Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Texas

Find out key laws every Texas landlord and tenant needs to know.

By , Attorney UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated 4/30/2024

Texas laws govern much of the landlord-tenant relationship, including security deposits, late rent, and evictions. Here's a breakdown of key laws that affect nearly all Texas landlords and tenants.

Texas Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws

Texas law regulates very little of the tenant application and screening process.

Application Fees

There is no law in Texas that prohibits landlords from charging an application fee.

Tenant Screening Reports

A tenant screening report is a credit report, criminal background report, employment history report, or rental history report that a landlord uses to determine whether an applicant would be an acceptable tenant. Texas landlords are free to charge reasonable amounts for tenant screening reports.

Criminal History Screening

Texas law states that a landlord isn't automatically liable for harm caused by a tenant with a criminal history just because the landlord rented to the person. However, the landlord might be liable if they are negligent in leasing to a person convicted of certain crimes and knew or should've known of the conviction. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.025 (2024).)

Texas' law stating that a landlord might be liable for negligently renting to people with certain convictions has the potential to put landlords at odds with federal antidiscrimination law. That's because under federal antidiscrimination laws, when landlords consider applicants' criminal history, they must do so in a consistent, nondiscriminatory manner. If a landlord's practice of considering criminal history has a discriminatory effect—for example, if the landlord asks only applicants of a certain color for criminal history information—the landlord is engaging in illegal discrimination and can be subject to penalties. Also, landlords can reject applicants only for past convictions that are directly related to the application—in other words, convictions that have a negative bearing on a legitimate business concern of the landlord.

Fair Housing Laws

All landlords need to follow federal and state antidiscrimination laws when screening applicants for a rental. Federal fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of:

  • race or color
  • religion
  • national origin
  • familial status or age (includes families with children under the age of 18 and pregnant women)
  • disability or handicap, and
  • sex (includes gender identity and sexual orientation).

Texas' Fair Housing Act mirrors the categories protected under the federal fair housing laws. (Tex. Prop. Code §§ 301.001 to 301.171 (2024).)

For more information about Texas' fair housing laws, check out the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs' website.

Landlord's Duty to Provide Tenant With a Copy of the Lease

The landlord must provide at least one tenant with a copy of the signed lease no later than the third business day after the lease is signed. The landlord must provide any additional tenants with copies if requested. An email or electric copy is fine if the tenant agrees to it.

If the landlord fails to provide a copy of the lease as required, the landlord can't take any legal action against the tenant (except in the case of nonpayment of rent) until a copy of the lease is provided. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.024 (2024).)

Back to top

Texas Security Deposit Laws

Texas doesn't set a cap on how much landlords can charge for a security deposit. It does, however, regulate how landlords can use security deposits and when they must be returned.

How Landlords Must Hold Security Deposits

Unlike many other states, Texas doesn't lay out strict requirements for how landlords must hold security deposits. Instead, landlords must simply "keep accurate records of all security deposits." (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.106 (2024).)

Security Deposit Use and Return

Landlords can retain part or all of the security deposit to cover unpaid rent and damages to the unit (except normal wear and tear). If a landlord retains all or part of the security deposit, they must provide the tenant with a written description and itemized list of all deductions. But, the landlord isn't required to give a description and itemized list of deductions if:

  • the tenant owes rent and
  • there's no controversy over the amount of rent owed.

(Tex. Prop. Code § 92.104 (2024).)

Landlords must refund security deposits no more than 30 days after the date the tenant moves out. The return of the security deposit can be conditioned on the tenant's giving advance notice of their intent to move out. However, this requirement must be put in underlined or conspicuous, bold print in the lease. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.103 (2024).)

The 30-day deadline doesn't start to run, though, until the tenant has provided the landlord with a written statement of the tenant's forwarding address. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.107 (2024).)

If a tenant signs a lease and gives the landlord a security deposit or rent prepayment, but doesn't move in, the landlord can keep the funds if no replacement tenant is found. If the landlord is the one who finds a replacement tenant, they can keep any sum agreed to in the lease as a cancellation fee or the actual expenses the landlord had in finding a replacement tenant. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.1031 (2024).)

Security Deposits as Last Month's Rent

Tenants in Texas should be sure to never withhold payment of any portion of the last month's rent thinking that the security deposit will cover it. Tenants who do this are presumed to be acting in bad faith, and Texas law entitles the landlord to sue the tenant for an amount equal to three times the rent wrongfully withheld, along with the landlord's attorneys' fees. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.108 (2024).)

Back to top

Required Landlord Disclosures in Texas

In many states, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants and potential tenants. Texas landlords must disclose information about:

  • Owner or agent identity. In the lease, other writing, or posted on the property, the landlord must disclose the name and address of the property's owner and, if an entity located off-site from the dwelling is primarily responsible for managing the dwelling, the name and street address of the management company. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.201 (2024).)
  • Emergency contact information. Landlords must provide tenants with an emergency phone number to call when there is a condition affecting physical health or safety of tenant. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.020 (2024).)
  • Security device requests. If a landlord wants tenant requests concerning security devices (such as locks or latches) to be in writing, this requirement must be in the lease in boldface or underlined type. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.159 (2024).)
  • Return of security deposit. A requirement that a tenant give advance notice of moving out as a condition for refunding the security deposit is effective only if the requirement is in the lease, underlined or printed in conspicuous bold print. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.103 (2024).)
  • Domestic violence victims' rights. Victims of sexual abuse or assault on the premises may break a lease (after complying with specified procedures) without responsibility for future rent. Tenants will be responsible for any unpaid back rent, but only if the lease includes the following statement, or one substantially like it: "Tenants may have special statutory rights to terminate the lease early in certain situations involving family violence or a military deployment or transfer." (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.016 (2024).)
  • Tenant's rights when landlord fails to make repairs. A lease must contain language in underlined or bold print that informs the tenant of the remedies available when the landlord fails to repair a problem that materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant. These rights include the right to: repair and deduct; terminate the lease; and obtain a judicial order that the landlord make the repair, reduce the rent, pay the tenant damages (including a civil penalty), and pay the tenant's court and attorneys' fees. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.056 (2024).)
  • Landlord's towing or parking rules and policies. For tenants in multiunit properties, if the landlord has vehicle towing or parking rules or policies that apply to the tenant, the landlord must give the tenant a copy of the rules or policies before the lease is signed. The copy must be signed by the tenant, included in the lease or rental agreement, or be made an attachment to either. If included, the clause must be titled "Parking" or "Parking Rules" and be capitalized, underlined, or printed in bold print. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.0131 (2024).)
  • Electric service interruption. Landlord who submeters electric service, or who allocates master metered electricity according to a prorated system, may interrupt tenant's electricity service if tenant fails to pay the bill, but only after specific notice and according to a complex procedure. There are exceptions for ill tenants and during extreme weather. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.008(h) (2024).)
  • Selection criteria for applicants. At the time landlords provide prospective tenants with applications, they must also provide printed notice of their tenant selection criteria, including reasons why applications may be denied. The notice must contain certain acknowledgment language that the applicant must sign. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.3515 (2024).)
  • Floodplain disclosure. Landlords must provide tenants with written notice stating the landlord's knowledge of whether the property is in a 100-year floodplain. If a landlord knows that flooding has damaged any portion of a dwelling at least once during the five years immediately preceding the effective date of the lease, the landlord must inform the tenant in writing. The notices must be given to the tenant in a separate written document at or before the execution of the lease. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.0135 (2024).)

In addition, landlords in all states must follow federal lead-based paint disclosure rules.

Back to top

Texas Late Fees and Other Rent Rules

In Texas, rent is due on whatever day the landlord and tenant agree to.

Grace Periods and Late Fees

Texas law does not require landlords to give tenants a grace period for paying rent. However, a landlord and tenant can agree in the lease or rental agreement that there will be a grace period.

Texas landlords can charge late fees if the:

  • notice of the fee is included in a written lease
  • fee is reasonable, and
  • any portion of the rent has remained unpaid for two full days after the due date.

Late fees must be reasonable. Texas law states that a late fee is reasonable if it:

  • isn't more than 12% of the periodic amount of rent (for structures with four or fewer units) or
  • isn't more than 10% of the periodic amount of rent (for structures with more than four units).

The fee might be higher if the landlord can show that they incurred actual costs greater than these amounts. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.019 (2024).)

Rent Payments Made in Cash

Landlords must accept cash rent payments unless the lease requires rent to be paid in another manner. When a landlord receives a cash rent payment, they must provide the tenant with a written receipt and enter the payment date and amount in a record book maintained by the landlord. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.011 (2024).)

Rent Increases

Texas landlords can't raise the rent during the term of a lease unless the lease specifically allows them to do so.

For month-to-month tenancies, Texas law doesn't specify the amount of notice landlords must give to raise the rent. A reasonable amount of notice would likely be the same length of time that the agreement is for: 30 days.

Back to top

Texas Landlords Must Provide Habitable Rentals

Like landlords in all states, Texas landlords must provide rentals that are safe and fit for human habitation.

Specifically, Texas landlords are required to make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition when:

  • the tenant specifies the condition in a notice to the landlord
  • the tenant isn't delinquent in paying rent when the notice is given, and
  • the condition materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant or arises from the landlord's failure to provide hot water.

(Tex. Prop. Code § 92.052 (2024).)

Back to top

Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in Texas

When a tenant gives a landlord notice about a problem that affects health or safety, but the landlord doesn't fix it within a reasonable amount of time (usually seven days), the tenant might have the option to:

  • terminate the lease
  • if the cost of the repair doesn't exceed the greater of $500 or one month's rent, repair the problem and deduct the cost from the rent, or
  • sue the landlord.

(Tex. Prop. Code §§ 92.056, 92.0563 (2024).)

Tenants who decide to make repairs and withhold rent should do so cautiously. If a tenant wrongfully withholds the rent or makes repairs, they could be liable to the landlord for one month's rent plus $500. (Tex. Prop. Code § 92.058 (2024).) A tenant who is considering making repairs and withholding the cost from rent should consider consulting with an attorney to make sure the remedy is available to them.

Back to top

Small Claims Lawsuits in Texas

If you find yourself in a battle over a security deposit or repairs, small claims court is a good place to bring your grievance. In Texas, small claims matters (those where the amount in question is no more than $20,000) are filed in the county justice of the peace courts. These courts can also hear general landlord-tenant disputes and evictions.

Small claims court procedures tend to be simpler than those of regular courts, and, although Texas allows parties to have lawyers, many people represent themselves.

Back to top

Texas Termination and Eviction Rules

Texas landlords must follow very specific rules and procedures to terminate a tenancy and then, if necessary, file an eviction lawsuit.

Notice of Termination for Cause

In Texas, a landlord can terminate a tenancy early if the tenant does not pay rent or violates the lease or rental agreement (for example, by having a dog when none are allowed or continually throwing loud parties). Before filing an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must first give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate, unless the lease or rental agreement provides for a shorter or longer notice period. The landlord doesn't have to give the tenant the option to fix the violation or pay the rent. If the tenant doesn't move out of the rental unit after three days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also known as a forcible detainer suit) with the court. (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005 (2024).)

Notice of Termination Without Cause

The rules for terminating a tenancy without cause vary depending on whether the tenancy is month-to-month (pursuant to a rental agreement) or for a fixed term (pursuant to a lease).

Terminating a Month-to-Month Tenancy Without Cause

When a Texas landlord wishes to end the tenancy of a tenant who has a month-to-month rental agreement, the amount of notice required depends on how often the tenant pays rent:

  • If the tenant pays rent once a month, the tenancy ends on the later of either the day given in the notice for termination or one month after the day on which notice is given.
  • If the tenant pays rent more frequently than once a month, the tenancy ends on the later of the day given in the notice for termination or the day following the number of days equal to how often the tenant pays rent. For example, if the tenant pays rent every 20 days, the landlord must give 20 days' notice that starts the day after the notice is given.

This notice must state the date by which the tenancy will end and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time. (Tex. Prop. Code § 91.001 (2024).)

Terminating a Fixed-Term Tenancy Without Cause

A landlord can't end a fixed-term tenancy early without cause—a lease guarantees tenants the right to stay at the property (so long as they don't violate its terms) for the duration of the time stated. When landlords wish to have tenants with a lease move out without having cause (such as a failure to pay rent), they must wait until the term ends.

However, the landlord is not required to give the tenant notice that the lease isn't being renewed, unless the lease specifically requires it. For example, if the tenant has a year-long lease that expires in December and the tenant has not requested a renewal, the landlord does not need to give the tenant notice to move out of the rental unit by the end of December (unless such notice is required in the lease). When December comes around, the landlord can expect the tenant to move out of the rental unit by the end of the month.

When tenants don't move out at the end of a lease, they become holdover tenants—tenants who do not have the protection of a lease. To remove a holdover tenant in Texas, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to vacate. If the tenant does not move out by the end of the three days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. (Tex. Prop. Code § 24.005 (2024).)

For more details about Texas evictions, including possible eviction defenses, see Nolo's The Eviction Process in Texas: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers.

Back to top

Texas Rules About Landlords' Access to Property

Although Texas doesn't have a specific law about when and how landlords can enter a rental property, landlords can always enter a rental with the tenant's consent or when there's a reasonable belief that there's imminent danger to lives or property.

Back to top

Where to Find Texas Landlord-Tenant Laws

If you want to read the text of a law itself, see Texas' online catalog of its constitution and statutes.

Local Ordinances Affecting Texas Landlords and Tenants

Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and anti-discrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites—just search for the name of a particular city in Texas and then search when you're on the site.

Municode is a good source for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in Texas.

Federal Landlord-Tenant Laws and Regulations

Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have enacted laws and regulations that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in Texas. These laws and regulations address topics such as discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.

The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 53 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). To access the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations online, see the federal section of the Library of Congress's legal research site.

Back to top

Nolo Resources on Legal Research and Landlord-Tenant Law

For more information on legal research, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.

You'll also find a wealth of information in Nolo's landlord-tenant books.

For landlords:

For tenants:

Back to top

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you

Ready to create a lease?

Get Professional Help

Talk to a Landlord-Tenant attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you