Investment in property can be beneficial and rewarding. However, being a landlord also comes with challenges. Therefore, it is imperative that investors protect their interests by retaining a Stephenville landlord lawyer.
A Well Written Lease Agreement Is Important
Lease agreements are the fundamental legal understanding between a landlord and tenant. A lease agreement is imperative to ensure your landlord rights. Texas law allows either verbal or written lease agreement. However, only a written lease will truly protect your interests. Oral contracts can easily be misconstrued or misinterpreted. A written lease expressly outlines the terms and conditions that are expected between the parties. Signatures by both tenant and landlord make it a legally binding contract, which can be enforced.
An experienced Stephenville landlord lawyer can assist in drafting a landlord-friendly lease agreement. A lease needs to adhere to both Texas and federal law. A lease might contain:
- Rent amount and terms
- Parties’ identities and contract information
- Lease term
- Security deposit amount and terms
- Pet deposit
- Remedies for contract breach
- Hold over/eviction terms
- Rights and responsibilities of each party
- Termination provisions
- Assignment and subletting
- Property and facility maintenance
- Special circumstances
Landlord Entry on Premises
Once a tenant takes possession of the leased premises, your right as a landlord to enter the leased property is very limited. The law is meant to protect the tenant and give them a right to privacy. Your Stephenville landlord lawyer can help ensure your lease agreement covers the law. Your landlord lawyer can further make sure the lease allows you to enter the property when it is lawful to do so. Texas courts have not specified a certain amount of notice time landlords must give a tenant, but 24 hours is a good default. The lease might specify the following reasons for entry:
- Necessary or requested repairs
- Perspective tenant to see property
- Emergency that necessitates inside access
Entering a leased premises without notice or for other reasons than provided in the lease agreement is not a good idea. Tenants have rights, including damages and possible release from the lease.
Under Texas law, a landlord can determine the specific amount needed for a security deposit and where it is held. However, a landlord must return any security deposit within 30 days after a tenant leaves the property. It is permissible to deduct the following:
- Sums of unpaid rent
- Repairs costs or damage beyond normal wear
If you are deducting for repair costs make sure to keep records (i.e. pictures and receipts). If you fail to return the security deposit in bad faith the tenant can sue you. Damages can be up to three times the security deposit, as well as court costs and attorney fees. A Stephenville landlord lawyer can defend you against a bad faith tenant claim.
Damages and Repairs
Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the lease, both landlords and tenants may be responsible for repairs and damages. In general, a tenant asks for repairs and the landlord makes the repairs. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can do the repairs and then deduct the repair cost from rent. Disputes can arise and lead to litigation. Your Stephenville landlord lawyer can assist in arguing that the tenant caused damages.
In certain circumstances, a landlord has the right to evict a tenant for breach of the lease, including:
- Failing to pay rent
- Breach of other lease terms (e.g. illegal activities)
- Public indecency
Notice to Vacate
Before filing an eviction action in court, you, the landlord, must properly serve tenant(s) with a Notice to Vacate. The notice must include:
- Service date
- Tenant(s) names and addresses
- Reason for eviction notice
- Date of when tenant must move out and/or amount of rent arrears
- Explanation regarding how the landlord may pursue a lawsuit to evict the tenant from the premises
- Description of how notice was served
In cases were the eviction notice is due to unpaid rent, under Texas law, you must give a minimum of three days’ notice before you file the eviction in court (unless the lease states 24 hours is sufficient).
Working with an experienced Stephenville landlord lawyer for a tenant eviction will ensure the notice is adequate and properly served. Furthermore, when a landlord works with a law firm it lends credence to the landlord’s seriousness to act in moving forward with actual eviction.
There are various reasons a landlord might end up in court, or trial. One of the most common is eviction. A landlord can file an eviction suit three days after providing the tenant notice. At Girling Law, we can vigorously defend you against a tenant’s stall tactics. We can further negotiate settlements.
Contact a Stephenville Landlord Lawyer
Renting property can come with rewards and challenges. A lease should be customized to fit your needs as a landlord. A Stephenville landlord lawyer can assist in drafting your lease. A landlord lawyer can also complete background and financial checks on prospective tenants or assist in enforcing your rights. Contact Girling Law today at (512) 270-7927.