Landlord's Lien: Useful Information and Form
Texas law gives a landlord a lien on a tenant’s non-exempt property for unpaid rent that is due. If a tenant is behind on rent and a written lease gives the landlord permission to exercise this lien on the tenant’s property, the landlord may enter the rental unit and take non-exempt property to secure payment of the delinquent rent. The clause giving the landlord permission must be underlined or printed in conspicuous bold print to be enforceable. The property must be in either the tenant’s residence or in a storage room for a landlord to seize the property. A storage room includes an attached garage or a shed.
- The landlord of an apartment complex that receives housing tax credits is prohibited from seizing or threatening to seize a tenant’s property except by judicial process unless the tenant has abandoned the premises.
- Any provision in the lease that purports to waive or diminish a right, liability, or exemption of a lien is void. In other words, a section of your lease that tries to give up or lessen a right, liability, or exemption of a lien is not valid.
If the lease gives the landlord a lien on the tenant’s property and authorizes the landlord to seize property for unpaid rent, the landlord may only seize the tenant’s property if it can be accomplished without a breach of the peace. In other words, a tenant does not have to permit a landlord to enter the tenant’s house or apartment. A landlord cannot use force in an attempt to seize the tenant’s property. A landlord can, however, return when the tenant is not at home and seize the property at that time. Of course, most landlords will enter the tenant’s unit and seize property only when the tenant is absent.
When a landlord seizes property, the landlord must leave a written notice of entry and an itemized list of all the items removed.
- The notice and list must be left in a conspicuous place within the dwelling.
- The notice must state the amount of delinquent rent and the name, address, and telephone number of the person the tenant may contact regarding the amount owed.
- The notice must also state that the property will be promptly returned on full payment of the delinquent rent.
Unless authorized in a written lease, the landlord is not entitled to collect a charge for packing, removing, or storing seized property.
A landlord may also seize property if the tenant has abandoned the unit.
The following is a list of items that a landlord cannot seize, known as exempt property.
- Wearing apparel — includes clothes and jewelry, such as rings or watches
- Tools, apparatus, and books of a trade or profession
- School books
- A family library
- Family portraits and pictures
- One couch, two living room chairs, and a dining table and chairs
- Beds and bedding — includes not only the bed, but also the sheets, pillows, and blankets;
- Kitchen furniture and utensils — includes all the kitchen appliances, pots, pans, skillets, toasters, microwaves, food processors, and coffee makers
- Food and foodstuffs
- Medicine and medical supplies
- One automobile and one truck — this does not cover motorcycles, bicycles, or a second vehicle;
- Agricultural implements
- Children’s toys not commonly used by adults — includes dolls and small bicycles
- Goods that the landlord or the landlord’s agent knows are owned by a person other than the tenant or an occupant of the residence
- Goods that the landlord or the landlord’s agent knows are subject to a recorded chattel mortgage or financing agreement.
The exemption list applies to all property seized under a landlord’s lien. That is, a landlord may not seize and hold exempt property for delinquent rent.