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Tenants’ Rights Handbook

State Bar of Texas' Tenants' Rights Handbook

The Tenants’ Rights Handbook is for residential tenants in Texas and is published as a public service by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and State Bar of Texas. It is their goal that distribution and use of this handbook will explain many of the questions and legal issues that arise in landlord-tenant relationships in Texas.

Their handbook is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. The Texas Young Lawyers Association and State Bar of Texas hope, however, that by providing Texas residents with a better understanding of their legal rights and remedies as tenants, their handbook will prevent many legal problems from arising.

WARNING:
This handbook is not designed to make the reader an expert in landlord-tenant law in Texas, but is merely intended as a guide to the general rights and responsibilities of the tenant and landlord in various situations.

If you plan to terminate your lease, withhold rent, repair and deduct, use your deposit for rent, sue your landlord, or take other serious action based on what you have read in the Property Code or this handbook, please consult an attorney or tenant association to ensure all legal requirements have been met.

This handbook does not address every consideration that may be applicable in a given situation. Also, interpretations of statutes routinely change over time. The judgment of a court will also depend on the exact circumstances of the individual case. If you improperly terminate the lease, withhold rent, sue, etc., the landlord may be entitled to collect damages and attorney’s fees from you.

You also need to be aware of the practical considerations of any action. For example, this handbook indicates the specific instances where you can terminate a lease agreement and move out. Even though you may have correctly terminated your lease, if your landlord does not agree with your decision, he or she may take action against you (including withholding your deposit and giving a statement to credit reporting agencies). Although the landlord’s actions may later be deemed illegal, you may have to go to some trouble to achieve your desired outcome.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Overview – page 1
Selecting Your New Home – page 2
Application Fees – page 2

The Lease and Important Provisions
Rent and Late Fees – page 3
House Rules – page 5
Landlord’s Right to Enter – page 5
Repair Language – page 6
Occupants and Visitors – page 6
Parking and Towing Rules and Policies – page 6
Lease Time Period and Month-to-Month Leases – page 7
Changing Terms in the Middle or End of a Lease – page 7
Moving Into Your New Home – page 8
Information on Renters’ Insurance from the Texas Department of Insurance – page 8

Tenant Rights and Remedies
Repairs and Improvements – page 11
Locks and Security Devices – page 17
Smoke Detectors – page 18
Security Deposits – page 20
Finding Out Who Owns and Manages the Premises – page 23
Discrimination – page 23
Landlord’s Duty to Accommodate Tenants with Disabilities – page 24
Serving Court Papers on Your Landlord – page 25

Tenant Duties and Consequences
Lockouts – page 25
Utility Disconnection – page 26
Landlord’s Right to Remove Property – page 27
Subleasing – page 29
Cotenancy – page 29
Eviction – page 29

Termination and Moving
By Agreement – page 33
The Lease Ends – page 34
Termination for Landlord Failures or Military Transfers – page 35
Termination for Tenant Breach – page 35
Change in Landlord Usually Does Not Terminate the Lease – page 35
Disagreements About Termination – page 35
Consequences for Terminating Without Excuse – page 36
Moving – page 36
Mobile Homes – page 37

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