When a tenant moves into a property and pays a security deposit, he still owns the money. You’re only holding it in escrow for that tenant. When the tenant moves out, you’re either going to have to return the money to the tenant or provide a report stating clearly why you aren’t.
Timeline of Security Deposit Return
In Texas, that report has to be sent within 30 days of move out or within 30 days of receiving the tenant’s forwarding address, if he didn’t give it to you before moving out.
For example, if a tenant moves out one day and does not provide a forwarding address until two months later, you have three months to get that report out, or 30 days after you receive the forwarding address. The report has to detail which items you are charging the tenant for. Any charges have to be at reasonable prices.
Identifying Wear and Tear
The law states you can only retain money for damages above normal wear and tear. So, the big question is: what is normal wear and tear? This can be subjective. Maybe if a tenant moves out and you look at the property, you decide that the carpet could use a cleaning. It’s not damaged or dirty, but it could use a cleaning. That’s normal wear and tear on the carpet, and you cannot charge the deposit. But, if you walk into that property and see two broken windows, that’s damage, and you can charge a reasonable cost to replace the windows.
Renter’s Rights in Texas
It’s important to remember that you have to get the report out within those 30 days. If a tenant doesn’t receive the money he is due, he can file a small claims lawsuit against you. The penalties are pretty high. So, get that report out as fast as possible after move out.
We have more details to discuss on this topic. If you’d like to talk about normal wear and tear, security deposits, or anything pertaining to landlord responsibilities in Houston, please contact us at Residential Leasing & Management.