Texas law governs many aspects of a landlord-tenant relationship. When a new roommate, friend or significant other moves in to a rental property, each party should understand the terms of the existing rental agreement as well as its consequences for the original tenant and new roommate. The legal and financial obligations of a roommate often depend on whether the roommate is a tenant with a sublease or an unauthorized occupant.
A lease explains the legal terms of the relationship between the landlord and the tenant. The tenant's lease states the amount of rent and other requirements for the tenant to live in the landlord's rental property. Any other individual living in the home is an unauthorized occupant unless the original tenant signed a sublease. Before allowing a friend or significant other to move in, the tenant should review the terms of the lease to see if the landlord imposes any restrictions on roommates. The lease may limit the amount of overnight visits or other time spent on the property by unauthorized occupants.
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A roommate may sublease space in a rental property from one of the landlord's tenants. In Texas, the landlord must usually consent to the sublease arrangement. A legal sublease entails a signed agreement between the roommate and the original tenant. If the two parties have signed a sublease agreement, the roommate may have a legal obligation to pay rent to the original tenant. However, the original tenant usually still has a legal obligation to pay rent to the landlord. If the roommate does not follow the terms of the sublease and the property's landlord does not receive rent, the landlord may evict the roommate and sue either the original tenant or subsequent tenant for rent owed.
Liability for Rent
Under Texas law, each tenant on a signed lease has liability for the full amount of rent for the entire property unless the tenants have signed a per-bedroom agreement to rent only one part of a property. When an unauthorized occupant does not pay rent and the original tenant did not get a signed sublease, the original tenant remains personally liable for all rent owed to the landlord. The unauthorized occupant has no legal obligation to the landlord if the unauthorized occupant's name does not appear on the lease.
When the original tenant would like to ask an unauthorized occupant to move from the property, Texas law does not require the landlord to help. If the roommate signed a sublease, the original tenant may be able to initiate eviction proceedings based on the terms of the sublease. If moving out, the original tenant should ask the landlord to provide a written release from lease obligations and ask the roommate to sign a new agreement with the landlord of the property.
When a friend or significant other moves in to a property rented by the original tenant, without a sublease, the parties should consider signing a roommate agreement. An informal promise to contribute toward rent each month does not usually protect the original tenant in Texas if the roommate does not pay rent later on. A written agreement between the roommate and original tenant may provide the original tenant with a way to enforce payment of rent by the roommate or to initiate eviction if the relationship ends badly. The parties should sign and execute their agreement according to Texas contractual principles and landlord-tenant laws.
- Tenants Rights' Handbook; Texas Young Lawyers Association and the State Bar of Texas; 2009
- Texas Tenant Advisor: Roommates
- Texas Apartment Association: Renting Basics
- Austin Tenants' Council: Tips for Renters
- Texas Tenant Advisor: Eviction
- Texas Apartment Association: Free Renting 101 Course
- Texas Attorney General: Tenant Rights