According to a report by the Rental Housing Journal, Texas made the list as one of the top three most popular places to move in 2021. More than 500,000 people have resettled here since 2019, and the numbers continue to grow.
If you’re a landlord, these numbers represent big promises for investment properties in the Houston area. But becoming a landlord also carries a fair share of responsibilities.
It’s best to prepare for the worst in order to ensure you don’t end up in a nasty predicament with a new tenant. When in doubt, work with a property management company in Texas so you know your investments and tenants are in safe hands.
Here are nine of the top tenant issues you might well face as a landlord, and how to prepare to avoid them in the future.
1. Fair Housing Act
According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords are barred from discriminating against anyone who is looking to rent, buy a home, or apply for a mortgage – or who seeks additional housing assistance.
This means you could encounter potential issues before you even sign a contract with a prospective tenant. For example, if you have a unit for which you’re looking to hire a single individual or a couple, you may not discriminate against a family who seeks to apply to live in that unit.
Unless there’s a dire emergency, you must never show up at your tenant’s lodgings unannounced. They’re renting the premises and have a legal expectation of the right to privacy.
When a landlord shows up without fair warning of at least twenty-four hours and without a legitimate reason, this could offer grounds for a harassment lawsuit.
One way to avoid that situation is to ask your tenant before the move-in what their preferred method of contact is. When you know that, you can get in touch with them appropriately to ensure you never overstep the boundaries.
3. Noise Complaints
Another way landlords can develop issues with their tenants is by failing to provide a quiet environment. Of course, certain natural, outside elements cannot be avoided, such as vehicle traffic or adjacent business establishments.
However, noise complaints that involve your tenant’s neighbors, or persistent fire alarms, are a breach of their legitimate rental expectations.
4. Not Having Necessary Paperwork
The lease you have your tenants sign is the most crucial document related to your rental property. It’s easy to find a generic lease online to download, but it’s less risky if you work with an experienced property management company in Houston.
Texas has a unique set of laws and regulations that leases in the state must observe. If these are not specifically addressed, bad tenants may find opportunities for loopholes or other ways in which you, the landlord, could get into trouble.
5. Basic Safety Standards
A landlord has to maintain a reasonable level of safety for the tenants. Details like black mold, pest control, and appropriate levels of heat and cooling all come under landlord-tenant laws and building codes.
In some states, tenants are given the right to withhold rent if the landlord or property manager does not maintain appropriate levels of comfort and security.
6. Security Deposits
The reason tenants are required to provide a security deposit is to provide funds the landlord may use to fix any damage caused by the occupants after they’ve moved out. This would not include small holes left by nails to hang wall decor, or tiny bits of chipped paint near the baseboard.
Security deposits are intended to cover major repairs such as larger holes in the wall or carpets that appear to have been damaged on purpose.
In most states, landlords are expected to return the security deposit within 30 days of moveout. In some states, this period may be as low as 10 days.
You should be aware that there could be repercussions if the security deposit is not returned in full or the funds have been used inappropriately. The money is intended for general wear and tear, not for brand-new appliances to upgrade a unit, for example.
7. Excessive Late Fees
Did you know that most states have late fee laws? They typically state a landlord may not demand unreasonably high late fees to deter people from paying their monthly rent behind schedule.
If someone takes you to small claims court, the judge will more than likely side with the tenant on this matter. Don’t get cocky about your demands, and make sure your practices jibe with local laws.
8. Not Complying With Maintenance
Maintenance issues can be a gray area. Some regular maintenance work may not be covered by the tenant’s rent, such as lawn care or snow removal.
There may even be circumstances in which a leaky faucet may not be within the owner’s realm of responsibility. However, if you have offered any kind of verbal or written confirmation to fix something, it’s your duty and obligation to get it done.
This also applies to your obligation to provide a reasonable standard of habitability, such as smoke detectors and safe drinking water.
9. Charging Unfair Rent
Though the state of Texas doesn’t technically have a rent control law, it’s an ongoing issue that many landlords continue to face. When deciding how much to charge for rent, you should also think about how you intend to increase the amount over time.
You don’t want to attract negative online reviews from people who state your rental agreements are unfair, because that could make your vacancies last substantially longer.
In general, tenants normally enjoy more rights than landlords do. It’s important to have full knowledge and understanding of the laws and regulations that apply to both landlords and tenants.
This might seem like a lot to have to manage, it needn’t be. With the support of the professionals at Green Residential, you can rest assured that you’ll sign a rental agreement without the proper details in place.
Our team can address tenant screenings, maintenance issues, inspections, evictions, and property leasing agreements. Contact us today and learn more about how Green Residential can help.