the security deposit for reasons including unpaid rent, damage beyond normal wear and tear, costs due to a breach of the lease, and any other charges listed in the rental agreement.
If the landlord fails to comply with the notice period or wrongfully withholds funds, tenants can sue for three times the amount wrongfully withheld plus an additional $100 and attorney fees.
Texas does not have rent control laws and prohibits its cities and states from creating their own laws. Thus, landlords can charge any amount of rent and increase rent as often as they would like, but they cannot increase rent during the lease period unless the lease agreement allows for it. Texas does not specify how much notice a landlord should provide before raising rent. To maintain a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship, the two parties can agree upon a minimum notice period for a rent increase.
Texas landlords must provide rent receipts for cash payments. If tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords are required to provide a 2-day grace period before charging a late fee. Additionally, the late fee cannot be more than 10% of the rent if the rental property has 4 or fewer units. For buildings with 5 or more units, the landlord cannot charge more than 12% of rent.
In Texas, landlords are required to make repairs within 7-14 days after getting written notice from tenants. However, some issues with essential services must be repaired within 3 days.
If landlords fail to make repairs in a timely manner, tenants can take a few legal actions: sue for costs, file a court order to force the landlord to make the repairs, and cancel the rental agreement altogether. Tenants can also use the “repair and deduct” remedy as long as the issue doesn’t cost more than $500 to repair.
Texas landlords can enter rentals for reasons including maintenance, inspections, and to change the locks of tenants who have defaulted on rent. While landlords should provide notice before entering the property, Texas state law does not specify how much notice a landlord should provide, but 24 to 48 hours of notice is common. However, landlords are not required to provide notice in case of emergencies.
Texas rental owners are allowed to evict tenants for specific legal reasons. Depending on the reason for eviction, landlords are required to provide a notice period before the eviction process can start. Here are the legal reasons for eviction and the associated notice periods:
On top of covering rental matters like repairs and evictions, Texas law also encompasses topics like landlord retaliation and discrimination. Explore a few of those regulations below.
In Texas, tenants are only protected from housing discrimination by federal laws established in the Federal Fair Housing Act. It prohibits landlords from discriminating against renters based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
If a landlord violates housing discrimination laws, such as by advertising that has a discriminatory preference or falsely claiming a rental unit is unavailable, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
It’s illegal for landlords in Texas to retaliate against tenants for taking protected actions like reporting landlords to government authorities for health and safety violations. Raised rent, reduced services like water or gas, and threatened eviction are all considered forms of retaliation in Texas.
Texas state law requires landlords to provide tenants with certain disclosures at the start of the lease term. The disclosures include:
By understanding and complying with Texas’s landlord-tenant laws, landlords and renters can confidently navigate the full rental process. Landlords can safeguard their real estate investments, tenants can assert their fundamental rights, and both can work together to create a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship.
Landlords, if you need help with collecting rent or creating a lease agreement, and tenants, if you are looking to boost your credit, Azibo has got you covered. Learn about all of the benefits of using our free rental software today!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.
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