Can A Texas Landlord Enter Your Property Whenever They Want?
Landlords are like anyone else. There are good ones and bad ones. Some landlords are just property owners who rent a few units. Some of these small property owners are not as well-versed in rental laws regulating the do's and don'ts of what constitutes legal behavior.
On move-out day at one rental, I came home from the store where I was buying cleaning supplies to finish cleaning the unit for a final inspection, only to find my audio gear and computer were missing.
The landlord later admitted taking the items because she "thought I was planning on leaving without cleaning the unit." This ignorance of the law could have cost this landlord dearly. I cleaned the apartment and strongly suggested I get my deposit back, implying that I would sue for damages or even have her arrested for theft.
Under Texas law, landlords are strictly regulated as to when and under what conditions they may enter your rental property.
Texas Property Code §92.008 states that a landlord may enter a rental unit only for a reasonable business purpose and only after the landlord has provided the tenant with notice of an intent to enter. The notice must be given to the tenant at least 24 hours before the time of entry. It must include the following.
1) The date and time of entry must be during regular business hours, but the tenant can agree to a different time.
2) The specific purpose of entry.
3) If the entry is for maintenance or repairs, they must give you the technician's name who will enter the unit and the work performed.
4) If the entry is for showing the unit to a prospective new tenant or buyer, the tenant must be informed of the approximate date and time.
I often visit family and friends in Corpus Christi on weekends, and I am glad my landlord entered my apartment one weekend when I was away. A water line had begun leaking and raining water down on the tenants below. This could have been devastating to them and me.
In the case of an emergency, such as a fire, flood, or gas leak, a landlord may enter a rental unit without providing notice to the tenant.
This one can be abused.
Creative landlords can find any "emergencies" if they are motivated to snoop. I love the motion sensor and internet-enabled cameras I install around any rented unit. If the landlord comes in when I'm not there, I want to know why.
Other legal reasons a landlord may enter your property include:
1) If they think you've abandoned the unit.
2 If the tenant has requested repairs and permitted maintenance to enter the unit.
3) If the landlord has obtained a court order.
Regarding #3, that is terrible news for you.
Overall, tenant protection laws in Texas are weaker than in many other states. Dana Karni, Litigation Director for Lone Star Legal Aid, told Click 2 Houston:
“Tenants have a couple of rights and options. None of them are really optimal. It would be great if we had a right to withhold rent until repairs were made, but that law does not exist in Texas,"
With that in mind, tenants must tread lightly in any dispute with a landlord in Texas. While they should not be entering your property at will, I always keep any rental unit I live in clean and ready for possible inspection.
You can never be sure that your Texas landlord won't find a reason to come in, and it won't be easy to do anything about it.