In Texas, unpaid rent is the number one reason that landlords evict tenants. Evictions, called “forcible entry and detainer” or “forcible detainer” lawsuits in our state, can be time-consuming and costly. While eviction is possible with the right lawyer on your side, we believe it’s always best to proactively prevent issues before they start. Here are some of our favorite tips for making sure your tenants pay their rent on time.
Choose Your Tenants Wisely
Before you begin accepting tenants’ applications, take time to consider what qualifications you’re looking for. Of course, in Texas, like other states, it is illegal to discriminate against tenants based on their race or skin color. Your list of qualifications should focus on financial standards such as these:
- Income: Experts recommend that a tenant’s income should be at least three times the amount you are charging for rent. That way, they are more likely to have enough money to pay every month.
- Credit score: It’s likely that you will see a wide range of credit scores. While past late rent payments aren’t reflected in a credit report, past collections actions and evictions are. And a credit report can give you a good idea of a prospective tenant’s bill-paying habits.
- Good references: Always check a tenant’s references. You should hear from past landlords that the tenant has a history of paying bills on time.
When your property is available to rent, you may hear from tenants of all types. Use caution when an unqualified tenant’s story pulls at your heartstrings. It’s usually best to stick to the standards you’ve put in place. If you decide to help, consider putting extra protections in place for yourself, like requiring a larger security deposit or a few rent payments upfront.
Use Your Lease to Protect Your Interests
A lease is more than a legal requirement. It’s the best way to protect your interests before trouble arises.
When you’re signing a lease with a tenant, don’t just use a template. Make sure the document is tailored to meet your needs. In the lease, list:
- The correct monthly rental amount
- How tenants should pay (direct deposit, check)
- Where tenants should pay
- The day that the monthly rental payment is due
- The length of any grace period
Review the lease with your prospective tenant and make sure that you both fully understand the terms before you sign. Don’t trust that your tenant will read the lease on their own. And don’t leave important information out of the lease. If the lease doesn’t say it, you won’t have a written record to help prove your case if you need it.
Use Caution When Accepting Payments
Many landlords who accept payments in cash come to regret it. That’s because there is no record of payment. So, you’re left unprotected if your tenant claims they paid in full when they only made a partial payment or claims they already paid you when they did not. If your lease says that the tenant must pay by check, be sure to enforce the terms every time.
Accepting direct deposit is another good option. That way, the rent is deducted automatically from the tenant’s account every month. There’s no chance that a check will get lost in the mail. And deductions can be set up to occur on the tenant’s payday—before rent is due. Rent is then paid ahead automatically every month.
Unpaid Rent? Talk With an Attorney.
Despite a landlord’s best efforts, tenants occasionally require eviction for failure to pay rent. If you need to evict a tenant or just want a landlord-tenant lawyer’s advice regarding rental conflict, we can help. Reach out and talk with a landlord-tenant attorney at The Fell Law Firm. Just call us at 972-450-1418 for a free consultation.