Dallas Rental Management Legal Issues: Know Your Tenant’s Rights

Rental laws and regulations are meant to safeguard both tenants and owners. Texas has several laws that are intended to protect renters from living in units with dangerous or unreasonable living conditions because of landlord neglect. Dallas rental management owners need to understand these laws and know how to respond appropriately to repair needs for the safety of the tenant and to avoid legal problems. 

“Being aware of legal pitfalls that haunt all landlords and homeowners is the first step to creating a better rental experience for all involved,” explains the Director of Operations at Specialized Property Management Dallas/Fort Worth. “We understand that regulations affect everyone in a rental situation on a local, state and federal level. As a company for property management, landlords count on us to stay on top of all regulations so we can protect them from potential risks and financial liabilities.”

The only way to keep out of hot water is to stay current on regulations. All those involved in property management must understand that making these mistakes not only costs you money, but it can also ruin your reputation in the industry and keep you from growing your business.

As a property owner, here are some legal issues you should become familiar with in order to be successful in this industry. 

Privacy Laws

Even though you may own the rental property, a tenant with a signed lease and keys to a unit has a legal right to privacy. If you need access to the rental property, you must give your tenant  a heads up at least 24 hours beforehand. You may have scheduled inspections or maintenance with your tenant and seen them put it in their calendar, but you should still call to remind them when the appointment is coming up. Always be respectful to the tenant whenever you need to enter their home.

All documents relating to financial transactions, notices, complaints, and all private information a tenant has provided should be kept confidential and secure by Dallas rental management. Keep all records in a safe place even once your tenant has moved out.

Right to Habitable Housing

Your tenant has a legal right to rent property that is fit to live in. Laws of “implied warranty of habitability” are in place with most states. This means that tenants have a legal right to working utilities such as electricity and heat, along with clean running water. The structure of the property also needs a solid foundation, working windows and a solid roof. The building should be kept in good repair and checked regularly for safety issues. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors that work properly are a must. Any mold on or inside the rental property should be treated and removed by a professional. Things like faulty electrical wiring, rats, cockroaches, leaky roofs are included in living conditions that are unhealthy or not safe. 

A judge can order a Dallas residential property management company to make repairs if necessary. It is illegal for Dallas rental management to refuse maintenance and repair to rental units while a tenant is living in the unit. Hiring an unlicensed or improperly licensed maintenance company to handle a repair or property management can get you into legal trouble, so make sure whoever is conducting the repair is licensed and qualified. 

SB 1448, effective January 1, 2010, requires landlords to safeguard the health and well-being of their tenants. Anything in disrepair that could jeopardize the safety of a tenant must be resolved, or law enforcement could get involved to ensure the correction occurs. A tenant may also choose to fix any problems and subtract the cost of the repair from their rent payment. As a rental property owner you should maintain a dedicated 24-hour contact system with tenants for after hours, weekends, and holiday emergencies.

Right to Security

Certain security measures are legally required for rental houses. Doors leading to the outside should have keyed deadbolts and have viewing access to the exterior of the home. Windows and sliding doors need to latch and lock properly. Successful and professional property management in Dallas means ensuring the safety and security of a unit through protection from intrusion and unlawful breaking and entering.

Evictions

A landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without proper cause. A tenant has a legal right to feel safe and secure in the long-term stability of their lease agreement. The terms of the rental agreement must be upheld. Legally, the tenant has a right to what is referred to as “quiet enjoyment.” Neglecting the proper eviction steps means a lawsuit could be in your future.

Make Sure Your Real Estate Agent is Licensed

Real estate regulations require a licensed real estate agent to perform certain Dallas property management activities. Avoid costly fines by making sure all those activities that should be conducted by a licensed real estate agent are not performed by anyone else.

Regulations on Cost and Fees for Dallas Rental Management Owners

Many Dallas rental property owners question whether there are specific stipulations on certain fees and deposits by the state of Texas. Here are some common questions we get asked about costs and fees and the answers to them.

What is the limit on rent amount?

Texas does not impose a limitation on rent amount. Landlords can raise rent rates, but depending on the lease agreement there are regulations about giving a rent-increase notification before the rates go up.

What is the limit on application fees?

Texas does not impose a limitation on application fees. Application fees are not application deposits that you put down to hold a rental unit. The fee is to cover the time and expense the landlord uses to process an application. Dallas rental management owners usually do not return fees if the application is rejected, but deposits should be returned if it is the landlord that is choosing not to lease to a serious applicant.

What is the limit on security deposits?

Texas does not impose a limitation on security deposits. Deposits are collected to cover any future repair needs when a tenant moves out. State laws require that owners keep a written record of the money used for specific repairs and that security deposits that are not used for repairs be returned within 30 days of the move-out. Improperly handling security deposits and funds can put you in violation of trust accounting laws. There is no Texas regulation that states you must have a separate bank account for security deposits; however, detailed and accurate records for security deposits are vital. 

What restrictions exist for late fees?

Late fees will vary from unit to unit. If a landlord incurs a late fee, like a fee to a mortgage company, for example, that fee can roll down to the tenant. Fees must be clearly outlined in the lease and cannot be imposed until at least one day beyond the due date.

What restrictions exist for fees imposed when a rent check doesn’t clear?

Texas Business and Commerce Code Section 3.506(a) outlines the maximum charge for this fee to be $30.

Are there regulations for pet fees and deposits?

Texas leasing laws do not regulate how a landlord charges a tenant for having pets. The lease agreement should explain policies and charges if pets are allowed in the rental home. A pet occupant can be charged an additional monthly rent amount, a one-time pet deposit, or fees based on incurred damage. Dallas rental management owners that allow pets in their units need to make sure that pet policies are carefully detailed in the lease agreement.

SPM Dallas: The #1 Choice for Professional Property Management in Dallas

Understanding and following regulations as they apply to rental situations will lead to a positive rental property experience for landlords and tenants. “We understand that many of our clients simply don’t have the time or expertise to commit towards keeping up-to-date on rental property regulations. So, instead of taking this on themselves, they come to a full-service property management to take care of their rental property,” she explains. “To relinquish control of property management, Plano landlords need to trust their property managers and have confidence in their abilities. Without this, we can’t fully help them avoid potential regulator problems.”

Your team at Specialized Property Management Dallas promises to stay up to date and current on all:

  • State property code laws
  • Local city ordinances
  • Department of Real Estate
  • Tenant screening regulations
  • Real estate contract law on residential leases
  • Trust and escrow laws on security deposits and monthly rental payments
  • Tenant and landlord maintenance laws
  • Collection and eviction laws
  • Property inspection regulations

Our in-house legal counsel and compliance team stay current on the continually shifting applicable regulations to ensure you, your tenants, and your properties are protected. We also provide trust accounting compliance for security deposits and eviction & writ of possession services. With over 30 years of experience in the Dallas rental management industry, thousands of property owners trust us to manage their rental property. 

Put our professional services to work for you today! Call 214-233-7572 to get started!