Is Security for Your Tenants Adequate?
If you are a new owner of a rental property, congratulations. If you haven’t yet done the homework, you may be forgiven for thinking that a simple lock on the front and back door of your property might be all that is required for your tenants’ protection, but Texas law is much more rigorous than this. If you are an experienced landlord, you may still find this article of interest, in making sure you have all your security devices up to date.
Chapter 92, Subchapter D of the Texas Property Code details the laws on security devices but here we will give you the broader points.
According to a Texas Realtors, landlords need to provide several security devices in the dwelling:
- Security devices required without the tenant’s request and rekeying
- Security devices required with the tenant’s request
- Security device repair and/or replacement
According to the Texas Property Code, a security device means a
- Doorknob lock
- Door Viewer
- Keyed deadbolt
- Keyless bolting device
- Sliding door handle latch
- Sliding door pin lock
- Sliding door security bar
- Window latch
Of these, a landlord is allowed to select type, brand, and manner, including the placement of installation. Keyed deadbolts, keyless bolting devices and sliding doors have height, strike plate and throw requirements. A keyed deadbolt, or keyless deadbolt cannot be higher than 48 inches (or 54 inches if installed before Sept. 1, 1993) or lower than 36 inches from the floor. They must have a bolt with a throw not less than one inch. They also must have a strike plate.
A sliding door pin lock or sliding door security bar must not be higher than 48 inches or 54 inches if installed before Sept. 1, 1993).
Generally, once security devices are installed, changed, or repaired they may not be removed, changed, rekeyed, replaced or altered by the tenant without permission of the landlord.
Security Devices Required at the Landlord’s Expense
- A window latch on each exterior window
- A doorknob lock or keyed deadbolt on each exterior door
- A sliding door pin lock on each exterior sliding glass door
- A sliding door handle latch or a sliding door security bar on each exterior sliding door
- A keyless bolting device and a door viewer on each exterior door
These types of security devices must be operable throughout the time that the tenant is in possession of the property. If one of these types of security devices has not been installed, the tenant may request the landlord to install it. The landlord must then immediately install it.
Rekeying is the Key to Security
Any security device that is operated by a key, card or combination must be rekeyed (meaning to alter a security device so that a different key, card or combination is needed to operate the existing security device) when a new tenant moves into the dwelling. This must be done no later than the seventh day after the tenant turnover date (the date a tenant moves into a dwelling under a lease after the previous occupant has moved out.)
Generally, the cost savings of rekeying rather than changing the locks on a door are quite significant. Rekeying doesn’t allow for upgrades in security but assures you and the tenant that no one with the old key will be able to enter the dwelling.
Lease agreements should contain a provision that if a tenant vacates the premises in breach of a written lease, the landlord may deduct a reasonable amount for the cost incurred in order for the landlord to rekey. This provision should be underlined or in boldface.
Security Devices at the Tenant’s Expense
Tenants are allowed to make certain security device requests at any time at their own expense.
- A tenant may ask for a keyed deadbolt on an exterior door if the door has only a doorknob lock, but not a keyed deadbolt; or a keyless bolting device, but not a keyed dead bolt or doorknob.
- On an exterior sliding door, the tenant can ask for both the handle latch and the sliding door security latch if the door only has one of these.
Additionally, a tenant can make a request to rekey or change security devices at the tenant’s expense. The tenant may make an unlimited number of these requests.
The tenant may make this request orally unless the lease requires that the tenant give notice in writing. Again, this requirement must be underlined or in boldface in the lease document.
A landlord must comply within 7 days or within 72 hours if the tenant’s security has been breached by an unauthorized entry or an attempted unauthorized entry into the dwelling.
The landlord may rebut the seven-day presumption if he or she did not know of the tenant’s request, materials or labor were unavailable or the delay was caused by such things as illness, death in the family. These seven-day timelines only apply to security devices that the tenant requests and pays for.
Repair or Replacement of Security Devices
During the lease term and renewal period the landlord must repair or replace any security device that is inoperable or in need of replacement.
The time that the landlord has to reply is the same as above, i.e. 7 days or 72 hours for a security breach. The landlord also can rebut the time period as mentioned above.
Who Pays for the Repair?
If the device needs replacement due to normal wear and tear, the tenant is not liable to pay. However, the landlord can require a tenant to pay if an underlined provision is written in the lease, or if the security device has been misused or damaged by the tenant, the tenant’s family, or a tenant’s guest and not by normal wear and tear.
What Can the Landlord Charge?
Generally, a landlord, in charging a tenant for repairing, installing, changing or rekeying a security device may only charge no more than the total cost by a third-party contractor.
It can be tough for both new and experienced landlords to keep track of their legal rights and obligations. You can count on the experts at Herman Boswell Property Management to keep you fully informed. Call us at (817) 274-1800 for all your property management needs.