Renters Rights

Tenant-landlord rules in Texas can be complicated. Changes to the law in 2007 and 2008 give tenants new protections, but also add to the law’s complexity. Before making any commitment, prospective renters should read their lease carefully and make sure they understand all its provisions.

 

  1. Lockout and Eviction

    • The law places limits on a landlord’s ability to “lock out” a tenant for nonpayment of rent. She may do so only temporarily in order to force a face-to-face encounter with the tenant, and only if the lease expressly states that she has this right. Three days prior to the lockout the landlord must inform the tenant of his right to receive a key to the new lock at any time, regardless of whether or not the rent has been paid. In any case, the tenant is entitled to a new key within two hours of asking for one. The landlord may not disconnect utilities as a means of forcing the tenant out. If the landlord has cause to evict the tenant, she must follow all the necessary legal steps. This includes giving the tenant a written notice at least three days prior to filing a lawsuit with the justice of the peace.

    Removal of Property

    • The landlord may not remove any of his own property (such as doors, locks, or appliances) in order to enforce payment of rent. In some cases the landlord may be allowed to take and resell some of the tenant’s property to recover unpaid rent, if this is stated clearly in the lease. However, many personal items are exempt from this provision. Clothing, beds and bedding, toys, school books, kitchenware, food, medicine, and other essential items are protected from seizure.

    Repairs and Security

    • Landlords are required to repair or remedy any problems that might affect the health or well being of the occupants. This would include sewage backups, pests, lack of hot water, faulty electrical writing and other serious problems. The law does not cover less serious issues like poorly painted walls or worn carpets. In addition, landlords must ensure that the premises are secure. All exterior windows must be equipped with a latch. Each exterior door must have a deadbolt lock and a door view. In addition, at least one exterior door must have a doorknob lock or keyed deadbolt. A smoke detector must be installed outside each bedroom. However, if one corridor connects several bedrooms, a single smoke detector may suffice.

    Deposits

    • The landlord may keep part of the security deposit only in cases where the tenant is responsible for damages to the property, and only when this provision is clearly stated in the lease. The landlord may not use the security deposit to repair problems resulting from normal wear and tear. Examples of normal wear and tear would be worn carpets, small nail holes in the walls, or scratches in the sink. The security deposit must be refunded no later than 90 days after the tenant moves out. If the landlord has reason to keep part of the security deposit, he must refund the balance and provide a written description of the deductions within 30 days.

    Special Circumstances

    • In some special circumstances, a tenant may terminate the lease and leave without any obligation to pay future rent. In cases of domestic violence or abuse, the tenant must have a protective order or injunction against a co-tenant or occupant, signed by a judge. In the case of military deployment or transfer, the tenant must provide the landlord with a written notice of termination, as well as copies of the deployment or transfer documents.

    Anti-Discrimination Laws and Other Protections

    • Tenants are entitled to know the name and contact information of the owner and management of the premises, which must be provided directly to the tenant or posted in plain sight. Tenants also have a right to know the landlord’s criteria for selecting new tenants. Fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on race, national origin, color, religion, family status, gender, or disability. Tenants with a disability are entitled to reasonable accommodations in rules and services, such as being allowed to modify the dwelling to suit their special needs.

Read more: Texas’ New Tenants’ Bill of Rights | eHow.com