Updated July 2023
Tenant screening is essential for all landlords in the Lone Star State of Texas. Conducting thorough tenant screening helps landlords find responsible and reliable tenants, minimize risks, and maintain a positive rental experience. Texas is a unique state, as the laws and regulations concerning tenant screening differ in certain ways when compared to other parts of the country.
We will provide you with the latest information and some tips about tenant screening in Texas, so you will be fully prepared to find a tenant who is a perfect match for your rental. In this article we will:
- Review Texas tenant screening regulations and laws
- Provide links to free resources for Texas landlords
- Give an overview of the tenant screening process
Laws On Texas Tenant Screening
Texas marches to the beat of its own drum, and it’s no different when it comes to the laws concerning tenant screening.
Any landlord with property in Texas should be aware of these specific regulations:
- There is no limit as to how much a landlord can collect in application fees to cover screening costs.
- You are required to provide written notice of the tenant selection criteria
- The applicant must sign an acknowledgment form verifying they received a written tenant criteria checklist
Generally, an application fee in Texas is considered non-refundable unless the landlord has neglected to provide a tenant criteria checklist to the applicant. In the event that the applicant is not provided with the tenant criteria checklist, they have the right to receive a refund for their application fee. Remember to keep updated copies of the criteria checklist in the event that you make any changes or updates to the criteria. You can read more about Texas tenant screening laws, as well as many other landlord/tenant rules and regulations here or over on our Texas landlord-tenant laws page.
Screening Mistakes You Must Avoid
All landlords can, and should, perform tenant screenings on their potential tenants. However, this can only be completed if the applicant signs a document giving consent to undergo the screening process. It is paramount that the rental application you are using contains a section that the applicant will sign that specifically authorizes a background check. You won’t be able to conduct the background check without it.
Take a look at how we included that in the forms used at RentPrep.
The first red arrow shows the applicant that the application fee is non-refundable. This way, there is no confusion from the applicant as to whether they get any money back.
The second red arrow indicates where the applicant will sign which allows you to run a background check.
Now that you have the proper paperwork for a background check, make sure to look at our list of resources.
Resources For Tenant Screening In Texas:
Here at RentPrep, we want to help you find the best tenants in your area, so we’ve provided some free forms with resource links to get you started.
- Move-In Move-Out checklist – This is helpful for after the tenant screening process to make sure you document the condition of the rental
- Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA – The screeners here at RentPrep are FCRA certified to ensure compliance on your screening report
- Tenant Screening Guide – This is a fun and informational tenant screening guide we put together using the game Guess Who
- Texas Tenants Guide – From the Texas Attorney General
- Texas Landlord/Tenants Statutes and Codes – An in-depth look at the laws for the landlord/tenant relationship.
*Hot Landlord Tip: One secret we’ve learned over the years is to insist that applicants follow a “No Blank Space” policy for every one of your rental applications.
This policy will require all applicants to fill out the necessary fields on the rental application. It is common that applicants who want to hide potentially disqualifying information such as their employment or rental history, pets, recent evictions, etc., will often leave those fields blank. If you insist on having no blank spaces on your application, you will be able to weed out the inadequate applicants right away.
Texas Tenant Screening Process
As mentioned above, it is required that landlords need to write up a list of screening criteria for each rental property. It is important to always have copies of this list and some rental applications on hand for any interested applicants.
Screening criteria often include factors such as the following:
- No smoking or use of illegal substances
- Pet restrictions or limitations (size, breed, quantity, etc.)
- Income must be at least 3 times the monthly rent
- No history of violent crimes
- No history of evictions
Check with the federal standards found on hud.gov to ensure you are not discriminating against any protected classes, such as disability, age, familial status and others.
Remember that in Texas, it is required by law that you provide that criteria in written form for all applicants. Keep in mind that in the state of Texas, it is required by law that applicants are provided with a screening criteria checklist. Providing this checklist to all applicants is the first step in protecting yourself against discrimination lawsuits.
Stay consistent in your screening procedures. Never change your screening criteria to match an applicant so they may be accepted. Any deviations from your criteria could be seen as discrimination and could result in a lawsuit. Strongly sticking to your own criteria will help you find a great applicant for your property. The tenant screening process is quite similar from state to state but Texas does a few things differently, such as:
- If two or more people apply for a rental property and one of them is rejected, all applicants must be rejected as well.
- If you decide on an applicant and they decide to not move in, you are not required to refund the application fee, as they made the choice to back out of your rental property.
- If the application is rejected, you must refund the application fee promptly.
Again, we suggest reading this detailed guide for more information that is specific to the state of Texas.
Tenant Screening For The Pro Landlord
We have an additional tenant screening tutorial that walks you through the entire process.
This guide is 10 chapters and will help you make sure that you’ve got the right person in your rental.
Take the time to read this guide and in the future, you will thank us.
Selecting A Screening Service
As soon as you have decided on a few tenant applicants, it’s time to run a background check on each one.
A thorough background check will always include the following items:
- Eviction History
- Bankruptcy Search
- Judgments and Liens
- Nationwide Criminal and Sex Offender Search
Relying on emotional reactions or gut feelings can lead to biased decision-making and potential fair housing violations. It is essential for landlords to make objective and informed decisions based on solid information when selecting a tenant.
If you have any questions about tenant screening in Texas, let us know. We at RentPrep have worked with more than 150,000 landlords over the past decade.
Take a look at RentPrep’s tenant screening packages to check out all the different services we provide.
Our FCRA-certified screeners will always give you and every landlord the best tenant screening report available.