Seasoned real estate investors understand that repairs will come up. Whether it’s water damage from a pipe that’s burst or a broken garage door, there’s no shortage of possibilities when it comes to repairs for a rental.
Often, it’s the “accidental landlords” who are surprised when a repair comes up, and they may not know whether or not they need to address it right away.
In this article, we’ll review the most important Texas landlord rights and responsibilities, as well as tenants’ rights in Texas for repairs.
Even though Texas state laws tend to favor the landlord, we’ll start with best practices for managing tenant requests and protecting your assets.
Repairs: What Is and Isn’t Necessary
According to the Texas Property Code, landlords are required to make a “diligent effort” at a repair if the following conditions are met:
- The request is reported to the person to whom rent is normally paid;
- The tenant’s rent is up to date; and
- The condition of the home could be hazardous to the tenant’s health or safety; or
- There is a failure to provide water at a minimum of 120°F.
When talking to landlords about repair requests for their property, we urge them to put themselves in their tenants’ shoes.
For someone who doesn’t want to pay for a repair, approaching the issue that way is usually helpful.
If a tenant’s toilet starts to leak, we’ll have to fix it eventually. And if we don’t take care of it quickly, we run the risk of losing that tenant. (Also, a water leak can do lots of damage if it isn’t addressed promptly.)
What about when a tenant is behind on rent?
Oftentimes, tenants who owe rent won’t make repair requests because they likely don’t want to draw more attention to themselves.
If they do make a request for something that’s purely cosmetic, we probably won’t take care of it right away. However, if their request is for something that isn’t cosmetic and they make a second request, we’ll usually make the repair. This is something we consider on a case-by-case basis.
Repairs to Damage Caused by a Tenant
Sometimes, tenants (or their guests) damage property. And sometimes, they will come up with great stories about how they don’t know how the damage happened.
One time, we had a tenant with a broken sliding glass door. He told us that someone must’ve tried to break in, but the door was broken from the inside out.
We also had a tenant who tried to force his garage door open while it was locked, and he tore it up. He, too, claimed someone must have tried to break in.
Damage can also be the result of a tenant failing to report something, like a leak under the sink.
However, damage caused by a tenant isn’t covered by tenants’ rights in Texas for repairs. But ignoring the problem isn’t a good strategy, especially damage that may get worse over time.
Our situations with tenant-caused damage have usually gone something like this: In the case of the broken garage door above, the tenant reached out and requested a repair.
We called our maintenance person, and in addition to requesting a repair, we asked him to investigate what happened with the door. He gave us his opinion, which was that someone forced the door open from the inside. We reported his findings to the tenant, gave the tenant his contact info, and gave him a chance to address it and get it fixed (on his dime).
If he had insisted that someone else caused the damage, we might’ve asked a second professional to investigate. Beyond this, if the repair is for something small that won’t cause any further damage, we may just wait until that tenant moves out and withhold the cost of repair from his security deposit.
Entering a Tenant’s Property
Landlords and property management personnel aren’t required to give any notice about entering a tenant’s property. However, we always give a 24-hour notice. We feel this is important for the safety of our property management team, as well as a courtesy for the tenants. Some things that aren’t legal requirements are still good practice.
After we have been in a tenant’s home when they weren’t present, we usually leave a business card or something to let them know that we were there. This is also not part of Texas landlord rights and responsibilities, but it is thoughtful.
Collecting for Repairs After a Tenant Moves Out
When a tenant moves out, we do a walk-through. If there’s any damage the tenant’s responsible for, we take the cost of repair out of their security deposit.
If the amount of the damage exceeds the security deposit, we send them an itemized bill payable within 10 days. If they don’t pay within 10 days, we turn the situation over to a collection agency.
We often tell our landlords not to expect that money. However, if the former tenant doesn’t pay, that bill will show up on his or her credit report.
Keeping Up with Regulations for Rentals
This is one of the great things about using a company like LEAP Property Management: You can leave concerns about keeping up with rules and regulations to the property managers, who take classes for continuing education requirements to stay up-to-date.
As you plan for the future of your real estate investment properties, just keep in mind that repairs will come up. Budget to keep money on hand for repairs.
If something breaks, it’s generally best to fix it as soon as possible. The regulations governing Texas landlord rights and responsibilities tend to favor the landlord. That said, it is still in your best interest to keep good tenants happy.