Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code governs the residential landlord tenant relationship. In addition to the Texas Property Code there are Federal rules and regulations that outline a landlord’s rights and responsibilities. In this article we outline key rights and responsibilities for Texas landlords. This is not an extensive list and landlords should always do research in their local markets to ensure that they are in compliance with all county and city regulations in addition to the items listed below.
Texas Landlord’s Duty to Repair
Subchapter B of Section 92 explains that a landlord must make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition when:
● The tenant has specified the condition in a notice to the person who normally collects rent or to the place where rent is normally paid,
● The tenant is current on rent payments when the notice is given, and
● The condition:
○ Materially affects the health and safety of an ordinary tenant, or
○ Arises from the landlord’s failure to provide and maintain in good operating condition a device to provide hot water of a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
The lease agreement may require that the notice be in writing and delivered in a certain manner by the tenant. However, as a practical matter, any notices between the parties should be in writing and delivered in a trackable manner or with a witness to verify delivery.
Unless a problem is caused by normal wear and tear, the landlord has no duty to repair conditions caused by:
● The tenant,
● A lawful occupant of the premises,
● A member of the tenant’s family,
● A tenant’s guest or invitee.
Texas Landlord’s Duty to Return Security Deposit
Subchapter C of Chapter 92 dictates the rules regarding security deposits. As most landlords are familiar with, a tenant may be required to pay a security deposit prior to moving into the premises. A security deposit is typically used to repair damages to the premises after a tenant moves out. A landlord may not recover changes from a security deposit for normal wear and tear, which is defined as “deterioration that results from the intended use of the dwelling.” However, normal wear and tear does not include the “deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises.” Texas Property Code, Section 92.001. In order to make deductions for repairs a landlord is required to give the tenant a written, itemized list of all the deductions.
According to Section 92 a landlord is required to return the security deposit 30 days after the tenant surrenders the premises. Additionally, if the landlord has made deductions from the security deposit, an accounting must also be provided. However, a tenant is required to give the landlord a written statement of the tenant’s forwarding address for purposes of refunding the security deposit. Until the forwarding address is received, the landlord has no duty to return the tenant’s security deposit or give the tenant a written description of damages and charges.
A landlord who wrongly withholds a security deposit or fails to provide a written description of the accounting may be liable to the tenant for damages.
A covenant is a promise under the law. A covenant for quiet enjoyment is a promise by the landlord to the tenant that the landlord will not disturb the tenant’s quiet use and enjoyment of the property. This breach can occur when a landlord prevents a tenant from entering the property. However, landlords have the right to exclude tenants under certain circumstances, such as for bona fide repairs, construction or emergencies as long as it is in compliance with the Texas Property Code. Additionally, the landlord does not breach this covenant if the exclusion occurs due to the tenant abandoning the property.
In some instances, a landlord may be liable for constructive eviction. Constructive eviction occurs when (1) the landlord’s contact materially and permanently interferes with the tenant’s use of the premises and (2) the tenant leaves the property because of the interference. Essentially, the landlord’s actions force the tenant to vacate the property.
However, landlords have the right to evict tenants judicially under Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code. Or, a landlord may force tenants to leave non-judicially according to the lease.
Fair Housing Act
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in conjunction with the Texas Workforce Commission regulates the Texas Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act is a federal regulation. Additionally, Texas has its own fair housing policies. The Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from discriminating against a tenant based on the seven protected classes. These classes include color, religion, race, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Generally, the Fair Housing Act covers most housing, except (1) owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, (2) a landlord that only has a few single-family homes that were sold or rented without the use of a broker and (3) housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
Landlords are prohibited from the following:
● Refusing to rent or negotiate,
● Make housing unavailable,
● Deny a property,
● Set different terms, conditions or privileges,
● Provide different housing services of facilities,
● Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility, and
● Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference.
This is not an exhaustive list but is meant to give landlords an idea of what is protected under the Fair Housing Act. In the event a landlord discriminates against a tenant a tenant may file a Fair Housing Complaint, which may subject the landlord to investigations. Additionally these violations are subject to penalties.
While this article lists key responsibilities of landlords, it is ultimately only intended to be a guide. A landlord’s responsibilities may also be designated in the lease or other local ordinances. If you have questions about any of the responsibilities we discussed above or would like to know more about a Texas landlord’s rights and duties, schedule a free consultation here.
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