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Renters Rights Texas: What You Need to Know

The Lone Star state has 215 cities with a population of 10,000 people or more – and 24 cities with over 100,000 residents, including three of the top ten most heavily populated cities in the US. It also has great colleges, no personal income tax and low property costs. But whatever brings you to Texas, you’ll need to know your rights when it comes to renting. So here are some key facts to help you make your move.

The lease

There’s a host of statutes and court rulings that have helped to determine the relationship between you and your landlord in Texas. But the most important thing when it comes to your rights and responsibilities is your lease. Leases can be oral, but it makes sense to have a written lease signed by you and your landlord. That way if there’s a dispute you can go back to the lease to see if the issue is covered.

Before you do anything…

Before you sign a lease you should, of course, read it. If there’s something you don’t like, ask your landlord if you can change it – and get the change in writing. If they won’t make the change you have to decide if it’s a deal breaker.

Equally important is to have a good look at the property and write down or photograph (with a date stamp) any damage you spot.  Keep a copy for yourself and give one to your landlord. Get him/her to agree that the damage was there before you move in – and to agree to repair it if necessary.

Many landlords actually now have a check-in document that you can agree together highlighting any issues or repairs that need to get done. When moving out you can then double check against this document, so it should be fairly clear if any damage has occurred while you’ve been there.

Your rights

As a tenant in Texas you’ll have certain rights associated with your tenancy. We’ll take a look at the three main ones here.

  1. The right to peace and quiet. This means you don’t have to put up with noisy or disruptive neighbors. If the people causing the nuisance are tenants of the same landlord you can complain and he must do something about it. An associated right is the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’, which protects you from unreasonable and unlawful eviction and gives you the right to enjoy necessary services like water or electricity.
  2. The right to live in a healthy and safe environment. If something is materially wrong then you can demand that your landlord fix or repair it. You may agree certain arrangements with your landlord about doing repairs yourself, but always have this clearly stated in the lease. You cannot waive the provision to have a smoke detector fitted and working. The landlord under law must provide this.
  3. The right to security. Unless there are special circumstances, you have a right to the following five items of security: locks on the windows; door viewers or peepholes; exterior door deadbolts with key access; pin locks for sliding doors; and latches or security bars for sliding doors.

Your responsibilities as a renter in Texas

Your first responsibility is to pay the rent (and security deposit if agreed) on the right date and in the agreed upon form (check, cash or credit card). You could get evicted and/or have to pay extra charges if you do not make your payments on time.

You have to maintain the rental property as if you owned it yourself.  This doesn’t necessarily mean repairs – that’s mostly the landlords responsibility. It’s more to do with keeping the place clean, taking out the garbage and preventing you or your guests from damaging the property.

That right to peace and quiet we mentioned earlier means you have to think about your neighbors too and have to respect their rights to ‘quiet enjoyment’. You have to keep your appliances, as well as electrical and plumbing fixtures, in working order. If they break down through normal wear and tear, fine. The landlord should fix or replace them. However, you’re liable for them if you break them.

You’re not allowed to let anyone who is not on the lease stay there for any length of time. And finally you must let your landlord enter the premises, provided you’ve been given proper notice, usually 24 to 48 hours. In cases of emergency – like a fire of burst pipe - the landlord can enter with no notice.

Responsibility of the Landlord

Your landlord must maintain a sanitary living space before and after your residency, as well as carrying out repairs to any sanitary problems during your tenancy. Unless your lease says otherwise it’s usually the landlord’s responsibility for the upkeep of the outside of the property as well as general maintenance.

The overall responsibility of the landlord is to maintain a decent living space for the tenant, but still be able to protect his property from the harmful actions of tenants.

Troubleshooting

If the landlord won't make the repairs needed to protect your health or safety you may be entitled to either end your lease, make the repairs and deduct the cost from your rent, or take your landlord to court. In all cases you must inform them by letter of the problem by return mail with a return receipt request. Or you can give them the letter personally. But in both cases always be sure to keep a copy.

If the landlord doesn’t get back to you in a week or two, send another letter, once again by certified mail or in person, letting them know what you’re going to do – i.e. end the lease/carry out the repairs/take them to court. If they still don’t reply then it’s time to contact an attorney and take it to the next step. Remember it’s against the law for the landlord to retaliate against you for making a complaint about repairs.

Getting your deposit back

First off, landlords cannot refuse to return the deposit without a valid reason. Under Texas law, if you give the landlord a forwarding address, they must return the deposit—less any amount deducted for damages—within 30 days. If they are going to keep any of the deposit, they have to give you an itemized list of deductions with a description of the damages. This can’t include normal wear and tear.

Remember to check your lease to see if you have to give your landlord notice that you’re moving - many ask for 30 days notice as a condition for returning your deposit. If you can’t get your deposit back contact a lawyer, or try the Better Business Bureau, or the Office of the Attorney General nearest to you – all offer mediation services.

Make sure you’re protected

This is by no means a definitive guide to your renters rights in Texas – that would cover a lot more pages and makes good reading if you’ve got insomnia. If in doubt, consult a lawyer who specializes in tenancy law.

To give yourself a little extra protection you might like to consider our Texas Renters Insurance which can protect your personal possessions and liability for accidental damage caused to others by you for less than a dollar a day*.

Find out more and get a quote today

*Based on a national average cost of $10,000 personal property coverage, $50,000 personal liability coverage, $250 deductible, and replacement cost. Visit our website for an exact quote based on your state and the amount of coverage you need.


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