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If you are a tenant renting in Texas and your landlord refuses to return your security deposit within 30 days of you moving out, consider taking legal action. You can send a security deposit demand letter, file a complaint against your landlord, and if all else fails, you can choose to file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord in Texas Justice Court.
Why is Sending a Texas Security Deposit Demand Letter Important?
Not only does a demand letter send notice to your landlord of your intent to sue if you can’t get your security deposit back, but it also gives you an opportunity to try and settle your dispute outside of court.
Here are some other good reasons to first send a demand letter for a security deposit in Texas before taking legal action:
A demand letter can help you better organize your case. If you end up filing a lawsuit against your landlord, you will need to make a concise claim and prove your case to a judge. Writing a demand letter will help you think through every aspect of your case. For example, you will be ready to reference the relevant Texas security deposit laws in front of the judge because you already know which ones you need to prove your case from your demand letter.
A demand letter signals to a landlord that you are serious about resolving the dispute and that you are willing to take action.
Sending a written demand letter to a landlord assures you there is a record of your attempt to settle. So while demands can be made orally, we recommend making any demands in writing. Writing a letter can sometimes be very effective as it is a more formal way of making a demand to a landlord.
The most important reason to send a demand letter to a landlord is that it may lead to a settlement without incurring court costs!
What to Include in Your Security Deposit Demand Letter
Below we have included suggestions on the most important things to include in your security deposit demand letter:
How much you paid for the security deposit.
A statement that explains why you are entitled to a return of a portion or all of the deposit.
The address of your rental and the dates you rented.
Your new forwarding address. Your landlord needs to know where they can send your security deposit and other information, like a written itemized list of deductions if necessary. Under Texas Property Code Section 92.107, a landlord is not required to return a tenant’s security deposit or give the tenant a written description of damages and charges until the tenant gives the landlord a written statement of the tenant's forwarding address for the purpose of refunding the security deposit. If you moved out and didn’t provide a forwarding address to your landlord at that time, it is essential you do so in your demand letter.
References to Texas Property Code Sec. 92.103(a) which requires your landlord to return a security deposit 30 days from when you move out.
Other relevant Texas security deposit laws. For example, Texas allows you to recover more damages, beyond your security deposit, as a penalty to your landlord for failing to return your security deposit.
Consider giving your landlord 14 days to respond to you. Include this in your letter, and state that if they do not respond within that time, you intend to file a small claims lawsuit against them.
Once you have sent your demand letter, keep it in your records. In the event, you do end up filing a small claims lawsuit, you can bring it to the hearing and show it to the judge. This is especially handy if your landlord claims they didn’t receive the letter.
Sample Texas Security Deposit Demand Letter
Below is a sample Texas security deposit demand letter, asking a landlord to return a security deposit. Use this sample to help you write your own demand letter, but remember to only discuss facts specific to your dispute with your landlord. Reference only the security deposit laws that relate to your claims.
How to Send a Security Deposit Demand Letter
You may send your security deposit demand letter via email or mail. For letters that you mail, consider sending your letter with tracking information so that you know when it has been delivered.
Overview of Texas Security Deposit Law
Below we discuss some of the most common questions regarding Texas Security Deposit Laws.
How Long Does My Landlord Have to Return My Security Deposit in Texas?
Texas Property Code Sec. 92.103(a) states that a landlord needs to refund a security deposit within 30 days after a tenant moves out.
What if My Landlord is Withholding My Security Deposit Illegally?
A landlord who, in “bad faith”, retains a security deposit is in violation of Texas Property Code Sec. 92.109. A landlord can be held liable for $100, three times the amount of the deposit, which is wrongfully withheld, reasonable attorney’s fees, and court costs if the tenant has evidence that the landlord acted in “bad faith.”
Further Reading: Texas security deposit law.
Next Steps After Sending the Demand Letter
If your landlord doesn’t respond to your Texas security deposit demand letter, you have several options, including filing a complaint against your landlord or suing your landlord in Texas Justice Court.
Consider Filing a Complaint Against Your Landlord
Besides filing a small claims lawsuit, you may also want to consider filing a complaint against your landlord with a state, federal, or non-governmental organization. For example, you can file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Their office handles a wide variety of consumer complaints which include security deposit disputes.
Suing Your Landlord Over Your Security Deposit in Texas Justice Court
If you are unable to settle your dispute with your landlord out of court, consider taking your landlord to Texas Justice Court. Texas Justice Court handles a variety of different small claims cases, including security deposit cases. Texas Justice Courts are affordable and user-friendly courts designed to help everyday people resolve their disputes quickly and efficiently. The most important thing to note is that you can only file a claim for $20,000 or less in Texas Justice Court.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.