Texas Residential Landlord Tenant Law

Landlord Services
Lease Review / Custom Lease Drafting
Evictions
Tenant Lock-Out Procedures
Collecting Unpaid Rent
Collecting for Property Damage
Utility Interruption and Cut-offs
Residential Landlord's Lien
Security Deposit Litigation
General Consulting on Texas Landlord Law
Tenant Services
Breaking your Lease
Recovering Security Deposits
Eviction Defense
Constructive Evictions
Repair and Deduct Remedies

Landlord Laws
Utility cut offs
Cash Payment Acceptance
Duty to Repair or Remedy
Required Security Devices
Rental Application Laws

Landlord Services

1. Lease Review and Custom Lease Drafting

We prefer to start our relationship with a landlord or property manager at the very beginning, starting with a lease review. TAR, TAA, and LPA form leases are a good start, but a full review of your property's needs can lead to the drafting of a custom lease that meets and exceeds all of your needs. A properly drafted lease can and will properly protect a landlord in a way that form leases can not. When entering into a binding agreement with a complete stranger it is important to place every advantage on your side.

2. Evictions

If you come to us later in the process, when you already have an issue, we can still help. Defaulting tenants can be dealt with quickly and efficiently through the proper use of eviction, legally known in Texas as "forcible detainer".

3. Residential Landlord's Lien

Proper understanding of Texas law regarding landlords and tenants is essential to protect a landlord's property rights. In most circumstances, Texas law allows a lien or interest on the defaulting tenant’s non-exempt property, and allows a commercial landlord to conduct a tenant lock-out. However, when executing a residential landlord's lien extreme care must be taken to avoid exposing the landlord to liability.

The Law

PROPERTY CODE - CHAPTER 54. LANDLORD'S LIENS
	SUBCHAPTER C. RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD'S LIEN

§ 54.041. LIEN.  A landlord of a single or multifamily 
residence has a lien for unpaid rent that is due.  The lien attaches 
to nonexempt property that is in the residence or that the tenant 
has stored in a storage room.

§ 54.042. EXEMPTIONS.  A lien under this subchapter does 
not attach to:   
	(1)  wearing apparel;                                                         
	(2)  tools, apparatus, and books of a trade or profession;                  
	(3)  schoolbooks;                                                             
	(4)  a family library;                                                        
	(5)  family portraits and pictures;                                           
	(6)  one couch, two living room chairs, and a dining table and chairs;      
	(7)  beds and bedding;                                                        
	(8)  kitchen furniture and utensils;                                          
	(9)  food and foodstuffs;                                                     
	(10)  medicine and medical supplies;                                          
	(11)  one automobile and one truck;                                           
	(12)  agricultural implements;                                                
	(13)  children's toys not commonly used by adults;                            
	(14)  goods that the landlord or the landlord's agent 
knows are owned by a person other than the tenant or an occupant of 
the residence;  and
	(15)  goods that the landlord or the landlord's agent 
knows are subject to a recorded chattel mortgage or financing 
agreement.				

4. Suits to Recover Past-due Rent and/or Damages

Landlords can also collect money damages for non payment of rent or damage to the leased property. These suits can often be joined with an eviction suit or filed at the same time in a separate proceeding.

5. Security Deposit Litigation

One of the most treacherous areas of law for the residential landlord involves security deposits. If not handled properly, the landlord can find themselves liable for up to 3 times the security deposit plus attorney's fees. We can help make sure your security deposit procedures fully comply with state law, avoid potential pitfalls, avoid litigation, and avoid liability.

Texas Security Deposit Law

TEXAS PROPERTY CODE
CHAPTER 92. RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES
SUBCHAPTER C. SECURITY DEPOSITS

	§ 92.101.  APPLICATION.  This subchapter applies to all 
residential leases.

	§ 92.102.  SECURITY DEPOSIT.  A security deposit is any 
advance of money, other than a rental application deposit or an 
advance payment of rent, that is intended primarily to secure 
performance under a lease of a dwelling that has been entered into 
by a landlord and a tenant.

	§ 92.103.  OBLIGATION TO REFUND.  (a)  Except as provided 
by Section 92.107, the landlord shall refund a security deposit to 
the tenant on or before the 30th day after the date the tenant 
surrenders the premises.
	(b)  A requirement that a tenant give advance notice of 
surrender as a condition for refunding the security deposit is 
effective only if the requirement is underlined or is printed in 
conspicuous bold print in the lease.
	(c)  The tenant's claim to the security deposit takes 
priority over the claim of any creditor of the landlord, including a 
trustee in bankruptcy.

	§ 92.1031.  CONDITIONS FOR RETENTION OF SECURITY DEPOSIT 
OR RENT PREPAYMENT.  (a)  Except as provided in Subsection (b), a 
landlord who receives a security deposit or rent prepayment for a 
dwelling from a tenant who fails to occupy the dwelling according to 
a lease between the landlord and the tenant may not retain the 
security deposit or rent prepayment if:
		(1)  the tenant secures a replacement tenant 
satisfactory to the landlord and the replacement tenant occupies 
the dwelling on or before the commencement date of the lease;  or
		(2)  the landlord secures a replacement tenant 
satisfactory to the landlord and the replacement tenant occupies 
the dwelling on or before the commencement date of the lease.
	(b)  If the landlord secures the replacement tenant, the 
landlord may retain and deduct from the security deposit or rent 
prepayment either:
		(1)  a sum agreed to in the lease as a lease 
cancellation fee;  or          
		(2)  actual expenses incurred by the landlord in 
securing the replacement, including a reasonable amount for the 
time of the landlord in securing the replacement tenant.

	§ 92.104.  RETENTION OF SECURITY DEPOSIT;  ACCOUNTING.  
(a)  Before returning a security deposit, the landlord may deduct 
from the deposit damages and charges for which the tenant is legally 
liable under the lease or as a result of breaching the lease.
	(b)  The landlord may not retain any portion of a security 
deposit to cover normal wear and tear.
	(c)  If the landlord retains all or part of a security 
deposit under this section, the landlord shall give to the tenant 
the balance of the security deposit, if any, together with a written 
description and itemized list of all deductions.  The landlord is 
not required to give the tenant a description and itemized list of 
deductions if:
		(1)  the tenant owes rent when he surrenders possession 
of the premises;  and
		(2)  there is no controversy concerning the amount of 
rent owed.            

	§ 92.1041.  PRESUMPTION OF REFUND OR ACCOUNTING.  A 
landlord is presumed to have refunded a security deposit or made an 
accounting of security deposit deductions if, on or before the date 
required under this subchapter, the refund or accounting is placed 
in the United States mail and postmarked on or before the required 
date.

	§ 92.105.  CESSATION OF OWNER'S INTEREST.  (a)  If the 
owner's interest in the premises is terminated by sale, assignment, 
death, appointment of a receiver, bankruptcy, or otherwise, the new 
owner is liable for the return of security deposits according to 
this subchapter from the date title to the premises is acquired, 
regardless of whether notice is given to the tenant under 
Subsection (b) of this section.
	(b)  The person who no longer owns an interest in the rental 
premises remains liable for a security deposit received while the 
person was the owner until the new owner delivers to the tenant a 
signed statement acknowledging that the new owner has received and 
is responsible for the tenant's security deposit and specifying the 
exact dollar amount of the deposit.
	(c)  Subsection (a) does not apply to a real estate mortgage 
lienholder who acquires title by foreclosure.

	§ 92.106.  RECORDS.  The landlord shall keep accurate 
records of all security deposits.

	§ 92.107.  TENANT'S FORWARDING ADDRESS.  (a)  The 
landlord is not obligated to return a tenant's security deposit or 
give the tenant a written description of damages and charges until 
the tenant gives the landlord a written statement of the tenant's 
forwarding address for the purpose of refunding the security 
deposit.
	(b)  The tenant does not forfeit the right to a refund of the 
security deposit or the right to receive a description of damages 
and charges merely for failing to give a forwarding address to the 
landlord.

	§ 92.108.  LIABILITY FOR WITHHOLDING LAST MONTH'S RENT.  
(a)  The tenant may not withhold payment of any portion of the last 
month's rent on grounds that the security deposit is security for 
unpaid rent.
	(b)  A tenant who violates this section is presumed to have 
acted in bad faith.  A tenant who in bad faith violates this section 
is liable to the landlord for an amount equal to three times the 
rent wrongfully withheld and the landlord's reasonable attorney's 
fees in a suit to recover the rent.

	§ 92.109.  LIABILITY OF LANDLORD.  (a)  A landlord who in 
bad faith retains a security deposit in violation of this 
subchapter is liable for an amount equal to the sum of $100, three 
times the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld, and the 
tenant's reasonable attorney's fees in a suit to recover the 
deposit.
	(b)  A landlord who in bad faith does not provide a written 
description and itemized list of damages and charges in violation 
of this subchapter:
		(1)  forfeits the right to withhold any portion of the 
security deposit or to bring suit against the tenant for damages to 
the premises;  and
		(2)  is liable for the tenant's reasonable attorney's 
fees in a suit to recover the deposit.
	(c)  In an action brought by a tenant under this subchapter, 
the landlord has the burden of proving that the retention of any 
portion of the security deposit was reasonable.
	(d)  A landlord who fails either to return a security deposit 
or to provide a written description and itemization of deductions 
on or before the 30th day after the date the tenant surrenders 
possession is presumed to have acted in bad faith.

Tenant Services

The Texas Property Code outlines the rules applied to the relationship between landlords and tenants. Most of the code is written in favor of the landlord and there can be serious consequences for an unwary tenant. For example, did you know that two certified letters need to be sent before a tenant can legally use the statutory repair and deduct remedy?

A proper understanding of the Texas Property Code can allow the tenant to recover money against the landlord in certain instances. A landlord who wrongfully withholds the tenant's security deposit may be held responsible for $100, three times the wrongfully withheld security deposit and attorney fees.

Are you having problems with your landlord and/or the property you are leasing. Would you like to break your lease? Constructive eviction may be the answer. Contact us immediately to discuss your situation and explore your options.

Call us for assistance in all your landlord tenant dealings. We will guide you through the process, explain the documentation used, and protect your interests. While we deal with the legal issues in your case, we fully understand the pressures and anxieties that you have to deal with on a day to day basis. For this reason, we are committed to providing you with a helping hand as well as excellent legal representation.

Contact an Austin Real Estate Lawyer at the Law Office of Justin Copeland Today

At the Law Office of Justin Copeland we believe a client's representation is only as good as the relationship with his or her attorney. This relationship is best developed through open communication. For this reason, the Law Office of Justin Copeland is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Mr. Copeland personally returns all of his phone calls. Contact us today to setup a free consultation.

Real Estate Practice Areas

The Law Office of Justin Copeland can help you with all of your real estate legal needs such as:

Land Use / Zoning
Commercial Real Estate
Residential Real Estate
Condominium Law
Homeowner's Association
Landlord Tenant Law

In the News


KXAN - August 6, 2008


The University Star - June 12, 2008

Contact Us

Travis County Office
502 W. 13th St.
Austin, TX 78701

Williamson County Office
(Available by appointment only)
600 Forest St.
Georgetown, TX 78626

Phone: 512.850.4529
Fax: 512.628.6010
Email: info@jcopelandlaw.com

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