Tenant Rights Regarding Security Deposit

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The following information is an excerpt from Texas Tenant Advisor, an online publication. I feel it outlines well, a tenant’s rights regarding their security deposit.

What is a security deposit?
A security deposit is money given to a landlord to provide some protection to a landlord in case of damage to the rented premises or for some other money charged to a tenant.

A security deposit should not be confused with an Application Deposit or some other fee. Advanced rent (like first month or last month’s rent) is not a part of a security deposit. Likewise, a pet deposit is an additional security deposit usually required if a pet is allowed on the premises. The same rules that apply to regular security deposits apply to pet deposits.

Texas tenant protections are weak

Because of the lack of any regulatory laws in Texas, landlords are legally free to treat security deposits as their own the moment they receive them. Few landlords keep security deposits in separate accounts for return at the end of the leases. If they go bankrupt or are foreclosed on by a lender, tenants’ security deposits are almost always gone.

Non-refundable

A “nonrefundable deposit” is a contradiction in terms. In most cases, landlords have no intention of ever giving a nonrefundable deposit back. Texas law (Section 92.006(a) of the Texas Property Code) voids lease agreement provisions that attempt to give away tenant rights regarding security deposits found the statutes; thus, it is a little unclear if a “nonrefundable deposit” is actually enforceable. It would be an uphill battle to say the least.

Don’t use deposit as rent

Do not use your deposit as rent for the last month of your lease. There are very few exceptions to this rule, and even when the law allows it, landlords usually file eviction suits if you try it and give tenants negative credit histories. Also, if you wrongfully use your deposit as the last month’s rent you can be liable for three times of the rent wrongfully unpaid. Section 92.108, Property Code. It is much better to wait and sue the landlord if it wrongfully keeps your deposit.

Until next time,

Cary

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