Tenants, know your rights!

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In the state of Texas, both tenants and landlords have very specific rights and abilities. As a tenant, especially, it is important to know and understand these rights as well as the requirements that go along with them.

According to Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, tenants have the right to demand that a landlord repair any condition that materially affects their health and safety. A written agreement may be required for the landlord to begin repairs.

Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code states a landlord shall make a diligent effort to repair a condition if the tenant has provided notice, if the tenant is up to date on their rent, and if the condition affects the health or safety of the tenant or if the landlord fails to provide hot water of a minimum of 120 degrees.

The request must be submitted in writing only if the tenant's lease stipulates a need for a written notice.

The Texas Property Code also states that if the landlord does not provide a written explanation for delay in performing a repair on or before the fifth day after receiving the tenant's written request, the landlord must prove they made a diligent effort to repair the issue and that a reasonable time for repair did not elapse. The code states it is presumed that seven days is a reasonable time; however, the severity and nature of the condition, as well as the availability of materials and utilities to the landlord, must be considered when deciding how long the repair should take.

A landlord may submit an affidavit for delay, where they will need to summarize the reasons for the delay. The landlord must also document their efforts with dates, names, addresses, and phone numbers of the contractors, suppliers, and repairmen contacted by them. These affidavits may delay the repair for 15 days if obtaining the necessary materials has caused it, or 30 days if the delay is caused by a general shortage of labor following a natural disaster.

If the landlord is liable for the repair, Texas Property Code states the tenant may deduct the cost from a subsequent rent payment. The total deducted cannot exceed the amount of one month's rent or $500, whichever comes first.

A tenant can seek judicial remedies if the landlord has committed any violations. An order requiring the landlord to take action or to proportionally reduce rent can be procured by the tenant. 

Senate Bill (SB) number 1448 discusses many of the same issues, stating that a tenant may pursue civil action against an owner of a property in some specific instances. If the tenant has paid all rental payments, provided written notice to the owner or a representative regarding the condition, provided a reasonable amount of time for the repair, and if the condition is severe, a tenant may file suit against the owner or representative.

SB 1448 also grants justices of the peace the authority to order landlords to repair these conditions, as long as the repairs do not exceed $10,000. This bill also allows tenants to go to justice court without an attorney to obtain a repair order.

If any tenants are experiencing issues with a landlord, or would like more information, they may visit the Attorney General of Texas's website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/tenant-rights. Tenants may also visit the Texas Tenant Advisor website at www.texastenant.org or texaslawhelp.org/house-apartment for additional information.

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