How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask socrateaser Your Own Question

socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33509
Experience:  Attorney and Real Estate broker -- Retired (mostly)
Type Your Real Estate Law Question Here...
socrateaser is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Our "landlord" quit. I asked another expert this question and

Resolved Question:

Our "landlord" quit. I asked another expert this question and am happy with his answer but want to check with you since you are in Texas.
We rented our house in Austin, TX from a man who has been handling the property for the owner who lives in NY for at least 10 years. He is on our lease as the "landlord" and no mention of the owner was made to us until recently. Apparently, our "landlord" and the owner's son (who also lived in NY) and the owner were friends in the past. However, the owner's son (who is not even partial owner) has recently shown up in town and he and our "landlord" have had a spat and our "landlord" has told us that he has quit and is no longer tending to the property. Also, the owner's son has forwarded his mail to our address (since mid-May), been coming to the property everyday (since early-June) (hanging around and looking in our windows) and stored some boxes in our garage. When we went out to see who he was, he said, "I own this property". He then told us he would be moving into the garage apt on July 1 when the current tenant moves out. After 10 days of constant harassment from him, we called the police and they told him he was trespassing and gave him a warning not to come back and recommended that he not move into the garage apt until we leave. However, we have no reason to believe that he will follow their advice. Our lease is up on Aug 4. We want to give notice on July 1. We don't know how to get in touch with the owner and the person we have the lease with says he's not involved anymore. We don't want to deal with the owner's son, because we don't have any legal relationship with him. How do we give proper notice? Also, we have permission in our lease from the person we signed it with to "use security deposit as last month's rent" under certain circumstances, one of which is disturbance of our quiet enjoyment. Even with the last month's rent and prorated 4 days of rent in August, we would still be due some deposit money returned. We want to act in good faith and make sure we follow the law. What do we do in this situation? Can we use our security deposit? Who will return the remainder? Who do we give notice to? Do we even have to give notice -- if there's no mention in our lease?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Attyadvisor replied 1 year ago.

Attorney2 :

Hello and thank you for your question.

Attorney2 :

You can check with the Travis County Recorder's Office to see the name of the person on the title to the property. This is a link http://www.traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/

Attorney2 :

Are you on line with me?

Attorney2 :

You would still give notice to the manager as he is the person that signed the lease.

Customer:

Yes, I am. I am unfamiliar with the chat area of this website. I thought I asked a specific atty (no offense). I did check this website already. I found the owner's name, but her address is listed as ours -- she obviously doesn't live with us.

Attorney2 :

The request only shows up for a certain period of time, and this showed as an open question. May I assist you.

Customer:

I have already received a general answer and was hoping to get advice from someone specifically familiar with Texas law.

Attorney2 :

I can certainly understand your concern. Can you tell me the attorney and I will send them an email.

Customer:

The attorney I was trying to reach was "legal beacon" -- it said he was in Texas. I just want to make sure I'm covered. Thanks :)

Attorney2 :

Ok. I will switch this out of chat and send him a message. When he is on line he will respond. Good luck!

Customer:

Thank you!!

Expert:  Attyadvisor replied 1 year ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already done so, please rate your answer above. Or, you can reply to me using the box below.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Relist: Other. didn't have the specific knowledge I was looking for - Texas law

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

I'm not "in" Texas, however I have comprehensive knowledge of Texas Landlord-Tenant law. Do you want to wait, or do you want an answer now?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

No, it's not important that you're in Texas :) I just wanted to make sure the advice would be specific/relevant to Texas law. Thanks., would love your input.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Okay, thanks.

Texas Property Code 92.201 requires that the landlord disclose and maintain the name and address of the person responsible for the management of the rental property. Failure to do so, subjects the landlord to liability for one month's rent plus $100.

Also, if the landlord fails to disclose, then the address of the person who collects rent is the default agent for the landlord. Assuming that you do not have this person's address, then you can consider the contact information on the lease the correct address until you are notified otherwise. Send certified mail return receipt to that address, and even if it is returned unsigned and unopened, you will have evidence that the landlord failed to provide you with the correct address for the manager, and that will show that you provided constructive notice of the termination of the lease, as well as payment of rent, and it will entitle you to damages, and the return of your security deposit when the time comes.

If the son happens to show up during this time, then request his address, and if he won't disclose, then hand him a copy of your notice. If you have a smart phone, take a video of your handing him the notice, so you can prove that it was done. This will give you a secondary method of proving notice -- although, it's not really necessary.

Concerning any collection of your security once you leave, that could be a problem, if you don't have the real landlord's address. However, you can check the county deed records and get the mailing address for tax payments, which is actually written on the deed, and changed by the tax collector's office whenever the owner moves. So, a little diligent investigation can produce the landlord's real mailing address -- which can be used to serve a summons and sue the landlord to get your security returned.

Please let me know if I missed anything.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Do I really have any obligation to deal with the son? He's not the owner or my landlord per the lease. The son is actually using my address as his right now -- he had all of his mail forwarded here since early May. We didn't know what was going on when it started, bills and magazines, etc all to our address for a name we didn't recognize. I don't think it's even legal for him to send his mail here? It seems inappropriate giving him notice, since we don't have any sort of legal standing with him. He was coming here everyday until we called the police and they told him he was trespassing. He seems to think that it's relevant that his mother owns the house, but I don't think so. 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.

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? 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?

Thanks!

 

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.

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.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Hello again,

I just wanted to mention something that may be of use in your determinations. When I say that I have searched Texas case law and statutes, I mean that I have searched the Westlaw® legal database -- which is one of the two largest proprietary subscription legal databases available anywhere (the other being Lexisnexis®).

If there is nothing found in Westlaw or Lexisnexis, then assuming that the search was properly executed -- there is no such law, because these databases catelog all statutes and legal proceedings in every U.S. jurisdiction, since the jurisdictions' founding -- which in the case of Texas would be back to the year 1846.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Regarding your last answer about the legal databases...are you referring to the concept of using security as last month's rent? When I have searched, it has just said that you must have "prior written permission". I want to understand -- is the idea of prior written permission actually not valid?

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
I'm referring to everything. I research every single answer that I provide with Westlaw, before I answer the question, because I don't want to provide a "guess," unless a guess is all that there is available.

You say you have searched and found evidence that prior written permission is required. However, if you cannot actually cite a competent legal authority (and by that I mean an appellate court ruling or Texas case law), then I must respectfully XXXXX XXXXX my answer is correct, because I'm not finding anything that supports the proposition that the landlord can waive the right to the last month's rent under Property Code 92.108.

The letter may show that you acted in good faith, so you would not be presumed to owe the last month's rent. But, since the result of an unfavorable ruling is liability for three month's rent, that's not a bet that I would be willing to take. So, I like my proposed solution better, because it takes the letter issue completely "off the table."

You are, of course, in control of your choices. I "justanswer" questions about the law, and I'm not finding a definitive answer to this letter/waiver issue. Therefore, unless you or someone else shows me a definitive ruling, I'm going to presume that the letter/waiver will not suffice and you are therefore, at risk.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Okay, I see what you are saying, we are just in a confusing situation. Our landlord that we signed the lease with signed the letter himself and signed the lease as the landlord -- no mention of the owner. If he accepts our notice saying that we want to use the deposit as rent, how does that stand? I just don't want to be dealing with this 2 months from now, I'm not interested in suing anyone. More importantly, do we even have a legal relationship with the owner? Another lawyer said "The owner or his son cannot do anything because their names do not appear on the lease as landlord or owner and this would be grounds to dismiss any action they try to take." Does this make any sense to you? It sounds good to me, but would it hold up? Also, our landlord told us that the reason he signs the lease, takes the check, pays utilities, etc is that the owner says it's better for her taxes. I don't want to rattle her chain or anything, but perhaps she's not in a position to go to court? Can we turn in notice early, say, this week, for Aug 4? Then if the son shows up saying he is now the manager, do we even have to deal with him? I would like to just not deal with the unstable son, leave the place spotless, then get on with my life. What would be the shortest road to this? Thank you!

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Okay, I see what you are saying, we are just in a confusing situation. Our landlord that we signed the lease with signed the letter himself and signed the lease as the landlord -- no mention of the owner. If he accepts our notice saying that we want to use the deposit as rent, how does that stand?

A: In my opinion, the letter does not waive the landlord's right to payment of rent, regardless of what the letter says. This may not seem fair to you, but I can assure you, were the situation reversed, and you signed a letter stating that you waived your right to a refund of the security, that the court would refuse to enforce it against you. Public policy when it comes to landlord-tenant relations is strictly interpreted. I can't tell you what will happen for certain, because there is no statute or case law interpreting this particular waiver issue. The best that I can say is that 92.108 requires that you pay the last month's rent, and nowhere does it say that the landlord can waive his right to be paid. So, if you decide to not pay the rent, regardless of how that circumstance occurs, then you are risking being sued for three times the last month's rent.

I just don't want to be dealing with this 2 months from now, I'm not interested in suing anyone. More importantly, do we even have a legal relationship with the owner?

A: I can't answer this question, because I don't know if your property manager had a relationship with the true owner. For all you know, your entire lease is a fraud, and the property manager never paid the owner anything. Nevertheless, based upon what your lease states, you can send your rent payments and notices to the name and address on the lease, and if the lease is valid, then you have complied with the letter of the law. So, that's what I would do, were I in your shoes.

Another lawyer said "The owner or his son cannot do anything because their names do not appear on the lease as landlord or owner and this would be grounds to dismiss any action they try to take." Does this make any sense to you?

A: Conclusory statements by anyone, whether a lawyer or otherwise, which are not supported by an identified statute or case law authority, are given little if any weight by me. I have learned over time that such statements are routinely incorrect guesses, so I simply dismiss them, unless they are supported by competent authority. I can think of several perfectly sound and legally supportable rationales that would permit the person whose name is XXXXX XXXXX lease to enforce it against you. I can also think of several rationales under which that person cannot enforce the lease against you. Consequently, my answer here is that I would be engaged in pure speculation to suggest that the lease is unenforceable as originally drafted. It seems unlikely to me that the owner would allow someone to lease the property without paying over some portion of the rent proceeds -- so, I must assume that the owner has been receiving rent throughout your lease -- meaning that the owner has ratified it and it is enforceable -- if not by the person whose name is XXXXX XXXXX by the owner, or an attorney hired by the owner to enforce the lease terms.

It sounds good to me, but would it hold up?

A: As previously mentioned, we are engaged in pure speculation. I won't do that, because if I guess wrong you will come back here looking for my head on a stick. I prefer that you look for the other attorney's head, because he/she was engaged in speculation -- at your expense (no offense to the other attorney -- I just don't buy statements of law based solely upon another's personal authority. I wouldn't care if the person were a Supreme Court Justice. No citation to authority = no weight to the statement).

Also, our landlord told us that the reason he signs the lease, takes the check, pays utilities, etc is that the owner says it's better for her taxes. I don't want to rattle her chain or anything, but perhaps she's not in a position to go to court?

A: Sounds like a fraud. Regardless, we're speculating. If I say that the stock market will be up tomorrow, I'll be right 50% of the time. If I say it will go down, I'll be right 50% of the time. That makes stock market prognosticators geniuses 50% of the time. In the legal arena, being right 50% of the time, in my opinion, is malpractice and deserves disbarment. I expect a lawyer to be right 99% of the time, and when he/she isn't sure, I expect him/her to say, "I don't know for sure, but I think ___, and the reason is because ___ [citation to competent legal authority].

Can we turn in notice early, say, this week, for Aug 4?

A: Notice of termination of a month-to-month tenancy must be 30 days or greater. Property Code 91.001(b).

Then if the son shows up saying he is now the manager, do we even have to deal with him?

A: Yes, if son has a power of attorney signed by owner, or son is a licensed Texas Real Estate Broker. Otherwise, no.

I would like to just not deal with the unstable son, leave the place spotless, then get on with my life. What would be the shortest road to this?

A: Answered in all of the above, and in my previous answers, but to summarize:

1. Send notice of termination to the address on the lease.
2. Send July and four days of August rent to the address on the lease.
3. Send #1 and #2 by certified mail return receipt requested.
4. Move out on August 4th, and send the keys and your forwarding address to the address on the lease.
5. If you do not receive your security deposit within 30 days of Aug. 4, then sue the owner for the security deposit in justice court, by serving the summons at the address on the lease.

Hope this helps.
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33509
Experience: Attorney and Real Estate broker -- Retired (mostly)
socrateaser and 10 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    4813
    16 years of legal experience including real estate law.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MU/multistatelaw/2011-11-27_173951_Tinaglamourshotworkglow102011.64x64.jpg Tina's Avatar

    Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    4813
    16 years of legal experience including real estate law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/LA/lawpro/2012-6-25_171315_PT206740s.64x64.jpg Law Pro's Avatar

    Law Pro

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    6227
    20 years extensive experience in real estate law, foreclosure, finance, and landlord tenant law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/BA/barristerinky/2012-6-10_22423_office.64x64.jpg Barrister's Avatar

    Barrister

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    4966
    13 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 24+ years
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/LA/LawTalk/2012-6-6_17379_LawTalk.64x64.JPG LawTalk's Avatar

    LawTalk

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    4446
    I've more than 27 years legal experience. Additionally, in CA I held a Real Estate Broker's license.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/rayanswers/2012-6-7_23346_Untitled1.64x64.jpg Ray's Avatar

    Ray

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    4030
    Texas Attorney for 29 years dealing in real estate
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PH/philip.simmons/2012-6-7_161915_BIGPhilipSimmons.64x64.jpg P. Simmons's Avatar

    P. Simmons

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    2377
    12+ yrs. of experience including real estate law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/mnphillips2/2009-03-13_203105_10984459-249293407.jpeg Phillips Esq.'s Avatar

    Phillips Esq.

    Attorney-at-Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    2355
    B.A.; M.B.A.; J.D.