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.
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.
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.
Every Texas rental document should state whether it is a rental agreement or a fixed-term lease. Here's the difference:
Your lease or rental agreement should provide specific details on the rent, including:
To avoid confusion and legal hassles over deposits, your Texas lease or rental agreement should be clear on all the details, including:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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: