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Landlord/Tenant Law

This legal research guide provides information about landlord and tenant law that is helpful to both the practitioner and the public looking for legal information.

Rent


Rent Increases

There is not a statewide law that places limits on how much a landlord can increase the rent when a lease is renewed. In fact, Texas law only allows cities to establish local rent control ordinances in certain cases. A state of disaster has to have been declared and the city must find that a housing emergency exists. The governor must approve the ordinance before it can go into effect. 

If a landlord is trying to increase the rent by too much, the tenant can either try to negotiate or choose not to renew their lease. Please note that a landlord cannot raise the rent to punish a tenant for exercising one of their legal rights.

Texas Law

Late Fees

Texas law allows landlords to collect "reasonable" late fees if any portion of the rent remains unpaid more than two full days after it was due. In order to collect this late fee, the landlord must have included notice of it in a written lease.

Prior to 2019, there was often confusion about what counted as a "reasonable" late fee. The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1414 in 2019, which put specific parameters on the amount that a landlord can charge. Please see the link to Section 92.019 of the Property Code below for complete details.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

Methods of Payment

Texas law does not say how a tenant must pay their rent. It does not discuss rules a landlord might impose that would make tenants pay a specific way, like online or with a money order. How a tenant must submit their rent payments will depend on their specific lease. If a landlord introduces a new requirements to pay online, that may be considered an amendment to the lease. Changes to the lease can only happen at the beginning of a new lease period or with the agreement of all parties. Please see the section on When Can My Landlord Change My Lease? for more information.

If the lease does not say how rent must be paid, the landlord cannot refuse to accept cash payments and must provide a written receipt.

Texas Law

Retaliation

Some tenants fear that their landlord will punish them if they complain about problems with their apartment. This kind of punishment is called "retaliation." Section 92.331 of the Texas Property Code describes unlawful landlord retaliation, noting:

A landlord may not retaliate against a tenant by taking an action described by Subsection (b) because the tenant:
  (1) in good faith exercises or attempts to exercise against a landlord a right or remedy granted to the tenant by lease, municipal ordinance, or federal or state statute;
  (2) gives a landlord a notice to repair or exercise a remedy under this chapter;
  (3) complains to a governmental entity responsible for enforcing building or housing codes, a public utility, or a civic or nonprofit agency, and the tenant:
    (A) claims a building or housing code violation or utility problem; and
    (B) believes in good faith that the complaint is valid and that the violation or problem occurred; or
  (4) establishes, attempts to establish, or participates in a tenant organization.

Under this law, a landlord may not retaliate by:

Section 92.333 goes on to describe what remedies a tenant may pursue, including, "a civil penalty of one month's rent plus $500, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees in an action for recovery of property damages, moving costs, actual expenses, civil penalties, or declaratory or injunctive relief, less any delinquent rents or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord."

Texas Law

Understanding the Law