Texas Rental Laws: When Should Your Landlord Return Your Security Deposit?
You are moving to a new place, and you need all the money you have to buy new furnishings, hook up the cable, and buy food for the house-warming party. You kept your old place in great condition, so you can expect to get your security deposit back right away to pay for all of your moving expenses. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, many tenants experience trouble when they attempt to get prompt repayment of their security deposit from their landlords.
Check out Texas rental laws to see what your rights are, and under what circumstances you deserve that money.
1. 30 Days to Refund
Under Texas law, a landlord must refund your security deposit within 30 days of the date you moved out.
If they will withhold some or all of the deposit, they must tell you what they are charging you for and where they claim you did not meet your side of the agreement (to return the apartment in the condition in which you rented it).
If you have not received your security deposit back one month after moving, you may have a claim against the landlord.
2. Itemized Deductions
Often a house will incur some wear and tear after a few months or years of living in it. If your landlord refuses to return your deposit, he or she must itemize the reasons why. He must outline how you have damaged the home or failed to keep it in a livable condition.
The landlord must provide estimates on what it will cost him to bring the residence back to a habitable condition. If it is not adequately cleaned, or fixtures and appliances are broken, he can deduct the costs of cleaning and repair from your security deposit.
If there is a dispute about whether the cleaning and damages are covered by your lease or not, you may wait a lot longer than 30 days to see all, part or any of your deposit.
3. Unpaid Rent?
If you have moved out of the house in question and it is still in pristine condition, your landlord may still try to withhold repayment of your deposit. You may think you have an open-and-shut case against him!
Think again: have you left the landlord with any unpaid cable or utility bills? Did you forget to pay the rent one month, or remit a payment that was too low?
If you owe the landlord money, he or she may be justified in withholding your deposit. Failing to pay rent may mean you breached your lease. You may lose the right to claim your deposit if you have not followed the terms of your rental contract to the letter.
4. Bad Faith
Texas law provides that a landlord who retains a security deposit in bad faith is liable to the tenant for $100, plus three times the portion of the security deposit that was wrongly withheld and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Bad faith is when a landlord intentionally holds on to your money without a legally justifiable claim.
If your landlord fails to pay you back or give you an accounting of why he is withholding, the court will presume he is acting in bad faith. That means he would have to rebut that presumption in court.
Texas Rental Laws: Know Your Rights
Before you sign any lease, read the fine print. Acquaint yourself with Texas rental laws as well, so you know when you have a claim against your landlord and when you may have relinquished your claim.
If you think you are being unjustly denied your money, talk to a Texas attorney with experience in landlord tenant law. Contact us for more information.