If you’ve ever rented an apartment before, then you know that repairs can be a tricky subject. In fact, many lease agreements require that the landlord conduct most repairs. Not only that, but tenants could be considered in violation of their lease if conducting their own repairs on the apartment or hiring a repair service without the approval of the landlord. But what if it’s an important repair that needs to be done like heating during the chilly Texas winter? Or perhaps there is a roach or rat problem that needs to be resolved. Do you know what your rights are as a tenant in Texas?
When is a Landlord Required to Repair or Fix Problems in my Apartment?
There are many instances when a landlord is required to make a diligent effort to make repairs. Generally, these repairs fall under the statement of problems that “materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant”. For example, if the heating system is not working in the middle of a chilly winter, this would be considered something that affects your health and safety. Other issues include, but aren’t necessarily limited to, roaches, rats, other bugs or pests, sewage backups and plumbing issues, and no hot water. Additionally, if there is an issue or damage that violates the local city’s building, fire, or health code, then this is also likely to be covered under your health and safety.
However, there are some conditions to this. A common sentiment among renters that take to the internet to complain about the lack of repairs is to withhold rent until repairs are made. However, this is a bad idea because there are a few conditions that must be legally met before your landlord is required to make their diligent effort for repairs. According to the Texas Property Code, those three conditions are:
- All rent must be current, and tenant cannot be delinquent on rent payments
- As a tenant, you must provide your landlord notice of the issue
- The damage or issue must not be caused by you, a friend, family member, or a guest through negligence (with the exception of normal wear and tear)
How to Request Repairs from Your Landlord
While a landlord can be liable for not repairing damage or resolving health and safety issues, they are not liable until they have been made aware of the problem. This is generally done by the tenant notifying the landlord of the issue, whether it be a repair or pest control problem. While the Texas Property Code does not require that the tenant provide the first notice in writing, it is hard to prove later on that a tenant ever provided notice, so we always recommend to provide the notice in writing. A popular way to protect yourself with providing notice in writing is to send it through certified mail via USPS.
After you have provided the landlord notice of the need for repair, you are required to give them a reasonable amount of time to make the repair or resolve the issue. The landlord has the legal obligation to make a good faith effort to complete the repair as soon as possible, but sometimes labor and material shortages make this difficult. The Texas Property Code defines a reasonable amount of time to be seven days after being notified, but this time frame can be challenged depending on the specific issue. If the issue hasn’t been fixed after seven days, send an additional notice in writing (note: this second notice must be in writing). If you opt to send your first notice via certified mail, the Texas Property Code states that a second notice is not required. If the landlord has still failed to repair damages, you may be able to terminate your lease early without any penalty.
Texas Property Code also has provisions to protect a tenant from a landlord retaliating against a tenant for exercising their rights. This is a common worry for tenants when it comes to reporting issues with their apartment and exercising their rights as a tenant to have things repaired. As long as you, the tenant, meet all requirements for requesting repairs, notifying of the requested repairs, and the conditions for which a landlord is obligated to make repairs, then the landlord cannot legally retaliate against you. For example, if you are current on your rent and you have no caused any damage to your apartment due to negligence and file a request for a repair to be completed, and your landlord does something like serving an eviction notice, this is likely retaliation. The Texas Property Code also details other ways that a landlord may retaliate that are prohibited by law:
- Reducing or depriving the tenant of normal services
- Increasing the rent
- Terminating the tenant’s lease
- Filing eviction proceedings
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