This article explains the types of property at risk of being seized under a landlord’s lien, and what to do if you are subject to a landlord’s lien.
What is a landlord’s lien?
The Texas Property Code, 54.041 – 54.048 govern the law on landlord liens in Texas. A landlord’s lien is a clause written into the lease that gives a landlord permission to take a tenant’s non-exempt property for rent that is owed. 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.
Does the landlord’s lien clause have to be in the lease to be enforceable?
Yes. The seizure of non-exempt property must be authorized by a written lease. The clause in the lease giving the landlord permission to take non-exempt property must be underlined or printed in conspicuous bold print to be enforceable.
Does the landlord need to leave a notice?
Yes. 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 must state:
(1) the amount of delinquent rent;
(2) the name, address, and telephone number of the person the tenant may contact regarding the rent owed; and
(3) that the property seized will be promptly returned once full payment of the delinquent rent is made.
What is non-exempt property?
Non-exempt property is property that the landlord may seize. Some examples of non-exempt property include electronics, books, paintings, and furniture (except one couch, two living room chairs, dining table and chairs, kitchen furniture, and beds). These items must be found inside the residence or in storage at the time of seizure.
What type of items cannot be seized?
Items such as children’s toys, clothing, tools, or books related to a profession, schoolbooks, family photos, items the landlord is aware belong to someone other than the tenant, and a certain amount of furniture as listed above.
Can the seized property be sold or disposed of?
Property seized under a residential landlord’s lien may be sold or disposed of if the written lease authorizes it.
What if the sale or disposition is authorized?
Before selling the seized property the landlord or their agent must give notice to the tenant. The notice must be given no later than 30 days before the date of the sale. The notice must be sent to the tenant’s last known address by both first-class mail and certified mail, return receipt requested.
How can a tenant get their property back?
A tenant may redeem their property at any time before the property is sold by paying the landlord or their agent the full delinquent rent.
What if the landlord violates the law?
If the landlord willfully violates the law by taking property improperly the tenant is entitled to actual damages, return of the unsold property, return of proceeds from any sale of seized property, one month’s rent or $500, whichever is greater, less any amount for which the tenant is liable, and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Visit the website of the Austin Tenants Council to read more about landlord liens in Texas.
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Unlawful Seizure of Property (Austin Tenants Council)