Many questions about the landlord/tenant relationship can be answered by consulting the lease. This page will explain what a lease is, what it can cover, and when it can change.
Section 92.001 of the Texas Property Code defines a lease as “any written or oral agreement between a landlord and tenant that establishes or modifies the terms, conditions, rules, or other provisions regarding the use and occupancy of a dwelling.” This means that a spoken agreement is as valid as a written document and gives some protections to the tenant.
A lease is essentially a contract between a landlord and a tenant. As with any contract, both parties have the right to negotiate the terms before entering into it.
If the lease is in writing, Texas law requires a landlord to provide the tenant with a copy of the lease within 3 business days of signing. Be sure to save a copy of the lease!
Like any other contract, a lease cannot be changed in the middle of the lease term unless both parties agree. Changes to a lease might include increases in rent or new procedures that cause a tenant to pay additional fees, like being required to pay rent online.
We receive many questions about whether a lease can contain specific rules or requirements. People ask about rules like curfews, electronic rent payments, renter's insurance, and other topics. Texas statutes generally do not discuss whether or not leases can have these kinds of rules. Instead, Texas laws about what can and cannot be in a lease focus on making sure that a landlord cannot make a tenant waive a right that is guaranteed under the law.
Texas law explicitly prevents leases from restricting a tenant's right to:
If a tenant does not agree to rules that a landlord is suggesting that are otherwise legal, they can try to negotiate with the landlord. This might help them reach an agreement to have these clauses changed or removed.
Texans with disabilities who use a service animal or emotional support animal may find that their landlord has a rule prohibiting pets or animals in the rental unit.
The federal Fair Housing Act allows people with disabilities to request a reasonable accommodation to a landlord's pet restrictions. According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), examples of reasonable requests for accommodations include:
If a person's disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal is not apparent, HUD states that a landlord could request documentation of the individual's disability-related need for an assistance animal.
There are some circumstances in which a landlord would not be required to grant the request for an accommodation. For example, a landlord may be exempt from the Fair Housing Act and its requirements. According to HUD, other circumstances include:
For more information about service animals, please see our guide to Animal Laws.