Texas law surrounding rental applications focuses mostly on transparency—landlords must inform all applicants of their selection criteria and reasons why an application might be denied. If they don't, they are required to refund any application fees. And don't forget: federal tenant screening laws also apply.
Landlords must explain their selection criteria
In Texas, a landlord must provide a written explanation of their tenant selection criteria to all applicants.1 The landlord is also required to mention any reasons why an application might be denied. Valid reasons include a tenant’s:
- Criminal history
- Previous rental history
- Current income
- Credit history
- Failure to provide accurate or complete information on the application form
Landlords should ask applicants to sign a form agreeing that they were given a written explanation of the tenant selection criteria. The form must include a statement very similar to this one:
Signing this acknowledgment indicates that you have had the opportunity to review the landlord’s tenant selection criteria. The tenant selection criteria may include factors such as criminal history, credit history, current income, and rental history. If you do not meet the selection criteria, or if you provide inaccurate or incomplete information, your application may be rejected and your application fee will not be refunded.
If the applicant doesn’t sign this form, then it’s assumed the document was never provided. This statement can also be included in the rental application (rather than a separate form), as long as it's either bolded or underlined.
An applicant’s right to understand a landlord’s selection criteria can’t be revoked under any circumstances. Even if a rental application includes a section explicitly stating that the applicant has given up their right to see the landlord’s selection criteria, that section is void under Texas law.2
Application fee must be refunded if landlord didn't provide selection criteria
If a landlord rejects an applicant without providing a written explanation of their selection criteria, the landlord is required by law to return the application fee and any application deposit. If the applicant requests it, the landlord is required to mail the refund to an address that they provide.1
If an applicant can prove a landlord acted in bad faith and refused to return the application fee, the landlord can be held liable for $100, three times the amount of the illegal fees and any deposits, and reasonable attorney’s fees.3
Applications are automatically rejected after seven days
A rental application is automatically rejected if the landlord hasn’t accepted on or before the seventh day following:4
- The date the applicant submitted a completed rental application form
- The date the landlord accepted an application deposit
Co-applicants must be rejected as a unit
A landlord can’t pick and choose between co-applicants when making the decision to rent. They must accept or reject all co-applicants as a unit.3
Applicants are protected from discrimination by fair housing laws
Prospective renters in Texas are protected by state and federal fair housing laws, which make it illegal for landlords to treat people differently based on race, national origin, religion, gender, family status, or disability. If an applicant suspects they were rejected because of one of these characteristics, they could pursue a fair housing complaint.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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