New Lease on Apartment Life

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) — Many new Texas laws were effective with the New Year. Among them were new guidelines aimed at keeping Texas landlords and tenants at arm’s length.

Judon Fambrough, the Real Estate Center’s attorney and author of the recently updated Landlords and Tenants Guide, provided some examples of how rules for the traditional antagonists have changed. Here are some examples.

Parents sign as guarantors for their daughter’s apartment. The parents guarantee rent payments for their daughter as well as her two roommates. When the daughter renews the lease for the second year, do the parents continue as guarantors even though the daughter has different roommates?

“The answer is no,” says Fambrough. “Texas law provides for parents to be bound as guarantors for the renewal, but the renewal must involve the same parties.”

What if the parents agree to be bound as guarantors for subsequent renewals by their daughter? Assuming the daughter has the same roommates, do the parents continue as guarantors even though there is a rent increase?

“Again, the answer is ‘no.’ New Texas law provides that there can be no change in the guarantors’ financial obligation,” Fambrough explained. “A rent increase changed the parents’ obligation and, therefore, they are no longer bound as guarantors.”

What if the daughter is hearing impaired? If this fact is disclosed to the landlord prior to signing the lease, must the landlord install smoke detectors for her before she moves in?

“No,” says Fambrough. “Landlords must install smoke detectors that are capable of alerting the hearing impaired in the bedrooms they use — if requested by the tenant or as required by law. The daughter must request the installation. Otherwise, the landlord has no obligation to install smoke detectors for the hearing impaired.”

Fambrough’s 2010 update includes the latest on many landlord-tenant subjects. When may landlords interrupt a tenant’s utility service? What is required to terminate a lease when family violence is involved? What rights do members of the military have? What conditions must be met before a landlord can legally charge a late fee?

To learn about these and other landlord-tenant laws, take the Landlord-Tenant Law Quiz on the Center’s website at For a free copy of the Center’s Landlords and Tenants Guide, go to