What's Your Landlord-Tenant IQ?What's Your Landlord-Tenant IQ?David S. JonesJones, D.

If you are a renter, own rental property or are considering renting property to others, you need a copy of the Real Estate Center's Landlord's and Tenant's Guide by Judon Fambrough, attorney at law.

Updated in 2014, the 136-page guide explains what every Texas landlord and tenant should know about his or her legal rights regarding rental property. 

Take the following quiz. If you get all ten correct, you probably don't need the guide. If you miss more than a couple, the last paragraph tells you how to get a free copy. Answers are either true or false. 

  1. The maximum amount a landlord may demand as a security deposit is regulated by law.
  2. If a tenant breaches the lease by moving out early, the tenant automatically forfeits the security deposit.
  3. Under the deduct-and-repair statute, a tenant may deduct a maximum of $500 a month for repairs.
  4. Under certain circumstances, a landlord can obtain a lien on the tenant's property. By the same token, the opposite is true.
  5. A tenant may unilaterally, without penalty, terminate a residential lease if the required security devices are not installed.
  6. Late payments contained in a lease agreement constitute interest. As such, they are subject to Texas usury laws.
  7. If a tenant has damaged property, at the end of the lease, the maximum liability the tenant faces is set by the amount of the security deposit.
  8. If a landlord has casualty insurance on the premises, the tenant's property is automatically covered by the landlord's policy.
  9. With both residential and commercial leases, a landlord has a duty to mitigate damages if the tenant breaches the lease by moving out early.
  10. A residential landlord may change the locks and withhold a new key from the tenant until all delinquent rent is paid. 

According to Fambrough, here's how you should have answered the quiz. 

  1. False. Texas has no law dictating the maximum security deposit. It is negotiable.
  2. False. The Texas Property Code allows the landlord to deduct from the security deposit damages and charges resulting from a breach of the lease. While damages and charges, such as re-letting fees and lost rent, will exceed the security deposit, there is no automatic feature.
  3. False. The maximum is the greater of $500 or one month's rent.
  4. True. The Texas Property Code permits landlord's liens and grants tenants limited liens against the landlord's property.
  5. True. After giving a written three- or seven-day notice to the landlord to comply, tenants may unilaterally terminate a lease, if the tenant was not delinquent in rent payments when the notice was given.
  6. False. Late payments on a loan constitute interest. Late payments on a lease are not a charge against the detention of funds, hence not interest.
  7. False. A tenant is personally liable for all damages exceeding the amount of the security deposit.
  8. False. The landlord's insurance policy can cover only the landlord's interest in the premises. Tenants must obtain their own policy to cover personal property.
  9. True. Since 1997, landlords have been required to mitigate rent in both commercial and residential leases by diligently trying to relet the vacated premises.
  10. False. Residential landlords may change locks, but they cannot withhold a new key for delinquent rent. 

The landlords' and tenants' guide can be viewed or downloaded at https://assets.recenter.tamu.edu/Documents/Articles/866.pdf


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