Landlords in Texas, whether they are the property owner or the managing company, must protect their interests in the property. Sometimes protecting the property interests causes conflict with tenants. It can be tempting to take matters into your own hands with the idea that the property is yours or that you are responsible for the property on behalf of the owner. Keep in mind that you do have rights as a landlord, but you also have responsibilities, and these are all governed by federal and state laws.
Landlord Rights in Texas
Landlords are afforded rights under the law. What these rights specifically vary from state to state. These rights also vary depending on whether the property is for residential or commercial purposes. Some of the most general rights are described below, but we cannot emphasize enough that it is always in your and your property's best interest to speak to our landlord-tenant attorney in San Antonio to confirm what your rights are under the law and according to your specific property interests.
Right to Terminate a Lease and Evict a Tenant
While terminating a lease and evicting a tenant is never a step a landlord wants to have to take, it is sometimes unavoidable. Some of the reasons why a termination of a lease is needed include the following:
- When a tenant does not pay their rent in full when due
- When a tenant is using the premises for illegal activity, such as manufacturing illegal drugs
- When a tenant is using the premises contrary to the lease agreement
- When a tenant consistently disturbs the peace
A landlord cannot terminate a lease just because they do not like a tenant or for a discriminatory reason.
Evictions are necessary when a tenant refuses to leave the premises after termination of the lease and lawful notice. Every jurisdiction is particular in how evictions should proceed, and landlords need to make certain they comply with these laws.
Right to Sell the Property
Landlords have the right to sell a leased property, although they are generally required to sell the property subject to the tenant's lease remaining in effect. In other words, the purchaser of the property must honor the terms of the lease of the tenants in the property.
Right to Stop Leasing the Property
Landlords sometimes decide to stop leasing a property. If it is a residential property, they may even choose to live on the property themselves. When this happens, they can stop renting the premises. There may be state rules that establish whether or not they must honor the current lease agreement through the end of its term or whether they can terminate the lease agreement.
Landlord Responsibilities in Texas
In addition to rights, landlords also have responsibilities towards the tenants leasing their property. Most jurisdictions impose similar legal obligations, and below are descriptions of a few of them.
Obligation to Abide By Lease Agreement Terms
When a landlord rents property to a tenant, there is typically a written (though it could be oral) contract that lays out the responsibilities of the parties. The landlord is obligated to fulfill whatever they agreed to in this contract. For example, if the contract states that water and sewer are included in the lease payment, they cannot arbitrarily decide later during the leasing period that the rental rate will remain the same minus inclusion of water and sewer.
Obligation to Deliver Possession of the Leased Premises
The landlord must give actual possession of the property to the tenant for the time period specified in the lease agreement. When the landlord gives possession to the tenant, the premises must be in a fit and suitable condition. For residential leases, this is known as habitability. For commercial leases, that standard may not be as high but can be negotiated in the terms of the lease.
Obligation to Maintain the Suitability of the Leased Premises
The landlord's responsibility to keep the premises safe and habitable does not end once the tenant moves into the property. They must continue the upkeep of the property, including making necessary repairs, throughout the tenancy. This duty is more stringent for residential tenants. For commercial tenants, much of it all depends on what was negotiated into the terms of the lease.
Obligation to Manage Security Deposit
Almost all landlords collect a security deposit when they initially rent a property. This is their right, but they must comply with all applicable laws regarding how much the security deposit may be, as well as what it can be used for and how much can be kept or returned.
Landlord Remedies for Tenant Default in Texas
Tenants do not always comply with the terms of the lease agreement. When they do not comply, landlords have certain remedies available to them. The lease agreement is the first place to look for remedies. Keep in mind that remedies vary pursuant to why the tenant is in default. In many states, the following remedies are available for the listed default.
Tenant Abandons Property
Tenants sometimes abandon property, often without notice to the landlord. When this happens, the landlord can either (1) try to enforce the lease agreement; or (2) commence legal proceedings against the tenant for the abandonment. State law will spell out any other remedies available to the landlord.
Tenant Stops Payment of Rent
Tenants may stop paying rent for a variety of reasons, including loss of employment or medical expenses. A grace period is typically allowed in lease agreements, but once that time frame has passed, the tenant is in default of the lease agreement. Failure to pay the rent in full is a reason why the landlord can have the tenant evicted.
Tenant Refuses to Leave Property After Agreement Terminated
Once a lease agreement has been terminated, the tenant must leave the premises. When they do not, the landlord has the option to have the tenant evicted.
Do I Need a Landlord-Tenant Attorney in Texas?
It is always advisable to seek the professional counsel of a landlord-tenant lawyer when your property is at stake. There is any number of legal issues that could arise and negatively impact your property interests.
If you are leasing residential property, you may use a standard lease, but it is important that the lease meets any specific concerns or requirements of the property itself and obligations imposed by local and state law.
If you are leasing commercial property, the stakes are even higher. Leasing agreements are typically not standard but negotiated. Making sure the agreement is comprehensive and the terms and conditions favor you and the property is critical. These leases can also endure for multiple years, so having the ability to consider future issues and act proactively can make the difference in a successful, profitable lease agreement.