Landlord Tenant Law
General Considerations for Lease Drafting:
Despite what some might tell you, there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all lease that is right for every residential tenancy. Your property might have special maintenance and upkeep requirements, you might be especially concerned about property damage given the nature of the property and prior tenants, there could be zoning issues or restrictive covenants, etc.
Given these concerns, drafting a residential lease can be a daunting task. You want to include protections for your property, within the bounds of Texas law, so as to prevent and recover for damages to your property. You want to reduce your liability for maintenance and repairs, and for injuries that occur on the property. You want to know if certain provisions overstep the law, and what the legal limits are.
Most importantly, you don’t want to have to defend a lawsuit because of a lease that is unclear and ambiguous, because of unenforceable provisions, or because you’ve overstepped your bounds under the lease. If you’re a landlord, new or experienced, and want help drafting a residential lease or have a special concern regarding your lease, I urge you to contact a Tyler landlord-tenant attorney today.
Remedies for Lease Violations:
If the lease permits it, you can evict a tenant for a lease violation. Generally, you can also evict a tenant that continues to occupy the property after his right to possession has ended. To evict, you must provide the tenant three days written notice. There are special procedures you must follow to provide proper notice and to obtain a court order if the tenant will not vacate after the three days notice. Additionally, some landlords unwittingly provide their tenant a defense to eviction, such as accepting rent for the period the tenant held-over. If you want advice regarding your right to evict, call a Tyler landlord-tenant attorney. He can explain your rights and the proper procedures to follow.
As long as the lease permits it, a tenant can be locked-out, that is the locks can be changed, if rent has not been completely paid and you provide proper notice of the lockout. There are fairly specific procedures that must be followed after the locks are changed as well, including providing notice on the front door stating where a new key can be obtained and the amount of rent owed. A landlord must always provide a key to a locked-out tenant. Lock-outs are merely designed to send a strong message to tenants that are delinquent on rent.
While not a complex area of law, landlords often fail to follow proper procedure regarding security deposits. First and foremost, all landlords need to know one thing: if you plan on retaining any of the security deposit, you need to provide a written description and itemized list of all deductions within 30 days after the tenant surrenders possession. If you don’t do this, you are generally presumed to have acted in bad faith and the tenant can sue to recover three times the deposit, plus $100, plus attorney’s fees.
Of course, unpaid rent and property damage (above and beyond the security deposit) can give rise to a lawsuit. Unless the relief requested exceeds $10,000, such suits are often best brought in small claims court, where an attorney is not necessarily needed and justice can be achieved with less time and hassle.
General Considerations Before Signing:
It might sound obvious, but you should know whether deposits are refundable or not, whether you are liable for utilities or other maintenance costs, and what costs are hidden in addendums and in fine print. Often, landlords charge a fee for terminating the lease early. This fee could be quite steep. Some tenants largely ignore such provisions, but life can throw you curves and you might need to move-out early and will be forced to pay the fee. For homes, you could also be liable for at least part of the cost of putting the house on MLS and marketing to replacement tenants. There could also be fees for taking on pets or an additional resident, and these fees can be steep as well.
Especially when renting a home, you could be liable for maintaining certain appliances or providing your own.
You need to know when, and how, to provide the landlord notice that you are moving-out. Often, the lease charges high fees for failing to provide timely notice.
As discussed above, you can be locked-out in some instances for failing to pay rent.
Unless permitted by the lease, you can’t sublet; that is, you can’t rent the property to another person. Even if permitted, subletting is risky; unless the subtenant signs a separate lease with the landlord, you are still liable for rent if the subtenant doesn’t pay and you are liable for damages to the property.
In Texas, a landlord has a duty to repair a condition that affects the health and safety of a tenant. To trigger the duty, a tenant must be current on rent and he must provide proper written notice. Within seven days after receiving proper written notice, the landlord must make a diligent effort to repair or remedy the condition. If the landlord has not made such efforts, you could sue in small claims court.
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