Legal Issues: Know Your Tenant’s Rights

If you’re a property owner, you’ve probably heard of The Fair Housing Act and are making sure you comply with it in lease agreements and communication with tenants. But did you know that there are some common legal mistakes that property owners make without even realizing it? Some examples are mishandling payment and expense records, unintentional discrimination, and who is performing maintenance. It can feel like a full-time job to keep up with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations when you have an investment property. A company that offers professional property management in Fort Worth, like Specialized Property Management can help you save time, get organized, and avoid common legal mistakes that could lead to costly fees. 

“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 Fort Worth. “We understand that regulations affect everyone in a rental situation on a local, state and federal level. Landlords count on us to stay on top of all regulations so we can protect them from potential risks and financial liabilities. 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.

If you are not constantly aware of current laws and rights that protect tenants as well as current laws and regulations, you run the risk of walking straight into a lawsuit. Carefully adhere to the advice of your Fort Worth rental management and educate yourself on the policies below to avoid costly legal fees and a lot of time and stress.

Legal Regulations You Should Know About

Privacy Laws

Because you bought your property and invested so much time and money into it, it’s easy to forget about privacy laws. A tenant with a signed lease and keys to a unit has a legal right to privacy. If you want to decrease tenant turnover, it’s wise to help tenants feel like your property is truly their home. If the occasion arises that you need access to your property, make sure to give at least 24 hours’ notice. If you don’t have the time, Specialized Fort Worth Rental Management will always give tenants a 24-hour notice of scheduled inspections or maintenance. If there is an emergency, you don’t need to give notice. Try your best to always be respectful and treat your tenant’s space as if it is truly theirs. Additionally, ensure that tenant records and documents are kept strictly confidential and in a safe space. Leases, complaints, accounting details, and notices need to be safely maintained even after tenants leave. All security deposits and monthly rental payments also need to be properly handled because there are trust and escrow laws to adhere to. 

Security Rights

Every tenant deserves to live in a property that is secure with working doors and windows that have keyed deadbolts and viewing access to the exterior of the home. Windows and sliding doors need to have latches and locks that work as well. If a safety measure needs to be fixed, the tenant has the right to get it repaired at the property owner’s expense. There are some exceptions, so it’s critical that professional property management in Fort Worth know and understand all security regulations for their investment property. 

Maintenance of the Unit

One of your tenant’s rights is “implied warranty of habitability”. This means that your tenant has a legal right to clean, running water, electricity and heat, and a sound structure. According to the Attorney General of Texas speaking to tenants, “You have a right to demand that the landlord repair any condition that materially affects your physical health or safety. Justices of the peace have the authority to order landlords to repair or remedy conditions affecting a tenant’s physical health or safety, as long as the cost of the repair does not exceed $10,000. Tenants can go to justice court without an attorney to obtain a repair order..”

Responding quickly to maintenance requests and scheduling thorough walkthroughs and regular maintenance checks is the best way to keep your building safe and in good legal standing. You are required to take care of mold and foundation issues as soon as possible and make sure that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are properly functioning. Hire only insured and licensed repair services and don’t attempt to DIY large problems. It is against the law for professional property management in Fort Worth to refuse maintenance and repair to properties that are occupied by a tenant. 

Licensing

In Fort Worth, certain property management activities must be performed by licensed real estate agents so it’s crucial to make sure that you are licensed. According to licenselogix, “The primary functions of many property management companies, such as leasing, renting and collecting rent on behalf of others, are considered real estate activities under existing Texas real estate licensing laws.  If a property management company is going to list, rent, negotiate the rental of property, collect rents, or place tenants on behalf of a landlord client in Texas, the business will need a real estate broker license.”

Costs and Fees

In some states, there are limitations set for certain costs and fees, but in Texas there is no limit on how much a property owner can charge for rent. You also have the freedom to raise rent rates but some lease agreements have regulations about giving a rent-increase notification to tenants beforehand. Application fees are separate from application deposits. Deposits hold a rental unit for someone while application fees cover the time and expense the property owner uses to process your application. Fort Worth rental management doesn’t return these fees if the application is rejected, but deposits are returned if they choose not to lease to a serious applicant. When rent is paid late, there are late fees and these have restrictions. All costs and fees must be clear and straightforward in the lease. 

Eviction Rights

“Quiet enjoyment” refers to the right of tenants to rest easy knowing that as long as they fulfill their responsibilities detailed in the lease agreement, they will not have to unexpectedly start looking for new housing. If a property owner wishes to evict their tenant, there must be proper cause. The eviction process in Texas explains, “In Texas, a landlord must legally terminate the tenancy before evicting a tenant. The landlord must first give the tenant a written notice, as required by state law. If the tenant does not move out after receiving this notice, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also called a forcible entry and detainer suit).” There are some cases where notice for termination without cause is acceptable.  

Specialized Property Management

Professional property management in Fort Worth like Specialized Property Management must pay attention to the details of every local, state, and federal law that protects both tenants and property owners. Even minor, unintentional infractions can take a hit to your profit margins and future business. Violations can cause tenants to be exempt from paying rent, property owners being buried in fines, or the stress and cost of time in court because of lawsuits. If you want to avoid these penalties, it’s important that you rely on the years of experience and research of qualified Fort Worth rental management. 

“Your excellent management has provided an almost unheard of occupancy rate of 97%. As an ex-banker I will tell you that such numbers were often looked on with skepticism, we saw so many cute twists on reality.”- Joe K., Owner

Our Services

Specialized Fort Worth Rental Management understands that many property managers don’t think about the legal reparations that could occur from a few simple mistakes. That’s why you should trust us to keep up with the landlord and tenant codes for you. We make sure that you are in strict compliance with all laws relating to your investment property. We have an in-house legal counsel, conform to all trust accounting laws and regulations, and can guide you in the process of eviction and writ of possession. We are 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

“SPM’s reporting and accountability is excellent. I have been impressed with the courteous, professional and efficient manner in which the affairs of my properties have been conducted. I recommend Specialized as an agent for handling rental properties.” -William M., Owner

Don’t let legal reasons be the cause of a loss in potential profits. Trust our team of experts at Specialized Property Management to take care of all your property management needs. Contact us today to learn more about how Specialized Fort Worth Rental Management can make your life easier as a property owner and protect your investment.