Thursday, February 14, 2013
Finding out the owner of a leased apartment or other property is another process covered by the Texas Property Code. Austin Tenants Council walks through the steps required to find out the owner of a rental property and what remedies a tenant has if the landlord refuses to disclose that information.
The law states that landlords must give tenants the name and address of the owner(s) and the name and address of the management company if it is not on site. You can also discover the name and address of the owner using the tax appraisal records. Contact the tax appraisal office in the county where the property is located.
Landlords and managers are only required to respond to requests from tenants for the owner's information if the tenant is current on rent. It is best to make this request in writing whether the lease requires it or not because that way the tenant can easily prove they did request the information. Be sure to keep a copy for your records. The landlord has a week to give the information to the tenant after receipt of the request.
The landlord can give the information to the tenant in writing, by putting it up in an obvious place near the apartment or in or near the management office, in the tenant's lease, or in a list of rules and regulations.
If the landlord doesn't give the name and address after the first request, you can make a second request in writing, and mention that if the information isn't provided in seven additional days, the tenant will exercise their rights under the appropriate part of the Texas Property Code. This request should be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, or hand delivered accompanied by a witness. On the eighth day after the request, if the information still has not been received, the tenant can proceed with further action.
That further action would be to get a court order forcing the landlord to reveal the owner's and/or the off-site management's name and address. The tenant also has the right to sue for the tenant's actual costs, a civil penalty of one month's rent plus $100, and court costs and attorney's fees. The other remedy is to terminate the lease without a court proceeding.
If the ownership or management information changes, the landlord is required to provide the new information by giving it to the tenants or posting in the apartment or in or near the management office. Another option is to change the lease agreement to reflect the new information and give a copy to the tenant. If they don't do either, the tenant is allowed to proceed as above.
Additional tenants of the law include that if the rent isn't paid in full when the owner information is requested, the landlord can use that in their defense. If the landlord purposely provides the wrong information, they give up that defense. If the tenant or the landlord sue the other party just to harrass them, they can be found responsible for one month's rent plus $100 and attorney's fees. Finally, any lease that purports to waive a tenant's right to this information is false, as that right cannot be given up.