Landlord may be able to take tenant's property

Q. My friend was late on her rent at an apartment complex. One day she came home and found a lien notice where her TV used to be. They took both of her TVs in the apartment. Isn’t this stealing? Is this legal for them to do?

A. This is stealing if someone else were to do it, but probably not when it is the landlord. Under Texas law, a landlord may have a “landlord’s lien” on the tenant’s property, and may be able to take some property if the rent is not paid. For such a lien to exist, it must be written in the lease and be bold or underlined. If there is no such provision in the lease, the landlord has no right to take the property. A landlord also may take only certain property. The list of protected property includes wearing apparel, food, some furniture, children’s toys and a car. Electronic equipment such as a television is not protected and may be taken. If the landlord takes any property, he must leave a notice telling you what he took and what you must do to get it back. A landlord who violates this law is responsible for all the tenant’s damages, plus a penalty of $500 or one month’s rent, whichever is greater. To learn more about the landlord’s lien, look at the landlord tenant section on my website,


Q. My tenant wants to buy an above-ground pool and a trampoline for her children. These items will be housed on my property which she currently rents. What do I need to do to make sure that I will not be held liable for any accidents that could occur?

A. First, as a general rule, a landlord is not liable for incidents that occur on rented property. Any potential liability would rest with the tenant. The landlord may, however, be responsible if the injured person was able to prove that the landlord himself was negligent. For example, if the lease prohibited a trampoline, and the landlord knew the tenant installed one and did not take reasonable steps to have it removed, the landlord might be considered negligent and responsible if someone was injured playing on it.

I suggest you first read the lease and determine if the tenant has the right to install the pool and trampoline. If he does not, be sure to make him aware of the lease provisions. If he does have the right, let him know you expect he will take precautions to ensure everything is properly installed and safe, and that any use by others is properly supervised. Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to make sure you always have sufficient insurance to cover any costs of a lawsuit and well as any potential liability arising from your rental property.


Q. My son purchased a vehicle but did not have good credit. I had to sign as a co-signer. He has now been paying the note on time for over three years and has established good credit. I want to buy a house, and it is hurting my credit to be a co-signer on his note. What can I do to have my name removed?

A. As I have said before, don’t co-sign unless you are willing to pay and willing to be obligated to pay until the note is paid off. The only way you can have your name removed is for the creditor to agree to remove it, or for your son to refinance in his own name. The creditor is under no legal obligation to remove a co-signer, even if there is no longer any need for one. I suggest you talk with the creditor to see if it will agree to refinance the note in only your son’s name, or see if someone else will refinance the car for him. If his credit is good, you should be able to work something out.


Q. My father recently died. In his will, he left me $25,000. What else am I entitled to? My brothers and sisters get much more than I do.

A. When a person dies with a will, the will determines how the deceased’s property is divided after death. All of the people who receive property pursuant to the will are called beneficiaries. If the will leaves one beneficiary a sum of money, that is all that person is entitled to. It doesn’t matter if others receive more or less than you do. There is no law that says brothers and sisters must receive equal shares of the estate.

The only additional property you might be entitled to would be property left to you in a joint account or an account on which you were the beneficiary. For example, your father might have a life insurance policy that names you as the beneficiary. The proceeds of that policy would go directly to you and would not be part of the estate, distributed in accordance with the terms of the will. I suggest you speak with the attorney probating the will.


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