Do I really have any obligation to deal with the son? He's not the owner or my landlord per the lease.
A: No. First, you don't know if he really is the son. Second, you don't know if he is authorized to manage the property. Third, you haven't received any notice from the owner re who is the current property manager, if any. Based on all of that, were I the judge hearing your case, I would hold that the contact information in the lease remains the correct information for notice and payment, until such time as the true owner provides written notice of the new manager's contact information. Which is why I suggested sending your notices and rent payments to that address, certified mail, return receipt requested. That way you would have proof of when and where you mailed your notices and payments -- and you would have proof that the address is no longer valid (or, that it is, if the mail is received and signed for).
We looked in the county tax records and found the mother's name but her address is listed as our address. What is our obligation to the owner? We hadn't ever heard of her until recently. She is most definitely not mentioned in our lease and we haven't heard from her.
A: The "owner" is the person named on title. Anyone else may have the owner's permission to act as property manager (though this is illegal, unless the person is a licensed real estate broker, or full-time employee of the owner -- but that's a different issue, so let's not go there).
Your legal obligation is to send notice and payments to the name and address on the lease, until you receive notice of an alternative name and address. Period. I was suggesting the tax records, because if you have to sue to get your security returned, you will eventually need to know where this owner is actually located (though, I could show you how to sue the owner, without knowing his/her address, but again, this is a different issue, so let's not go there).
Our "landlord" who we have the lease with signed a letter at the time of the lease-signing giving us permission to use our security deposit as last month's rent under certain circumstances (please see initial question) -- can you please address this?
A: Property Code 92.108 requires that the tenant pay the last month's rent, or be liable for three times the rent to the landlord for a bad faith rent withholding. However, if you have a letter signed by the landlord effectively waiving his/her right to the last month's rent, then that would be enforceable, providing that you can prove the conditions for the waiver. And, that could be difficult to do, especially if the son does not actually represent the owner's interests -- because if he doesn't, then his trespass was not interference with your quiet enjoyment by the landlord/owner. It was interference by a third person -- and that would obligate you for three times the rent. So, since you don't really know where the last month's rent will go if you mail it to the address on the lease, you could try a preemptive experiment: send a letter to that address and see if it comes back to you. If it does, then you can send your rent to that address, and the letter will come back. You won't have actually paid the rent, but you will have constructively paid. That would cover your "assets," if you take my meaning -- and if you end up in court, you will have proof that you tried to pay the rent, but your letter was returned unopened.
I understand that Texas law says that you can't do this without "written permission from the landlord". However, I think we're covered on this -- but is there anything the owner could say about it later?
A: I have searched Texas case law and statutes and I find nothing that suggests that the landlord can waive the right to be paid the last month's rent via any prior agreement. I suggest that this could seriously bite you in the "butt," if you attempt to enforce this letter against the landlord. You may have a good faith claim, if you can prove that the son was authorized to manage the property and he tried to interfere with your quiet enjoyment. However, the better proof would be that you tried to pay the rent, and it failed, because the landlord's address was no longer current. That completely covers you, and it gives you grounds for damages in the amount of one month's rent plus $100.
Hope this helps.