Texas Landlord Tenant Law: How to Protect Yourself and Your Asset | Killeen Property Management - Article Banner

Renting out a property in Killeen requires that owners comply with some pretty heavy federal laws. You need to know The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Fair Credit Reporting Act will dictate how you handle the sensitive information you collect during tenant screenings, and what you need to say when you deny a tenant based on credit. 

As an investor, you need to understand service animals and support animals. You need to disclose lead paint in your older property. These federal laws are pretty sweeping, but they’re also fairly direct and you know exactly what you can and cannot do. 

State laws are a little different. 

This is where your property and your tenant relationship is regulated on a more local level. There are specific laws that need to be followed in Texas that won’t apply elsewhere. 

Texas has landlord and tenant laws that start with the Texas Property Code and what you need in your home before it even hits the rental market. State rental laws extend to the security deposit, and how quickly you need to return it to your departing tenants. 

There are a lot of details and ongoing adjustments and additions to the laws as they pertain to your rental property. 

Failure to comply can result in huge penalties. 

Protect yourself and your investment property by educating yourself on these laws and working with a Killeen property management company that stays up to date and maintains compliance. 

Texas Property Code and Killeen Rental Homes

The Texas Property Code is extensive, but when you’re renting out property, the section you need to focus on is Chapter 92. This is where you’ll find guidance for rental properties. 

Most of the rental property requirements in the Texas Property Code are for safety purposes. Here are the things you’ll need to do before putting your property on the rental market and looking for a new tenant.

  • Rekey your locks

You’ll need to change the locks between each tenant. All of the exterior door locks must be rekeyed. If you have a digital lock that doesn’t require a key, the combination needs to be changed before a new tenant can take possession. 

This requirement applies to all exterior doors that provide access to inside the house, including the front door, back door, and any door leading from the garage into the home. 

Landlords and property managers in Killeen have seven days from the time the tenant moves into the property to rekey locks on all exterior doors.

  • Install deadbolts and security bars

The Texas Property Code also requires that every exterior door has a deadbolt. There may be a keyed lock on a doorknob or a deadbolt, and there needs to be a second keyless deadbolt or ring bolt or drop bolt system or a metal bar across the inside of the door. The idea is that tenants should be able to securely lock their door from the inside the house. If there’s a sliding glass, a working latch or security bar will need to be installed as well as a pin lock.  

You’ll also need a peephole or a viewer on any exterior doors that are not see-through (such as a glass door). This allows tenants to see who is outside before they unlock their door. 

Windows must have at least one locking device, which is typically a latch or a sliding lock. This is to prevent windows from being opened from the outside.

  • Smoke detectors

Smoke detectors in your Killeen rental property must be less than 8 years old, and they need to be tested and found to be in working order. A smoke detector must be located in the following areas:

  • One in every bedroom of the property.
  • One outside of every bedroom in the property. If multiple bedrooms use the same hallway, for example, one smoke detector in that hallway would meet this requirement.   
  • Every level of the home must have a smoke detector.

These are the requirements listed in the Texas Property Code. Before you list your property for rent, make sure you have installed new locks, the deadbolts, peepholes, and other security features are in place, and you have working smoke detectors in all the right locations.

Texas Security Deposit Laws

You’ll collect a security deposit from your tenants before they move in, to protect you against any property damage, unpaid rent, or lease breaks. The landlord/tenant law in Texas establishes the requirements for holding and returning security deposits. 

A lot of cases go to court because of security deposit disputes. It’s easy to make a mistake with your security deposit, so be sure you’re paying attention to all the deadlines and requirements. Document everything, especially if you’re making a claim for property damage.

  • Collecting a security deposit

While some states have strict deposit limits, Texas law does not restrict the amount you can collect in a security deposit. Landlords in Killeen can ask tenants for any amount. 

This does not mean you should be unreasonable. There is no law that says how much to collect, but it’s always a good idea to follow the industry and local market trends. Qualified tenants will be unlikely and unwilling to pay more than the equivalent of one month’s rent. 

  • Returning a security deposit

Texas rental property owners have a strict deadline when it comes to returning a tenant’s security deposit. 

You have 30 days from the date of move-out to return the money to your tenant. You should return the entire deposit to the forwarding address your tenant leaves behind unless one of the following situations occurs:

  • Your lease requires a specific notice period before tenants move out and they don’t give the appropriate notice. In this situation, you are permitted to keep the security deposit. 
  • There is damage left behind at the property that was not there when the tenants moved in. You can use all or part of the security deposit to pay for repairs and replacements. 
  • You can also withhold money from the security deposit to pay for any unpaid rent or unpaid utility bills. 

Make sure you document every dollar that you keep from the security deposit because you will need to account for it. For example, if you’re withholding money to pay for a window that the tenant broke during the lease period, be sure to document that damage and include an invoice or a receipt for the repair. 

Wear and tear issues are your responsibility as a rental property owner, so there’s no reason to deduct anything from the tenant’s deposit to cover things like small nail holes in the walls from where pictures were hung or scuff marks from furniture. If you have trouble determining whether you’re looking at wear and tear or damage, talk to a Killeen property manager. You don’t want to make an unlawful deduction or one that a judge might disagree with. 

  • Security deposit disputes

All Killeen rental property owners should hold tenants accountable for any damage that is caused to the property. 

When you conduct your move-out inspection and notice that there is damage, you’re entitled to be compensated for whatever was broken or destroyed. Your lease is clear about expecting to get the home back in the same condition that it was when the tenants moved in. 

You’re entitled to make any necessary deductions. However, we always advise property owners to be fair and flexible when it comes to the security deposit return. 

If you are found to make an incorrect deduction, you can find yourself being ordered to pay some serious fines. If your tenant takes you to court and the judge rules in the tenant’s favor, you could be liable for up to three times the amount of the security deposit. Arguing over a $100 charge that may or may not be damage is probably not worth the expense and the time you’ll spend in court.

Texas Eviction Laws

Eviction LawYou can evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, lease violations that are not cured, or criminal activity going on in your property. Typically, if you’re going to evict, it will be for nonpayment of rent. 

You cannot change the locks, confront your tenant in anger, or turn off the utilities. You must follow the legal eviction process:

  • Service your tenants a Three Day Notice to Vacate. This notice tells the tenant that rent has to be paid in three business days, or they need to move out. With the service of this notice, the tenants are informed that you will begin the formal eviction process if they refuse to pay or move out. 
  • File for eviction if the tenant does not respond.
  • Go to court and obtain a judgment and Writ of Possession.

Once you prove your case, your tenants will be ordered out of the property, and you can begin to prepare it for new residents. 

These are some of the most important legal highlights we can provide. If you’d like to talk about how to best protect yourself from liability and lawsuits, contact us at Shine Residential Management.  

A property management company based in Harker Heights, Shine Residential Management cares for exceptional single-family homes throughout Central Texas, including in Killeen, Temple, Belton, Copperas Cove, Salado, and Georgetown.