Landlord-tenant law in Texas gives tenants many rights but doesn't leave landlords completely defenseless. Under Texas law, landlords may sue a tenant to recover damages in a variety of instances, from physical damage to rental properties to an anticipated breach of the lease agreements. The law restricts landlords in terms of how much lawsuits may seek to recoup, depending on the circumstances surrounding the damages.
Breach of Lease
In Texas and other states, a landlord may sue a tenant for damages when a tenant vacates a property and gives an indication that he will pay no further rent to the landlord. The landlord is suing for damages and not rent or eviction because this is an anticipatory breach of the lease agreement. The landlord has the right to sue for the remaining reasonable value of the lease agreement.
Duty to Mitigate Damages
When a landlord is suing a tenant for damages or rent owed, Texas law requires the mitigation of those damages down to the fair market value for the property in question. The law also requires the landlord to make good faith efforts to re-rent the property and may only sue the previous for unpaid rent up the point where he re-rents the property. Texas law requires no mitigation of damages when a landlord is suing a tenant for damages in an anticipatory breach of a lease. This means a landlord may sue for the full amount remaining on the lease and all other costs incurred resulting from the suit.
Damage to Property
A landlord has the right to require a tenant to pay for physical damages caused by the tenant to a rental property outside of normal wear and tear. This is the case in Texas and other states across the country. If a tenant refuses to pay, a landlord may sue the tenant in civil court to recover the funds necessary to repair the damages. If the damages make the property uninhabitable, a landlord may be able to include rent at fair market value in the suit as compensation for the tenant's refusal to pay.
End of Lease Procedures
At the end of a lease agreement a tenant may elect to move out of a rental property. The landlord has a duty to inspect the property upon the tenant's departure and determine if any damage exists and make the appropriate repairs. The landlord pays for these repairs using the tenant's security deposit. If the security deposit is not sufficient to pay for these damages, the tenant must supply the remaining amount. If the tenant refuses, the landlord may sue in civil court to recover the necessary costs. The landlord may only use the security deposit and may only sue a tenant for damages caused by the tenant. It is illegal to attempt to force a tenant to pay for pre-existing property damage.
- American Law Institute; Mitigation of Damages and Calculation of 'Future Rentals': The Difference Between Rent and Damages; Robert Harms Bliss
- Texas Attorney General: Tenant Rights
- Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. "America's Rental Housing 2020," Page 9. Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Nolo. "State Laws on Landlord's Access to Rental Property." Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Nolo. "How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers." Accessed March 20, 2020.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act." Accessed March 20, 2020.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.