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Q: We rented a house and our landlord took our furniture while we were away. I admit we were about three weeks late on our rent and we weren't staying at the house. Why won't the police take a theft report of our property.

A: Landlord vs. tenant disputes are handled under the Texas Property Code and the laws police enforce are criminal laws, not property law. Generally speaking, the local Sheriff's office or your Constable's office may better handle your complaint since they often handle civil cases.

Below you will find the property laws that cover residential liens. What you have described sounds like a proeprty law dispute. If you feel you have been a victim of a property law violation, you should contact an attorney of your choice. An attorney can better explain your civil recourse.

 

PROPERTY CODE

 TITLE 5. EXEMPT PROPERTY AND LIENS

 SUBTITLE B. LIENS

 CHAPTER 54. LANDLORD'S LIENS

 SUBCHAPTER C. RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD'S LIEN

 

Sec. 54.041.  LIEN.  A landlord of a single or multifamily residence has a lien for unpaid rent that is due.  The lien attaches to nonexempt property that is in the residence or that the tenant has stored in a storage room.

 

Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3560, ch. 576, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.

 

Sec. 54.042.  EXEMPTIONS.  A lien under this subchapter does not attach to:

(1)  wearing apparel;

(2)  tools, apparatus, and books of a trade or profession;

(3)  schoolbooks;

(4)  a family library;

(5)  family portraits and pictures;

(6)  one couch, two living room chairs, and a dining table and chairs;

(7)  beds and bedding;

(8)  kitchen furniture and utensils;

(9)  food and foodstuffs;

(10)  medicine and medical supplies;

(11)  one automobile and one truck;

(12)  agricultural implements;

(13)  children's toys not commonly used by adults;

(14)  goods that the landlord or the landlord's agent knows are owned by a person other than the tenant or an occupant of the residence;  and

(15)  goods that the landlord or the landlord's agent knows are subject to a recorded chattel mortgage or financing agreement.

 

Sec. 54.043.  ENFORCEABILITY OF CONTRACTUAL PROVISIONS.  (a)  A contractual landlord's lien is not enforceable unless it is underlined or printed in conspicuous bold print in the lease agreement.

(b)  A provision of a lease that purports to waive or diminish a right, liability, or exemption of this subchapter is void to the extent limited by this subchapter.

 

Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3561, ch. 576, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.

 
 

Sec. 54.044.  SEIZURE OF PROPERTY.  (a)  The landlord or the landlord's agent may not seize exempt property and may seize nonexempt property only if it is authorized by a written lease and can be accomplished without a breach of the peace.

(b)  Immediately after seizing property under Subsection (a) of this section, the landlord or the landlord's agent shall leave written notice of entry and an itemized list of the items removed.  The notice and list shall be left in a conspicuous place within the dwelling.  The notice must state the amount of delinquent rent and the name, address, and telephone number of the person the tenant may contact regarding the amount owed.  The notice must also state that the property will be promptly returned on full payment of the delinquent rent.

(c)  Unless authorized in a written lease, the landlord is not entitled to collect a charge for packing, removing, or storing property seized under this section.

(d)  If the tenant has abandoned the premises, the landlord or the landlord's agent may remove its contents.

 

Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3561, ch. 576, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.  Amended by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 305, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 26, 1985.

 
 

Sec. 54.045.  SALE OF PROPERTY.  (a)  Property seized under Section 54.044 may not be sold or otherwise disposed of unless the sale or disposition is authorized in a written lease.

(b)  Before selling seized property, the landlord or the landlord's agent must give notice to the tenant not later than the 30th day before the date of the sale.  The notice must be sent to the tenant by both first class mail and certified mail, return receipt requested, at the tenant's last known address.  The notice must contain:

(1)  the date, time, and place of the sale;

(2)  an itemized account of the amount owed by the tenant to the landlord;  and

(3)  the name, address, and telephone number of the person the tenant may contact regarding the sale, the amount owed, and the right of the tenant to redeem the property under Subsection (e) of this section.

(c)  A sale under this section is subject to a recorded chattel mortgage or financing statement.  The property shall be sold to the highest cash bidder.  Proceeds from the sale shall be applied first to delinquent rents and, if authorized by the written lease, reasonable packing, moving, storage, and sale costs.

(d)  Any sale proceeds remaining after payment of the amounts authorized in Subsection (c) of this section shall be mailed to the tenant at the tenant's last known address not later than the 30th day after the date of the sale.  The landlord shall provide the tenant with an accounting of all proceeds of the sale not later than the 30th day after the date on which the tenant makes a written request for the accounting.

(e)  The tenant may redeem the property at any time before the property is sold by paying to the landlord or the landlord's agent all delinquent rents and, if authorized in the written lease, all reasonable packing, moving, storage, and sale costs.

 

Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 305, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 26, 1985.

 
 

Sec. 54.046.  VIOLATION BY LANDLORD.  If a landlord or the landlord's agent wilfully violates this subchapter, the tenant is entitled to:

(1)  actual damages, return of any property seized that has not been sold, return of the proceeds of any sale of seized property, and one month's rent or $500, whichever is greater, less any amount for which the tenant is liable;  and

(2)  reasonable attorney's fees.

 

Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 356, ch. 5761, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.  Renumbered and amended by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 305, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 26, 1985.

 
 

Sec. 54.047.  OTHER RIGHTS NOT AFFECTED.  This subchapter does not affect or diminish any other rights or obligations arising under common law or any statute.

 

Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 305, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 26, 1985.

 
 

Sec. 54.048.  TENANT MAY REPLEVY.  At any time before judgment in a suit for unpaid rent, the tenant may replevy any of the property that has been seized, if the property has not been claimed or sold, by posting a bond in an amount approved by the court, payable to the landlord, and conditioned that if the landlord prevails in the suit, the amount of the judgment rendered and any costs assessed against the tenant shall be first satisfied, to the extent possible, out of the bond.

 

Added by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 266, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.