What Rental Property Owners Should Know About Texas Landlord-Tenant Laws
Have you ever considered owning a rental property? The first thing you want to do is learn about your rights as a lessor. Lessor is the legal term for what is most commonly referred to as a landlord.
Great landlords maintain their rental properties, choose their tenants in a nondiscriminatory way, and follow state rules on the uses, limits, and return of security deposits. Less successful landlords usually fail to understand their legal responsibilities, which costs them a lot of time and money.
Below are a few of the top ways to comply with the law and keep out of legal trouble in Texas.
Pay Attention To State Rent Rules And Eviction Rights
Stay abreast of the state laws on eviction and termination rights. Landlords want tenants who are punctual in paying their rent. They don’t want to have to hassle them for it. If you need to evict a tenant who hasn’t paid rent, you’ll want to ensure you’re complying with the Texas state rules and procedures. State law specifies how and when a landlord may terminate a tenancy. Failure to follow these legal rules may result in extensive delays in tenant termination. In Texas, a landlord must allow a tenant who hasn’t paid rent three days’ notice before they can begin eviction, among other rules.
Follow Anti-Discrimination Laws
Before listing a rental property, you must understand fair housing laws. In brief, you must know what you are allowed to say and do when selecting tenants. Knowledge of discrimination laws includes the questions you ask on a rental application, how you advertise a rental, how you interview potential tenants, and how you treat tenants who rent from you. Failure to respect the law may result in costly discrimination lawsuits and complaints.
While Texas landlords can legally reject applicants—based on poor references, adverse credit history, undesirable behavior, such as paying rent late, or other factors, it doesn’t mean you can dismiss them for just anything. You can’t discriminate where prospective tenants are concerned based on religion, race, national origin, familial status (such as having children under age 18), sex, or physical or mental disability. Indeed, these are protected categories under the federal Fair Housing Act. The HUD website provides additional details on fair housing laws.
Learn State Security Deposit Limits and Return Rules
Security deposits cause some of the most significant disputes between landlords and tenants. To avoid this issue, be sure you’re aware of deposit rules in Texas, such as knowing that the deposit must be returned within 30 days of the tenant moving out. Using a move-in checklist when a tenant moves in gives you a documented list to refer to upon moving out. And when your tenant does move out, include a written security deposit itemization to inform them of any monies subtracted from the security deposit.
Provide Habitable Housing
Landlords are legally required to ensure rental properties are livable in Texas. A legal document entitled the implied warranty of habitability states that if you don’t take care of essential repairs, such as a broken air conditioner, Texas tenants have several choices, including the option to repair and deduct from the rent. Also, as the landlord, you should establish a repair and maintenance system. This helps prevent problems contributing to tenant rent withholding or injuries a tenant may sustain due to defective rental conditions.
Prepare a Legal Written Rental Agreement or Lease
The lease or rental agreement you and your tenant sign is the contractual basis of your relationship. This document contains vital details, such as the agreed-upon rent amount and the tenant’s occupancy term.
Having a REALTOR® who is educated on lease contracts will be invaluable to you. Additionally, an excellent REALTOR® can assist you in every portion of the Texas Residential Lease Contract. They can help you avoid all kinds of disputes by being proactive. A real estate agent can help ensure that the lease clearly informs tenants of their responsibilities and rights.
Maintain A Strong Paper Trail
Get everything in writing. Moreover, to avoid potential problems or counter false retaliation claims, establish a good paper trail. Document how you handle repairs and any important correspondence between you and the tenant. You never want it to be a case of their word against yours. Protect yourself and your investment by keeping meticulous records. Better to be over-prepared than under-protected.
Living Houston Works With Investors
As an investor, your number one asset will always be a knowledgeable and professional REALTOR® who can advocate for you and guide you in your investments. Living Houston’s Broker and founder, Laura Weisman, specializes in working with investors, protecting their property, and informing them of their rights. To connect with Laura, contact Living Houston.