The Common Law

Landlord's perspective on tenant disputes

This is the second consecutive column addressing common landlord-tenant disputes from the landlord's perspective.

Can I accept cash rental payments from my tenants?

It depends on the lease agreement between the landlord and tenant. Some lease agreements specifically list the types of acceptable payment. If the lease is silent on whether cash is an acceptable form of payment, then a cash rental payment is allowed if the landlord does two things: 1) provide the tenant with a written receipt and 2) enter the payment date and amount in a record book maintained by the landlord. Check out the Texas Property Code (section 92.011) for more information on accepting cash payments.

Can I recover attorneys' fees if I have to hire a lawyer to deal with issues caused by my tenant?

As a general rule, the prevailing party can generally recover their attorneys' fees if litigation arises out of a landlord-tenant dispute. For example, if a landlord is forced to hire an attorney in order to recover money from a tenant who withholds rent, Texas law allows the landlord to recover attorneys' fees. Alternatively, there are many scenarios under the Texas Property Code that would allow the tenant to recover attorneys' fees if the tenant prevails in litigation. Because there are exceptions to recovery of attorneys' fees in certain situations, be sure to review Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code, which addresses residential tenancies, to determine what Texas law says about recovering attorneys' fees under your specific fact scenario.

Ultimately, it is often in the landlord's best interests to work with the tenant in order to reach an amicable resolution to the dispute prior to initiating a lawsuit. Costs of litigation can often exceed the amount in dispute in a normal residential tenancy. In addition, even if the landlord obtains a judgment against the tenant, there is no guarantee that the tenant will pay it. In short, in many cases it's best to communicate with your tenant and work out a resolution before resorting to going to court.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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