Texas tenants rights lag behind some states that put an emphasis on the protection of renters, but Texas eviction law also allows a straightforward process with some relief under bankruptcy law for those who find themselves in dire economic straits.
The Texas eviction and foreclosure process can be started in as few as 3-days from a missed payment, but it relies on the judicial system, which can give at-risk tenants the time they need to examine their options and act to avoid illegal evictions. Before it gets to that point,, it’s best to understand the general provisions that govern the landlord-tenant agreements to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of.
Who Texas Tenants Rights Apply To
Tenants rights refer to the protections afforded to people who are renting their home, whether it’s a house, apartment, or townhome. They cover how the relationship between you and your landlord should be conducted and how the landlord operates. This applies not only to the owner of the property but their representatives as well, such as a property management company or rental manager.
It’s important to note that all parties that sign the lease are considered responsible jointly for the rent in full and are considered to have equal tenants rights and responsibilities in Texas. This means if a roommate is late on their rent or damages the property before moving out, it’s still your responsibility as a lessee to pay the full amount due to the property owner.
What About Subletters?
Subletting is illegal in Texas without explicit approval by the property owner, so if you are not on the lease as a lessee (or authorized as an inhabitant explicitly in the lease) you do not share the same protections under Texas’s eviction law.
Basic Tenants Rights In Texas
Before you even apply for a home or sign a lease, there are certain laws in place to preserve your rights as a renter.
- Landlords must comply with the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, familial status or disability, however, other factors such as a criminal record or your credit report can be used to decline your application.
- They also have to offer you the opportunity to view their selection criteria before you apply, giving you the chance to decide for yourself if your chances of approval are worth the application fee (if any). If they fail to offer this opportunity and you’re denied, you are entitled to the return of your application fee and application deposit.
- If a credit report is used, the Fair Credit Reporting Act compels them to tell you if negative information was a factor and what that information entailed, for example of a Texas foreclosure or eviction in your name.
A Tenant’s Rights To Safe Housing in Texas
In order to make sure you’re getting a safe place to live, the state requires landlords to provide some features in every home.
- In Texas, you have the right to a rental property that complies with generally recognized standards of health and safety.
- Smoke alarms must be installed by the landlord in every property, with the reasonable accommodation for hearing impaired tenants of visible smoke alarms.
- Within 7-days of taking over the property, the locks and keys should be changed at the owner’s expense, and every exterior door should have at least one key operated and one non-keyed lock as well as a peephole, or in the case of a sliding glass door, a pin lock and a security bar or handle latch.
- While you can request other safety equipment, like fire extinguishers or alarm systems, those requests do not have to be approved.
Rental Agreement Requirements in Texas
Once you’ve reviewed and signed your lease agreement, you should be familiar with the requirements of your rental contract. As long as you stay within your contractual limitations, your tenants rights will help a lawyer protect you from illegal evictions. Rental agreements are designed to clearly communicate both party’s responsibilities.
These are the basic requirements for all Texas rental agreements:
- You must be informed of the name and address of both the property owner and manager, your right to repair and remedy maintenance issues that are the landlord’s responsibility while deducting up to $500 from rent to recover costs, and that you may break your lease early if you’re the victim or parent of a victim of sexual assault.
- How much your deposit and rent are, when rent is due on a monthly basis, and how you should pay this rent to the landlord or property manager.
- The length of your lease period, and whether it converts to month-to-month at the end of that period or if a new lease period is required.
- Your rent will remain the same throughout the lease but can be raised with one-months notice if you’re month-to-month. It cannot, however, be raised in retaliation to a complaint or for discriminatory reasons under the Fair Housing Act.
- Your lease will also cover any late fees, any grace period, and when they consider you late. Under eviction laws in Texas, once you’re late paying your rent, they may issue you a 3-day notice to pay or vacate the property or they will start the process to evict you.
While you may be hesitant to use some of the protections offered by your tenants rights, the Texas home and apartment eviction process does not allow retaliation against renters who take advantage of their rights under the law.
Texas Eviction Process
There are several reasons a landlord can petition the court to evict you from their property.
- Violation Of The Lease Agreement: If you violate your lease agreement, then a landlord may seek your removal. This can include failure to properly maintain the structure and land, allowing unapproved persons to live there, or other infractions.
- Criminal Activity Or Damage: If the landlord has proof that you have damaged the property beyond normal wear and tear or engaged in criminal activity, they can ask the court to evict you so they can preserve their property.
- Non-Payment Of Rent: Once you’re past the 3-day notice to pay or vacate the property, the landlord can pursue a remedy under Texas eviction law.
How Bankruptcy Can Save Your Home
Under your bankruptcy law and tenants rights in Texas, filing bankruptcy may be able to help you fend off eviction or foreclosure, but time is of the essence. If you file bankruptcy before eviction proceedings for non-payment start or once they’ve started but before a judge has entered a verdict, an automatic stay is issued to give you time to assess your mounting debt. If a judgment has been reached, then there is no automatic stay on the process.
The automatic stay can be triggered by a full bankruptcy filing or an emergency filing, where only the initial paperwork for bankruptcy is filed. The landlord can petition to lift the stay and continue the eviction process under certain circumstances.
- If the Eviction Is Not For Non-Payment – The automatic stay does not protect you from eviction for lease violations, damage, or criminal behavior.
- If The Landlord Is Unlikely To Get Their Back Rent – The reason behind the stay is to allow you time to find a way to pay your rent. If you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy to discharge debts or the landlord feels they will not be repaid, they may petition the court to lift the stay and continue the process.
Leaving On Your Own Terms
Your lease will be in effect for a specific time period after which it is usually extended month-to-month. Once your lease is fulfilled, either party may give 30-days notice that they intend to terminate the lease. Your security deposit should be returned to you, minus the cost to fix any damage, and an itemized list of the charges against that security deposit should be supplied.
Prior to the fulfillment of your lease agreement, you can only break the lease for certain reasons without facing penalties.
- You are assigned to active duty military status or given orders to a new duty station.
- You are the victim or parent of a victim of stalking or sexual assault.
- The home is no longer safe or livable under your Texas tenants rights.
- Your privacy has been violated or you are being harassed by your landlord.
If these do not apply, you may still break your lease, but may be liable for the rent due from your last payment until the property has new tenants, although the landlord is required to try to rent the property as soon as reasonably possible. This rent and any repairs or damages would be taken from your security deposit first, but once that’s exhausted, you are responsible for paying the remainder.
Protecting Your Texas Tenants Rights
If your landlord is using Texas eviction law to remove you from your home for nonpayment, you need to act fast. At Leinart Law Firm, we help Texans find the right bankruptcy and debt solutions to help them get back on their feet while preserving a sense of safety and normalcy for their families.
Don’t face the Texas eviction process alone. Let our 15+ years of bankruptcy experience help you keep your home.