Both landlords and tenants should be able to deal with many legal questions and problems without a lawyer, once they understand the basics of state law. This overview of key landlord-tenant laws in Texas will get you started.
Under Texas law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement), such as the identity of anyone authorized to act on the landlord's behalf and the tenant's rights when the landlord fails to make necessary repairs. For a full list of Texas statutes regarding required landlord disclosures, see State Rules on Required Landlord Disclosures.
Texas state law does not limit how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. However, landlords must return security deposits within 30 days of the tenant's departure. Landlords who retain some or all of the deposit to cover damage and unpaid rent must provide an itemized, written accounting. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 92.104.) Texas law specifically requires landlords to "keep accurate records of all security deposits," but doesn't elaborate on what that means. (Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 92.106.) For more information, see Texas Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines and review Texas' security deposit laws codified in the Texas Property Code, sections 92.101 through 92.110.
Tenants can sue landlords in Justice Court for the return of their deposit, up to a dollar amount of $10,000. See Filing a Security Deposit Lawsuit in Texas Justice Court for advice for tenants filing suit. Landlords defending a security deposit lawsuit should check out Texas Landlord's Guide to Security Deposit Disputes in Justice Court.
State law regulates several rent-related issues, including late fees and how much time (three days in Texas) a tenant who has not paid rent has to move. For details, see Texas Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules.
Tenants may withhold rent or exercise the right to "repair and deduct" if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater. For specifics, see Texas Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent or "Repair and Deduct".
State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. For example, a landlord may give a Texas tenant who has failed to pay rent an unconditional quit notice that gives the tenant three days (the lease may specify a different amount of time) to move out before the landlord can file for eviction. See State Laws on Unconditional Quit Terminations and State Laws on Termination for Violation of Lease for details on these types of termination notices in Texas. (See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §§ 24.001-24.011.)
Several other landlord-tenant laws in Texas affect both property owners and renters, including:
If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, you'll find citations in many of the articles and charts included in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. To access the statutes, go to the Laws and Legal Information section of the Nolo site and find the link to your state laws.
If you just want to browse through the Texas landlord-tenant law, you can find state statutes at Texas Property Code Annotated sections 91.001 to 92.355. You can search the table of contents for the landlord-tenant statutes. Or, if you don't know the exact statute number, you can enter a keyword that is likely to be in it, such as "nonpayment of rent."
In addition to accessing state laws via Nolo's website, Texas statutes are available in many public libraries and in most law libraries that are open to the public (typically found in a county courthouse or at the state capitol or in a publicly-funded law school).
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and antidiscrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites —just search for the name of a particular city in Texas and then do a search when you're on the site.
State and Local Government on the Net and Municode are good sources 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.
While most landlords and tenants will primarily be concerned with state law in Texas, several federal laws come into play. Congress has enacted laws, and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have adopted regulations, covering 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 54 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"), which is organized by subject into 50 separate titles.
Nolo's Laws and Legal Research page includes links to state and federal laws, explains how to research and understand statutes, and provides advice on finding local ordinances and court cases, including Supreme Court cases. To go further, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and the Editors of Nolo (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 the Landlords & Tenants and Renters' & Tenants' Rights sections of the Nolo website and Nolo books, such as Every Landlord's Legal Guide and Every Tenant's Legal Guide.