Navigating Real Estate Legal Disputes: Answering the Top Five Questions

There are many different real estate legal disputes that can arise during any transaction. Clients and developers may have a disagreement while residential or commercial property is being developed. Landlords and tenants can argue about non-payment of rent or improper maintenance of the property. Neighbors can encroach on their neighbor’s property. These are just a few of the most common types of disputes.

Any real estate dispute can be confusing. They can even be damaging to your business or your property. It is important that you speak to a Texas real estate lawyer who can help you through the complicated process and answer all of your questions. Below, our seasoned attorney answers five of the top questions we hear.

What is Real Estate Litigation Law?

Real estate litigation is an area of law that addresses disputes involving actual property such as homes, commercial properties, buildings, and land in Texas. Real estate litigation law is intended to protect the rights of property owners and anyone who uses the property. Real estate litigation law governs multiple issues ranging from loans, mortgages, and liens to title disputes, real estate contracts, and landlord/tenant law. Real estate litigation law also provides a process for filing a lawsuit when a dispute requires a resolution, such as those that involve easements or boundary lines.

Real estate litigation is sometimes necessary when a property owner believes another party has violated their rights, such as another property owner, a municipality, or an insurance company. When a property owner feels they need to enforce their rights, they can file a lawsuit with the court. Real estate litigation law is a legal area that is extremely complicated and many people do not understand the laws or process to follow. A Texas real estate lawyer can make sure justice is served and that people’s rights are protected.

What are Common Real Estate Disputes?

Some of the most common real estate disputes involve titles and property rights. These disputes commonly arise when two or more parties disagree about the use or ownership of real property. Some of the most common disputes include quiet title actions, boundary line disputes, and landlord/tenant disputes.

Boundary line disputes occur when two or more parties disagree about the exact location of a property line. Quiet title actions occur when a person attempts to establish that they are the undisputed owner of a specific piece of land. Landlord/tenant disputes occur when a tenant and landlord disagree about issues such as possession, rent, or other matters regarding the rental of the property.

Other real estate issues include easement disputes, contract disputes, nuisance claims, and adverse possession claims. Easement disputes arise when two or more parties disagree about the use of property owned by another party, such as access to natural resources such as water and right of way. Contract disputes occur when two or more parties enter into a contract and disagree about the terms of the agreement. Nuisance claims occur when land is used in such a way that causes another person harm or distress. Adverse possession claims occur when someone hopes to gain ownership of land by using it regularly over a certain period of time.

What Steps Should I Take in a Real Estate Lawsuit?

Every real estate lawsuit will differ slightly from others, as the remedies available are unique to the specific disagreement. However, there are some general steps to take during the process. They are as follows:

  • Collect evidence: Before even filing a lawsuit, or responding to one, you should collect as much evidence as possible. Evidence can include contracts, photos, property records, or written correspondence between you and the other party. It can also be helpful to search public records to find important information on the title history of the property. The title history may offer information about liens, ownership, and encumbrances that can help a case.
  • Speak to a real estate litigation lawyer: You have the right to represent yourself during a real estate dispute, but it is not recommended. A real estate lawyer can review the facts of your case and provide sound advice regarding the best way to resolve the disagreement. Real estate lawsuits are very complicated and you will greatly benefit from the help of an experienced attorney.
  • Consider alternative dispute resolution methods: Not all real estate lawsuits end up in the courtroom. Alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation can resolve your disagreement in a faster and more cost-efficient manner.
  • File a lawsuit: A real estate litigation lawyer will know the process of filing your lawsuit with the court and fully outline your complaint as well as the remedy you are seeking.
  • Negotiate: You can negotiate with the other side to reach a settlement agreement at any point during the process. A real estate lawyer will have the necessary experience to negotiate a settlement that is fair.

How Long Does Real Estate Litigation Take?

No one can determine exactly how long your real estate lawsuit will take. The amount of time required depends on the type of dispute, the amount of research involved, and the willingness of all parties to reach an agreement. Still, real estate lawsuits can often take one year or more when they need to be resolved in a courtroom. After reviewing the facts of your case, a lawyer can provide an approximate timeline for your case.

Do You Need a Real Estate Lawyer in Texas?

Again, you are not required to have legal counsel to help with your real estate dispute. However, working with a Texas real estate lawyer will bring you many advantages. Real estate litigation is complicated and one mistake could hurt your case. At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our experienced attorneys can draft your lawsuit, file it with the appropriate court, meet deadlines, and negotiate on your behalf as your case proceeds. Call us now at (832) 280-9576 or contact us online to request a consultation and to learn more about how we can help resolve your dispute.

A Guide to Understanding Your Tenant Rights

Houston is home to approximately 700,000 rental units. It is not uncommon for disputes to arise between these renters and their landlords. Tenants do not always understand the rights provided to them under the law, and landlords sometimes take advantage of this fact. If you are renting a home, apartment, or condo in Houston or anywhere else in the state, it is critical that you know your rights. Below, our Houston real estate lawyer explains these rights and how to exercise them.

The Right to Quiet Enjoyment

As a tenant, you have the right to quiet enjoyment. This is a legal term that means you cannot be evicted without just cause, and you have the right to live in your unit in peace and quiet. If other renters are violating this right, you should submit a complaint to the landlord in writing. Likewise, you also cannot interfere with another tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. Landlords also cannot interrupt your utilities unless they are making necessary repairs, there is an emergency, or it is necessary due to construction.

The Right to a Safe and Healthy Environment

When a condition significantly impacts your physical health or safety, you have the right to demand that your landlord repair it. A justice of the peace can order a landlord to repair conditions that affect your physical health or safety so long as the repair does not cost more than $10,000. 

Your landlord is also under no obligation to repair a condition created by you, a member of the household, any other lawful occupant, or your guests unless the condition results from natural wear and tear. Your landlord must also provide you with a smoke detector, and you do not have the right to waive this provision or to disconnect the device.

The Right to Repairs for Normal Wear and Tear

When a condition arises due to normal wear and tear, you have the right to demand that your landlord pays to have it fixed. For example, if you need a new carpet because you and your family have been walking on it for five years, you can ask the landlord to replace it. On the other hand, if your dehumidifier leaks and causes mildew to grow in the carpet, you may be responsible for fixing the condition.

The Right to Security Devices

You have the right to a dwelling that is equipped with certain security devices, such as keyed deadbolts on exterior doors, window latches, sliding door handle latches, door pin locks, and sliding door security bars. Landlords must bear the expense of installing these items. If your unit does not have these devices, or they are defective, you have the right to ask your landlord to install them.

The Right to Complain in Good Faith

If your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs to protect your safety, health, or security, you have the right to take certain steps under the law. You may have the right to terminate the lease or force your landlord to make the necessary repairs. You can also file a lawsuit against them so the court can order your landlord to remedy the situation.

You must follow certain steps when trying to force your landlord to correct certain conditions. These are as follows:

  • Send your landlord a dated letter by registered or certified mail and request a return receipt. Outline the necessary repairs and keep a copy of the letter for yourself. Before delivering the letter, you should also ensure you are current with your rent.
  • After your landlord receives your letter, they should diligently try to correct the issue within a reasonable amount of time. If within seven days of receipt of the letter, the landlord has not tried to remedy the condition, you may have to send a second letter if you delivered the letter yourself. If you sent the letter by registered or certified mail and you received a receipt, you may not have to take this step.
  • If your landlord has not repaired the condition after taking the above steps, you may have the right to take legal action. Before doing anything, you should speak with a Houston real estate lawyer who can advise on the next steps to take.

The Right to Be Free From Retaliation

After you make a good faith complaint against your landlord, you have the right to be free from retaliation for six months from the date of the complaint. Your landlord, however, still has the right to evict you if you intentionally damage the property, fail to pay your rent, or threaten your landlord’s safety. If your landlord does not make necessary repairs, you do not have the right to withhold rent unless the condition negatively affects your safety or physical health. If you do withhold rent and that exception does not apply, your landlord may have the right to file a lawsuit against you.

Rights Regarding Security Deposits

Most landlords require tenants to pay a security deposit that will cover any necessary repairs upon the termination of the lease or a failure to pay the last month’s rent. If the last month of rent is paid and there are no necessary repairs, you have the right to receive a full or partial portion of your security deposit. If your landlord withholds part or all of your security deposit, they must provide you with a valid reason.

When you move out of your unit, state law requires you to provide your landlord with a forwarding address so you can receive your security deposit. Within 30 days, your landlord must then return the deposit, minus any deductions for damages. If the landlord does not return a full or partial deposit, they must provide you with a full itemized list of the deductions made, along with a complete description of any damage.

Did Your Landlord Violate Your Rights? Our Real Estate Lawyer in Houston Can Help

As a tenant, you have many rights. If your landlord has violated them, our Houston real estate lawyer at Integrity Law Group, PLLC, can advise on your situation and the next steps to take. Call us now at (832) 280-9197 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation and learn more.

Investor’s Guide on Becoming a Texas Residential Landlord

A key component to the buy-and-hold strategy for Texas real estate residential investors is property management. While collecting rent may seem like easy passive income, there are several Texas residential landlord tenant laws and regulations in place for landlords. As a first time landlord, investors may face uncertainty and make mistakes along the way. This guide is designed to point out key issues and considerations for a newly anointed landlord.

First, consider whether you plan on making your property a long term rental (typically 12 months) or short term rental. If you plan on the short term rental route, be sure to review your local homeowner’s association rules also known as declaration, and covenants regarding single family home dwellings. Once you have confirmed it’s acceptable, plan your rental listing platforms, tenant screening process and management process.

For long term rentals you may consider using platforms such as or for online listings. Both long term and short term rentals may be posted on social media market platforms such as Facebook. Additionally, there are short term rental platforms like VRBO or Airbnb. You may also consider listing it on your local newsletter or newspaper. Few residential landlords will also have a physical sign indicating the property is for rent. Lastly, you can go a more traditional route and find a realtor to post the listing on for you, but they typically require a fee. On average the fee will be the same amount as the first month’s rent, but be sure to check with your local realtor or broker as each office operates differently.

Once you have a successful listing, consider your tenant screening process. We have a short and handy checklist here under our resources tab. Depending on what platforms you list on, you may be receiving calls and emails daily with potential residential tenants requesting showing or additional information and sending applications. A tip is to create a short and simple script that you can use over and over throughout the process, making it seamless each time you handle another call or email.

The screening process should include some form of credit check, background check, and identity confirmation through the application. A common application form is the Texas Realtors Residential Lease Application (TXR-2003). You should also set an income requirement (typically 3x the monthly rent) and verify the potential tenant’s ability to pay. Additionally, it is important to confirm the tenant is employed and received good referrals from previous landlords. Come up with an outline of requirements for the potential tenant to meet that ensures they have good credit history and are a responsible tenant. In the event you decline an application, you should inform the potential tenant in writing through an adverse action letter.

Once you have determined who your new tenant will be, send them a deposit to hold letter and welcome letter outlining their lease agreement start date, security deposit amount, first month’s rent and any other requirements before move in. To see a sample of a deposit to hold letter and welcome letter, subscribe to our mailing list.

Prepare the necessary documents to execute prior to the tenant moving in. These documents may include a lease, pet addendum, inspection report, community/house rules and disclosures. You may need additional documents or addendums depending on your situation.

Finally, once the documents are executed and the tenant receives the keys to the property, set up your management procedure. Consider how the tenant will pay monthly rent, such as through mailing certified funds, online payments or personal pickup/delivery of payments. Be sure to explain to your tenant how to submit a maintenance request or how to contact you in an emergency.

From there do your best to maintain a stable and productive relationship with the tenant. In the event of a lease violation or eviction, see our article on residential evictions for more information.

Landlording can be daunting for a new residential investor, so be sure to check out online resources and seek help from professionals or a mentor.

Our firm handles landlord/tenant issues for our investor clients regularly. We would be happy to help you. To speak to an attorney and learn more about our services, schedule a consultation here.

Residential Texas Evictions

An eviction is the judicial process when a landlord may remove a tenant from the premises. Although many people commonly know the term eviction, some may be unfamiliar with the legal term in the Texas Property Code, a “forcible detainer” action. There are several causes for evictions such as (1) non-payment of rent, (2) holding over after the lease term has expired, (3) violation of the lease agreement or (4) foreclosure of a property. See our foreclosure series for more information on foreclosure eviction proceedings.

Evictions are governed by Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code and Civil Procedure Rule 500. The process starts with providing the tenant with a proper notice to vacate. Under the Property Code, a landlord is required to give at least three days’ written notice before a landlord can file the forcible detainer suit. However, a written lease may provide for a shorter or longer period of time.

After the required prescribed time is met, the landlord will file an original petition for the forcible detainer action in the justice of the peace court within the precinct where the property is located. Then, the tenant will be served with notice and a trial date will be set by the court’s clerk. At the trial, the judge will make a determination as to which party has the superior right of possession to the property and the amount of damages, such as back rent, attorney’s fees, court costs, etc.

In the event the landlord receives judgment in their favor, the landlord may file a writ of possession with the court to proceed on regaining judicial access to the property. However, a tenant may appeal the eviction decision within a certain timeframe as ordered by the court. If the tenant successfully appeals the case, the case will be appealed de novo (meaning a new case) and will be sent to the county court. Then the whole process starts over. There are certain requirements a tenant must meet if they attempt to appeal the judgment such as paying a cash bond or filing a proper pauper’s affidavit.

Whether you are a seasoned landlord or a first timer, evictions may be stressful and time consuming. Additionally, each county may have their own requirements. Reach out to an experienced Texas residential eviction attorney at Integrity Law Group PLLC to provide you with the legal advice you need to accomplish your goals.

Residential Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code governs the residential landlord tenant relationship. In addition to the Texas Property Code there are Federal rules and regulations that outline a landlord’s rights and responsibilities. In this article we outline key rights and responsibilities for Texas landlords. This is not an extensive list and landlords should always do research in their local markets to ensure that they are in compliance with all county and city regulations in addition to the items listed below.

Texas Landlord’s Duty to Repair

Subchapter B of Section 92 explains that a landlord must make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition when:

  • The tenant has specified the condition in a notice to the person who normally collects rent or to the place where rent is normally paid,
  • The tenant is current on rent payments when the notice is given, and
  • The condition:
  • Materially affects the health and safety of an ordinary tenant, or
  • Arises from the landlord’s failure to provide and maintain in good operating condition a device to provide hot water of a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

The lease agreement may require that the notice be in writing and delivered in a certain manner by the tenant. However, as a practical matter, any notices between the parties should be in writing and delivered in a trackable manner or with a witness to verify delivery.

Unless a problem is caused by normal wear and tear, the landlord has no duty to repair conditions caused by:

  • The tenant,
  • A lawful occupant of the premises,
  • A member of the tenant’s family,
  • A tenant’s guest or invitee.

Texas Landlord’s Duty to Return Security Deposit

Subchapter C of Chapter 92 dictates the rules regarding security deposits. As most landlords are familiar with, a tenant may be required to pay a security deposit prior to moving into the premises. A security deposit is typically used to repair damages to the premises after a tenant moves out. A landlord may not recover changes from a security deposit for normal wear and tear, which is defined as “deterioration that results from the intended use of the dwelling.” However, normal wear and tear does not include the “deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises.” Texas Property Code, Section 92.001[4]. In order to make deductions for repairs a landlord is required to give the tenant a written, itemized list of all the deductions.

According to Section 92 a landlord is required to return the security deposit 30 days after the tenant surrenders the premises. Additionally, if the landlord has made deductions from the security deposit, an accounting must also be provided. However, a tenant is required to give the landlord a written statement of the tenant’s forwarding address for purposes of refunding the security deposit. Until the forwarding address is received, the landlord has no duty to return the tenant’s security deposit or give the tenant a written description of damages and charges.

A landlord who wrongly withholds a security deposit or fails to provide a written description of the accounting may be liable to the tenant for damages.

Quiet Enjoyment

A covenant is a promise under the law. A covenant for quiet enjoyment is a promise by the landlord to the tenant that the landlord will not disturb the tenant’s quiet use and enjoyment of the property. This breach can occur when a landlord prevents a tenant from entering the property. However, landlords have the right to exclude tenants under certain circumstances, such as for bona fide repairs, construction or emergencies as long as it is in compliance with the Texas Property Code. Additionally, the landlord does not breach this covenant if the exclusion occurs due to the tenant abandoning the property.

In some instances, a landlord may be liable for constructive eviction. Constructive eviction occurs when (1)  the landlord’s contact materially and permanently interferes with the tenant’s use of the premises and (2) the tenant leaves the property because of the interference. Essentially, the landlord’s actions force the tenant to vacate the property.

However, landlords have the right to evict tenants judicially under Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code. Or, a landlord may force tenants to leave non-judicially according to the lease. See our article on evictions.

Fair Housing Act

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in conjunction with the Texas Workforce Commission regulates the Texas Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act is a federal regulation. Additionally, Texas has its own fair housing policies. The Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from discriminating a tenant based on the seven protected classes. These classes include color, religion, race, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Generally, the Fair Housing Act covers most housing, except (1) owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, (2) a landlord that only has a few single-family homes that were sold or rented without the use of a broker and (3) housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

Landlords are prohibited from the following:

  • Refusing to rent or negotiate,
  • Make housing unavailable,
  • Deny a property,
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges,
  • Provide different housing services of facilities,
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility, and
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference.

This is not an exhaustive list but is meant to give landlords an idea of what is protected under the Fair Housing Act. In the event a landlord discriminates against a tenant a tenant may file a Fair Housing Complaint, which may subject the landlord to investigations. Additionally these  violations are subject to penalties.

While this article lists key responsibilities of landlords, it is ultimately only intended to be a guide. A landlord’s responsibilities may also be designated in the lease or other local rules, regulations and ordinances. If you have questions about any of the responsibilities we discussed above or would like to know more about a Texas landlord’s rights and duties, schedule a free consultation here.

Back to top