Of all the issues that can crop up between a landlord and a tenant, there is no question that rent payments are one of the most common. Sometimes, a tenant withholds rent payments for a valid reason, like a dangerous condition that has gone unrepaired. Other times, the rent goes unpaid without a valid reason. The Texas Property Code has its own way of dealing with payments for rent owed, called a landlord’s lien.
Defining “Landlord’s Lien”
Essentially, a landlord’s lien is a clause written into the lease that allows a landlord to take possession of certain property inside a tenant’s apartment as payment for rent owed. In order to be effective, the Landlord’s Lien must:
- Be included in the lease
- Be written in bold print or underlined
Can a Landlord Seize All Property in the Tenant’s Apartment?
The short answer is no. Texas law lists a variety of items that a landlord cannot seize and sell to satisfy unpaid rent. Examples include:
- Clothing, tools, or books related to a profession
- School books
- Family pictures
- Beds and bedding
- Kitchen furniture, appliances, and utensils
- Food, medicine, and medical supplies
- Children’s toys
- Items the landlord knows belong to someone other than the tenant
Additionally, while landlords are allowed to seize and sell furniture, the landlord cannot take everything. The tenant must be left with at least one sofa, two living room chairs, and a dining table and chairs.
What is a Landlord Required to Do to Exercise a Lien?
There are some rules landlords must follow if they choose to take a tenant’s property using the landlord’s lien.
- The landlord can only take the property when the tenant is not at home.
- The belongings must be inside the residence or in an attached garage, storage room or shed.
- After taking items, the landlord must leave a notice explaining that they entered, along with an itemized list of everything that was taken.
- The notice must include the amount of overdue rent, plus the contact information for who the tenant should contact about the amount owed. It must also state that the property will be returned when the rent is fully paid.
Can a Tenant Get the Property Back?
Tenants can get all the property back any time before the landlord sells it by paying all rent due. In situations where the landlord sues the tenant for unpaid rent, the tenant can still get the property back before a judgment is rendered.
When Can a Landlord Sell the Property?
Landlords must give tenants 30-day’s notice of any sale. The notice must be sent via certified mail and must provide the date, time, and place of the sale, a person to contact about the sale, and the amount of money owed. If the tenant fails to pay rent before the sale, then the landlord can sell the items. The money gained must be applied to the unpaid rent. And, if the sale generates more money than was owed, the extra must be sent to the tenant.
Questions About the Lien? Reach Out to The Fell Law Firm
The landlord’s lien in Texas can be difficult to understand. Do you still have questions about the landlord’s lien? Reach out to The Fell Law Firm today by sending us a message.