Pay your last month's rent

By Richard Alderman
July 20, 2013 at 2:20 a.m.

I gave my landlord proper notice that I was moving out at the end of my lease. My landlord has my security deposit in the amount of one month's rent. He came to say I have to pay him the last month's rent. I told him to apply the security deposit. What are my options?

Pay the rent. Texas law protects a tenant from a landlord who wrongfully refuses to return a security deposit, but it also protects a landlord from a tenant who tries to force the landlord to use the deposit for rent instead of a deposit to cover damage.

Under the Texas security deposit law, a landlord who does not timely return a tenant's security deposit may be liable for three times the deposit, plus an additional $100.

Conversely, under the law, a tenant who tells a landlord to use the deposit as the last month's rent may be liable to the landlord for three times the deposit, plus any attorney's fees. The bottom line - pay the rent and then use the Texas security deposit law if your deposit is not returned.

My friend has a criminal conviction in Oklahoma from 15 years ago. He still is having trouble renting an apartment. Is this legal?

As a general rule, a landlord has the right to decide who may be a tenant. The law protects tenants against certain forms of discrimination, such as race, sex, age or religion, but in other cases, it is entirely up to the landlord to determine who is an acceptable tenant.

If the landlord does not want to rent to a person with a criminal conviction, the law allows the landlord to do so. I suggest your friend speak with the landlord to try and convince the landlord that he would be a good tenant. The decision, however, is entirely up to the landlord.

I am in college and months ago had to sign a lease for fall. Now, things have changed, and I want out. Please help all the parents and college kids by answering this question.

Here is the answer to your question, but you may not find it "helpful." A lease is a contract, and neither party may terminate it unless authorized to do so by the terms of the lease.

In other words, the landlord has agreed to have an apartment available for you at the agreed upon rent, and you agreed to live there and pay rent. If at the time you sign a lease you believe that you may need to break it, you should include a clause in the lease giving you that right.

At this point, your only option is to speak with the landlord and work out an agreement to mutually terminate the lease.

I understand you have a free consumer news alert. How often is it distributed? How do I subscribe?

The consumer alert newsletter is distributed free of charge, three times a week. It contains useful information about your legal rights, consumer shopping tips, financial advice and a "legal update" for attorneys. There is no charge to subscribe; just go to

I took a temporary job with a small area company. We verbally agreed on how much money I was to receive. It has been several weeks since I completed work, and I have not been paid. Every time I contact the boss, he has another excuse. Am I just out of luck because I did not get this in writing? If not, what is my next step?

You are not out of luck. An employment contract that can be performed in one year or less does not have to be in writing to be valid. In your case, you were hired for an indefinite period of time. Because it could have been less than a year, there is no requirement that it be in writing.

My suggestion is to send a certified letter asking for payment. If you still don't receive your money, you should contact the Texas Workforce Commission and consider a claim in small claims court.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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