Investing in property has many benefits but also comes with risks, such as costly repairs or a non-paying tenant. It is therefore crucial for property investors to protect their rights by retaining an Austin landlord lawyer.
We Will Help You Draft a Solid Lease Agreement
One critical way to protect your rights as a landlord is to have a solid lease agreement. Texas permits either oral or written lease agreements. However, a written lease agreement is highly encouraged since it not only sets out the terms and conditions of the agreement, but both parties also acknowledge their understanding and agreement of those terms and conditions by signing the contract.
An experienced Austin landlord lawyer will draft a landlord-favorable lease agreement that is compliant and enforceable under both Texas and federal landlord tenant laws. The agreement may include:
- Parties’ names and contact information
- Grace period, if any
- Security deposit
- Pet deposit, if desired
- Rights and responsibilities of each party
- Remedies for breach of contract
- Circumstance allowing a tenant to terminate a contract without penalty, such as death of the tenant. Or, pursuant to Texas law, if the tenant is a domestic violence victim with an order of protection against the abuser or a temporary injunction that may be part of a divorce proceedings.
Make Sure to Specify When You Can Enter the Premises
After the tenant takes possession of the property, a landlord’s right to enter the premises is limited. Your Austin landlord lawyer will ensure that your lease agreement specifies the circumstances permitting you entry onto the property, as well as the amount of time for advance notice, such as:
- Necessary repairs
- Prospective tenant is shown the property
- Emergency inside the property
If you consistently fail to provide advance notice or you enter the premises for reasons other than outlined in the lease agreement, the tenant has several remedies. This includes seeking damages and release from the lease.
Texas permits landlords to determine the amount for security deposit and where it is held, but the deposit must be returned within 30 days after the tenant vacates the premises. You may deduct the following from the deposit:
- Unpaid rent
- Costs for repairs to any damages beyond normal wear and tear (be sure to retain proof of damages and receipts for repairs)
In Texas, you could pay three times the security deposit, court costs and attorney fees for withholding the security deposit in bad faith. A skilled Austin landlord lawyer can strategize a defense against a bad faith claim.
Repairs and Damages
Both tenants and landlords are responsible for making repairs to certain damages. Generally, if a tenant requests for repairs and the landlord fails to make such repairs, then the tenant may make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent. Disputes may arise as to who is responsible for making the repairs. Your Austin landlord lawyer will review your case, retain experts if needed, and argue that the damages were caused by the tenant’s conduct.
Evicting a Tenant
Eviction is one remedy against a tenant who breaches the lease agreement, such as:
- Failure to pay rent
- Violation of other terms of the lease agreement (e.g. conducting illegal activities on the property)
- Public indecency
Notice to Vacate
Prior to commencing an eviction proceeding in court, you must first properly serve the tenant(s) with a Notice to Vacate, which should include:
- Date the notice was served
- Names and address of the tenants
- Reason for the notice
- Statement of when the tenant must move out and/or amount of outstanding rent
- Explanation that the landlord may pursue a lawsuit to evict the tenant from the premises
- Description of how the Notice was served
If the notice is due to failure to pay rent, you must give at least three days’ notice to pay the rent before you file for eviction, unless your lease agreement states that 24 hours’ notice is sufficient.
Our knowledgeable Austin landlord lawyer will ensure the notice’s accurate content and proper service. Additionally, our firm letterhead communicates to the tenant that you are working with a reputable firm and are prepared to move forward with the eviction process.
We Will Represent You at Trial
Generally, a landlord may initiate an eviction suit against the tenant three days after the notice. At Girling Law, we rigorously defend against a tenant’s tactics to delay the proceedings, negotiate settlements, and aggressively represent you throughout the trial proceedings and, if needed, the appeal process.
Contact an Austin Landlord Lawyer
To optimize your investment property, you need an Austin landlord lawyer to draft a solid lease agreement tailored to your needs, conduct background and financial checks on prospective tenants to decreased chances of future litigation, and, if necessary, aggressively represent you in landlord-tenant legal proceedings, like housing discrimination claims or evictions. Contact Girling Law today at (512) 270-7927.