Residential Leases

Denied Access to Personal Property in Your Residence/Former Residence?

texas denied access residence retrieve personal propertyThis issue often arises in the common property, landlord-tenant, family law, and foreclosure arenas.


A person who has been denied access to his or her residence or former residence may apply to a Texas Justice Court for an order authorizing access to retrieve personal property under Chapter 24A of the Texas Property Code.

The applicant must:

  1. certify that the occupant of the residence has denied the applicant access to the residence;
  2. certify that the applicant is not prohibited by law (including a protective order) from entering the residence;
  3. allege that the applicant, or the applicant’s dependent, requires one or more of the following personal items contained in the residence: (a) medical records; (b) medicine and medical supplies; (c) clothing; (d) child-care items; (e) legal or financial documents; (f) checks or bank or credit cards in the name of the applicant; (g) employment records; or (h) personal identification documents;
  4. allege that the applicant or the applicant’s dependent will suffer personal harm if the items listed in the application are not retrieved promptly;
  5. include documentation that shows the applicant is currently, or was formerly, authorized to occupy the residence; and
  6. execute a bond payable to the occupant in an amount set by the judge.

The Justice Court may issue an order authorizing the applicant to enter the residence accompanied by a peace officer to retrieve the property listed in the application (a) on sufficient evidence of urgency and potential harm to the health and safety of any person; and (b) after sufficient notice to the current occupant and an opportunity for both parties to be heard by the Court.

What happens if the order is granted but the applicant takes personal property that isn’t expressly permitted by the  order or that isn’t owned by the applicant?

Stay tuned!

In our Law 101 posts, we define terms, phrases, or concepts with the goal of conveying core information in order to set the stage for more complex discussions.

Some Changes to Texas Landlord-Tenant Law

texas senate bill landlord tenant lawEnrolled Senate Bill 1367 brings some changes to Texas landlord-tenant law.

First, it allows a landlord under some situations to attach a notice to vacate to the exterior of the rental premise’s main entry door.

Second, it changes the penalty a tenant may seek from a landlord who willfully violates residential landlord lien law.

Third, it disallows residential landlords and tenants from waiving the tenant’s right to a jury trial.

Finally, it changes and clarifies some aspects of the law related to security deposits.

See the enrolled bill here.

Our Tips & Resources posts are intended to provide general educational information. Like all other material on this blog, it is not a substitute for legal advice.

The Brothel Exception

I spent some time working as a prosecutor at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. It was one of my favorite experiences. Part of the job required prosecuting people accused of public indecency. That included prostitution, promotion of prostitution, and a number of other lascivious activities classified as obscene.Texas Lease Agreements Landlord Tenant

Common sense dictates that leases may be terminated for reasons stated in the lease agreement. Sometimes the law provides additional reasons leases may be terminated. Sometimes landlords and tenants can agree in the lease contract to waive certain legal rights otherwise afforded to each of them by default.

In Texas, a landlord may terminate a lease executed/renewed after June 15, 1981 if the tenant or occupant uses the property for an activity for which the tenant, occupant, or their employee or agent is convicted of a public indecency crime and the convicted person has exhausted/abandoned all avenues of direct appeal from the conviction.

This law applies to both commercial and residential leases. And it can’t be waived by agreement. Go figure.

In our Just for Fun posts, we underscore certain construction and real estate topics just for the fun of it.

Refusal to Refund My Security Deposit?!

The first time I met with a lawyer was while I was in college in Austin. I lived in an apartment with two of my cousins. Our receiptlease was ending. We told the property management company our forwarding address and asked when we might expect back our security deposit. “Never,” was the response. One benefit of attending UT at the time was that we had occasional, free access (yeah right, we paid for it in tuition costs) to a lawyer on staff at the university.

A security deposit is any advance of money that’s primarily intended to secure performance under a residential lease. It is not a rental application deposit or an advance payment of rent. A landlord generally can’t withhold any of part of a residential security deposit for normal wear and tear, but the landlord may deduct charges for which the tenant is otherwise responsible under the lease.

We scheduled a meeting with the property manager. We courteously told her that we believed that she was wrong. The reason she wanted to withhold our deposit was to cover items of normal wear and tear. We explained what the lawyer had told us. And we negotiated a refund of our security deposit.

Sometimes disagreements arise simply because parties don’t know or completely understand their legal obligations. Visiting with someone who knows the law can sometimes help.

In our “Law 101″ posts, we define terms, phrases, or concepts with the goal of conveying core information in order to set the stage for more complex discussions.

Locking Someone Out of Their House?

How would you react if you came home one day to discover that the locks to your house had been changed? Who would you call? What would you do? Why?

A few years ago, a client called and asked if he could change the locks on a tenant who was behind in rent.

The client-landlord had leased one of his houses to the tenant for a five-year term. The lease required the tenant to timely pay rent and the landlord to pay for certain utilities. The lease stated that the landlord could change the locks if rent became overdue. The parties were more than half way through the lease term, and the tenant had been delinquent many, many times in the past. Now the overdue amount had become quite significant. Fed up, the landlord wanted to immediately call a locksmith.

IMG_0231_2 (1)In Texas, a landlord may only change the locks on a residential tenant based on delinquency in rent if certain conditions are met. First, the lease agreement must expressly allow it. Second, the landlord must give separate, advance written notice that the landlord intends to change the locks if rent isn’t paid. Third, once the locks are changed, the landlord must provide yet another written notice informing the tenant where he or she may obtain a new key at any hour regardless of whether the delinquency is paid.

“Well, maybe I’ll just stop paying their gas bill.” I knew he said this sardonically. Still, I used it as an opportunity to tell him that there are separate rules that govern the disconnection or disruption of utilities and that doing so under these circumstances might not be the most prudent course of action. But, I explained, he did have many other effective tools at his disposal to handle the situation. And handle it we did.

In our Just for Fun posts, we underscore certain construction and real estate topics just for the fun of it.