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Houston Property Management Tips

August 2011: The Impact of URLTA

Over the years, courts have made many rulings based on the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, URLTA. When faced with a difficult case between Landlord and Tenant, a judge will often consult the fine points of this Act before rendering a decision. Important Landlord/Tenant Law often stems from these judgments.

A number of states have based their statutory law on this act or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. Interpretations can vary with different judges and in different states. A state can often model their legislation on rulings in another state. Many people are unaware of the existence of either one of these acts and their impact.

Landlord-tenant law in the United States originated from English common law developed within an agricultural society. The basic purposes of URLTA were to:

  • Simplify, clarify, modernize, and revise the law governing the rental of dwelling units and the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants
  • Encourage landlords and tenants to maintain and improve the quality of housing
  • Make uniform the law with respect to the subject of this Act among those states that enact it

This Act regulates landlord-tenant relations in residential properties. There are specific definitions included such as good faith, building, and housing codes, dwelling unit, landlord, owner, person, premises, rent, rental agreement, single-family residence, tenant, etc.

As you review some of the points of this act, you will recognize many terms that influence residential property management law and required forms, such as a lease or notice to vacate. The Act outlines obligations of both landlord and tenant.

  • Obligation of Good Faith
  • Notice - actual knowledge or notification
  • Terms and Conditions Effect of Unsigned or Undelivered Rental Agreement
  • Prohibited Provisions in Rental Agreements
  • Separation of Rents and Obligations to Maintain Property Forbidden
  • Security Deposits; Prepaid Rent
  • Disclosure
  • Landlord to Deliver Possession of Dwelling Unit
  • Landlord to Maintain Premises
  • Limitation of Liability
  • Tenant to Maintain Dwelling Unit
  • Rules and Regulations
  • Access
  • Tenant to Use and Occupy
  • Noncompliance by the Landlord - in General
  • Failure to Deliver Possession
  • Wrongful Failure to Supply Heat, Water, Hot Water, or Essential Services
  • Landlord's Noncompliance as Defense to Action for Possession or Rent
  • Fire or Casualty Damage
  • Tenant Remedies for Landlord's Unlawful Ouster, Exclusion, or Diminution of Service
  • Noncompliance with Rental Agreement; Failure to Pay Rent
  • Failure to Maintain
  • Landlord Liens; Distress for Rent
  • Remedy after Termination
  • Recovery of Possession Limited
  • Retaliatory Conduct Prohibited

There are more provisions within URLTA, but you can see the influence it has on our management practices today and the results show clearly in both Federal and State legislation. As time goes on, there will be more and more decisions based on the varying interpretations of URLTA.