If you are renting an apartment or a home that is in disrepair, your landlord may be violating Texas law if they fail to remedy the situation. A landlord must make a diligent effort to repair anything that affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant.
What problems affect health or safety? You probably already know. Sewage backups, roaches, rats, no hot water, faulty wiring, roof leaks, and sometimes a lack of heat or air conditioning. If the problem violates your city’s building, health, or fire code, then it probably is a health or safety risk. More mundane problems (broken dishwasher, wall that needs painting, etc.) are generally not covered by state law. However, your lease may require your landlord to fix those items as well.
What should you do? Start by reading your lease. You should know what it says anyway and it is always the starting point. If you still can’t classify the problem, contact a lawyer, a health or building inspector, or a tenant association.
Are there exceptions to the duty to repair? Yes. Generally, Texas does not require the landlord to repair a condition caused by the tenant or the guests of the tenant (unless the condition was caused by the normal use of the tenant).
How do you obtain repairs? The law requires that you follow specific steps when requesting a repair. Contact an attorney or your local tenant association for details on the steps you should take. Basically, you must give your landlord written notice (any notice to the landlord should be in writing) and the opportunity to correct the problem.
But what if the landlord refuses to repair, or delays repair for too long? You may be entitled to terminate your lease, repair the problem yourself and deduct the cost from your rent, or sue the landlord. Always consult an attorney or tenant association before you take any of these actions to ensure that you are on solid legal ground. If you improperly terminate your lease, withhold rent, or sue, the landlord might collect damages and attorney’s fees from you.
As with any decision involving a legal relationship, give it careful thought and enlist the assistance of someone in the know before you chart a course of action.
Nothing in this post should be considered legal advice by the reader. Let’s face it, you don’t know me and I don’t know you. My aim is to provide the reader with some useful, but general information about the topic. For a legal opinion that has teeth, consult your personal lawyer about your specific facts and circumstances. If you have no lawyer and like what you see here, then perhaps you should contact my law office to see if my services fit your needs.