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A Landlord’s Lien, outlined in Texas Property Code, is when a landlord takes belongings from a tenant’s apartment as payment for rent owed. The landlord’s lien clause must be written in the lease, in bold print or underlined, to be legal. The belongings have to be in either the tenant’s residence or in a storage room, including an attached garage or shed, for the landlord to take it. The Austin Tenant’s Council outlines the complex laws in Texas governing a Landlord’s Lien.
First, the landlord can only take the property when the tenant isn’t at home. After taking the items, they must leave a notice that they entered and an itemized list of everything they took in an obvious place inside the apartment. The notice must include the amount of overdue rent and the name, address, and telephone number of the person the tenant should contact about the amount owed. It also must say that that the belongings will be returned once rent is paid in full.
There are certain things that a landlord cannot seize, which are exempted under Texas law. Clothes, tools and books of a trade or profession, school books, a family library, family pictures, one couch, two living room chairs, and a dining table and chairs, beds and bedding, kitchen furniture, utensils, and appliances, food, medicine and medical supplies, one car and one truck, agricultural implements, children’s toys, items the landlord knows are owned by a non-tenant, and items that the landlord knows are used for the tenant’s work are all exempt from being seized.
Other items can be seized, and are on the “non-exempt” list. If items are used for the tenant’s work, they cannot be taken, even if they are listed on the seizeable list. Tv’s, stereos, cd players, vcrs, records, tapes, cds and videotapes, answering machines, telephones, sewing machines, calculators, books and paintings, all furniture except for the above-mentioned exempt pieces, personal computers, printers, and typewriters, musical instruments, cameras, radios, clocks and all sports equipment all can be seized under the law.
The Tenant can get back their belongings at any time before the landlord sells it by paying all the delinquent rent owed. If the landlord brings suit against the tenant for rent owed, the tenant can still recover their belongings before a judgement is rendered. The tenant has to post a bond for the amount the court approves. If the landlord wins the case, the judgement and court fees will be paid from the bond before any money is returned to the tenant.
The landlord can put the items up for sale, but only after they have given the tenant 30 days notice of the sale. The notice must be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, and state the date, time and place of the sale, an itemized account of the money owed, and the name, address and phone number of the person the tenant can get in touch with about the sale.
If the tenant doesn’t pay the rent, then the landlord can sell the property to the highest bidder. Any proceeds from the sale must be applied to the rent, then any sale costs. Any money that remains has to be mailed to the tenant. The tenant can request a written account of the proceeds by mailing a written request to the landlord via certified mail and the landlord must provide the account within 30 days.
If a tenant thinks the landlord violated the law when they seized their belongings, contact your local housing authority or an attorney for help recovering your property and/or sale proceeds.