Texas, like all states, has very specific rules that landlords need to know follow when renting out residential property, such as when and how you must return deposits (in Texas, you have 30 days after then tenancy ends, and you must itemize any deductions). Your lease or rental agreement is the key document that spells out these rules and landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities.
Here are some of the most important items to cover in your Texas lease or rental agreement.
Terms to Include
1. Names of All Tenants
Every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both members of a married or unmarried couple, should be named as tenants and sign the lease or rental agreement. This makes each tenant legally responsible for all terms, including the full amount of the rent and the proper use of the property. This means that you can legally seek the entire rent from any one of the tenants should the others skip out or be unable to pay; and if one tenant violates an important term of the tenancy, you can terminate the tenancy for all tenants on that lease or rental agreement.
2. Limits on Occupancy
Your agreement should clearly specify that the rental unit is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the lease and their minor children. This guarantees your right to determine who lives in your property -- ideally, people whom you have screened and approved -- and to limit the number of occupants. The value of this clause is that it gives you grounds to evict a tenant who moves in a friend or relative, or sublets the unit, without your permission.
3. Term of the Tenancy
Every Texas rental document should state whether it is a rental agreement or a fixed-term lease. Here’s the difference:
- Rental agreements usually run from month-to-month and self-renew unless terminated by the landlord or tenant. By law in Texas, all notice periods are one month unless the landlord and tenant agree to something else in writing.
- Leases, on the other hand, set a specific beginning and expiration date. A lease obligates both landlord and tenant to a specific term, typically a year—although Texas law allows certain exceptions. For example, a tenant who is the victim of a sexual assault may move without responsibility for future rent—after providing he landlord with the proper documentation.
4. Rent and Late Fees
Your lease or rental agreement should provide specific details on the rent, including:
- the amount of rent
- when it is due (typically, the first of the month), and whether there’s any grace period
- how rent is to be paid, such as by mail or delivered to your office
- acceptable payment methods (such as personal check only), and
- late fees (by law in Texas, you may impose a late fee if the rent remains unpaid the second day after the date it was due, and you may choose an initial fee and a subsequent daily fee).
5. Security Deposit
To avoid confusion and legal hassles over deposits, your Texas lease or rental agreement should be clear on all the details, including:
- The dollar amount and use of the security deposit. Texas does not set a limit, but most landlords find it impractical to charge more than one or two months’ rent.
- When and how you will return the deposit. By law in Texas, you must return the deposit within 30 days of the end of the tenancy, as long as the tenant has given you a forwarding address, and you must itemize any deductions.
- Other security deposit details, such as whether you will pay interest (not required by law).
6. Repairs and Maintenance
To avoid rent-withholding hassles and disputes over use of the deposit, it’s a good idea to clearly set out responsibilities for repairs and maintenance in your lease or rental agreement, including:
- the tenant's responsibility to keep the rental premises clean and sanitary and to pay for any damage caused by his or her abuse or neglect
- a requirement that the tenant alert you to defective or dangerous conditions in the rental property
- restrictions on tenant repairs and alterations, such as installing a built-in closet organizing system, and
- tenant rights when a landlord has failed (despite being given proper notice) to repair a problem or defect that affects the tenant’s physical health or safety (by law, all rental agreements and leases in Texas must include this information).
7. Entry to Rental Property
To avoid tenant claims of violation of privacy rights, your lease or rental agreement should clarify your legal right of access to the property -- for example, to make repairs -- and state how much advance notice you will provide the tenant before entering. The state of Texas does not require landlords to give tenants a specified amount of notice before entering, but it’s a good idea to provide a reasonable amount of advance notice, such as 24 hours.
8. Restrictions on Tenant Illegal Activity
An explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise, and illegal activity, such as drug dealing, will help you avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors.
If you do not allow pets, be sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the subject. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets.
Federal law require landlords to make certain lead-based paint disclosures before tenants move in. Texas also requires that you give tenants the name and address of the property owner or manager.
11. Other Restrictions
Be sure your lease or rental agreement complies with all relevant state and local Texas laws including health and safety codes, occupancy rules, and antidiscrimination laws. Any other legal restrictions, such as limits on the type of business a tenant may run from home, should also be spelled out in the lease or rental agreement. Be sure to include important rules and regulations covering things unique to your property, like parking and use of common areas.
Where to Find Texas Lease and Rental Forms
For Texas rental documents, including leases and rental agreements, see the Real Estate and Rental Property Forms section of Nolo. These ready-to-use legal forms include detailed, clause-by-clause instructions that cover the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Texas. Options include the following:
Downloadable FormsTexas Residential Lease for Multiple Tenants
Texas Residential Lease for a Single Tenant
Texas Residential Rental Agreement for Multiple Tenants
Texas Residential Rental Agreement for a Single Tenant