Texas landlord withholding security deposit what are my rights

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I lived in my rental home for two years. When my lease expired I gave my landlord notice I was vacating, cleaned the home, and moved out. I expected that I would receive my full security deposit from the landlord within 30 days of my move out- per our lease agreement. Not only did I not get my deposit back, but I got an itemized listing of what I owed the landlord for repairs! What recourse do I have?” 

Understanding Texas lease laws

The scenario you have described is a common one, played out hundreds of times throughout the state each month. Before you hire a lawyer and start fighting back, however, it’s important to understand Texas Property Code Laws.

Specifically, you need to review Tex. Prop. Code §92.001(4) which states the following:

“Normal wear and tear” means deterioration that results from the intended use of a dwelling, including, for the purposes of Subchapters B and D, breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition, but the term does not include deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, equipment, or chattels by the tenant, by a member of the tenant’s household, or by a guest or invitee of the tenant.”

Were the charges for normal wear and tear?

What you need to objectively evaluate is whether or not the charges made by landlord were for normal wear and tear and the landlord is trying to get you to subsidize all of his repairs or were the damages unreasonable, resulting from your intentional, negligent or unintentional actions?

Let’s take a look at some specific examples:

  • You through a party and you spilled wine in the living room leaving a two-foot stain. Your landlord is charging you to replace the carpet in the living room.

If your landlord is charging only to repair the carpet in the living room, as opposed to the entire house, he is probably well within his rights because the damage was caused by your intentional or negligent actions.

  • The carpet is ten years old and needs to be replaced but the life expectancy has been reached and you did not do anything to damage it.

If your landlord is charging you to replace carpet that is passed its life expectancy and simply need to be replaced, you should challenge this charge.

How will a court rule about wear and tear?

Unfortunately, the notion of “normal wear and tear” is subjective. In fact, even judges cannot always agree on what is and is not normal wear and tear. For example, what may be normal wear and tear for a family with five kids and a dog may be different from that of an elderly couple with no pets.

Generalizations about normal wear and tear

There are, however, some generalizations. New carpet when you moved in should look fairly new when you leave. Any tears, rips or stains are generally not considered “normal wear and tear.”

Walls may have small holes from nails or tacks and limited scuff marks, but coloring and large fist-sized holes is not considered normal wear and tear.

Landlords, however, are generally responsible for replacing worn out appliances (assuming the tenant was not negligent), replacing roofs, and fixing foundations.

Bottom line:

When you move out of a home it is older than it was when you moved in, and it has deteriorated. A landlord’s assumption that it should look just as it did several years ago is a faulty one. If your landlord has illegally taken your security deposit and refuses to give it back, you can contact a lawyer for help.

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