The Texas Property Code, §92.101 – §92.109, protects the right of renters regarding their security deposit. Unfortunately, many tenants are unaware of this law and do not receive a proper refund of their deposit. Follow these tips to get back your security deposit!
1. Move Out Notice and Forwarding Address. Most leases require that the tenant give the landlord 30 or 60 days' written notice prior to move-out to get the security deposit back. The Texas Property Code says that advance notice of move-out can be a condition for return of the deposit if the requirement for advance notice is written into a lease and is underlined or in conspicuous bold print. Even if the lease does not require it, giving the landlord notice prior to moving is always a good idea. Give the landlord a forwarding address as soon as you know what it is. It can be in the same notice as your intent not to renew or it can be done separately at a later time. A landlord must be given a forwarding address before you are entitled to get back a security deposit. It is never too late to do this. Tip: The forwarding address can be any place that you can be sent mail. It can be a friend or relative for example.
2. Move-Out Inspection. Do a walk through and take pictures. Be sure to clean all rooms out when you leave. Clean the bathrooms, kitchen, and appliances, including floors and walls. By law, you are not responsible for damage caused by normal wear and tear, but the better condition you leave the rental unit in, the less likely the landlord will deduct maintenance and repair expenses from your security deposit. Shortly before you move out, do a walk through of the rental unit with your landlord. If you cannot get your landlord to come with you, get a witness to do a walk through with you. Keep in mind that you do have the right to try to fix anything yourself that you feel you should. This could reduce or eliminate the deduction. It is best to discuss this with your landlord first and get their written agreement that they will not charge you if you address the problem. Take pictures of the rental unit to document the condition in which you left it. Some tenants even take the pictures with the front page of that day's newspaper to prove the pictures were taken when the tenant moved out as opposed to when the tenant moved in.
3. Turn in the Keys. The keys should be turned in on the exact day the tenant vacates the premises. If the keys are turned in later, the landlord may be able to charge the tenant additional rent or other charges under the lease. A tenant’s actual move-out date is often considered to be when the keys are turned in.
4. Wait 30 Days. Within thirty days of moving out and providing written notice of your forwarding address, the landlord is required to return your security deposit. If you do not receive your security deposit in full, the landlord is required to provide you with an itemized list of deductions the landlord took from the deposit. For example, the landlord can deduct for things you, occupants and guests caused beyond normal wear and tear such as patching up holes left in the wall from mounting a TV or wine/pet stains on the carpet. The landlord is not supposed to charge for damage not caused by you, occupants and guests, or damage from normal wear and tear. For example, replacing carpet just because it is worn, fixtures/door knobs that became worn by use, venetian blinds that start to crack due to sun exposure, etc. The landlord is also not supposed to charge for things already present when you moved in.
5. Send a Demand Letter. If you waited thirty days from the date you moved out and provided a forwarding address, but you still have not recovered your security deposit or an itemized list of deductions you might write a demand letter asking for the return of your security deposit - send this by Certified Mail with Return Receipt. Try this before bringing the matter to court. Many times they will give you back the deposit once they realize you know your tenant right to receive your deposit back. If you do not get a response after 10 days or you think the response is unreasonable, you may file a lawsuit in small claims court to try to recover your security deposit.
You may be entitled to $100 plus 3 times the Wrongfully Withheld Deposit!!!
If your landlord refuses to give you back your deposit and is found to have acted in bad faith by the court, you could get $100 plus 3 times the wrongfully withheld deposit!!!
Texas Property Code §92.109 Liability of Landlord: (a) A landlord who in bad faith retains a security deposit in violation of this subchapter is liable for an amount equal to the sum of $100, three times the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld, and the tenant’s reasonable attorney’s fees in a suit to recover the deposit. (b) A landlord who in bad faith does not provide a written description and itemized list of damages and charges in violation of this subchapter: (1) forfeits the right to withhold any portion of the security deposit or to bring suit against the tenant for damages to the premises; and (2) is liable for the tenant's reasonable attorney's fees in a suit to recover the deposit. (c) In an action brought by a tenant under this subchapter, the landlord has the burden of proving that the retention of any portion of the security deposit was reasonable. (d) A landlord who fails either to return a security deposit or to provide a written description and itemization of deductions on or before the 30th day after the day the tenant surrenders possession is presumed to have acted in bad faith.
Disclaimer & Resources
It is important to know we are not lawyers and this blog post is not intended as legal advice. State Laws frequently change. We recommend you consult with an attorney that specializes in Landlord/Tenant Law should you have any issue with your landlord.
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