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With Houston recovering from Hurricane Harvey, many residents have questions regarding tenant rights.  Residents are seeing mold growth throughout their apartment as several inches of water filled their place.  Breathing in mold can cause respiratory issues such as chronic coughing and sneezing, irritated eyes, rashes, fatigue and headaches.  Tenants continue to live in these apartments as many have nowhere else to go.

Their fear grows daily of loved ones facing health problems later on as they are breathing in mold while sleeping.  Now these tenants are questioning whether landlords have to make repairs caused by flood damage to their apartment.  To answer the question, yes landlords are required to make repairs when the safety and welfare of tenants is affected.

Tenant Rights

In Texas, the relationship between a landlord and their tenants is overseen by statues but your best source of information is in your rental agreement.

As a tenant, you have the right to:

  • Peace and quiet; as a tenant, you cannot be evicted without cause or otherwise disturb your right to live in peace and quiet.
  • Health and safety; you have the right to demand your landlord repair any condition that affects your health and safety.  When a landlord rents you the property he guarantees that the unit will be a fit place to live.  Your landlord, however does not have to pay for repairs if you caused an unsafe condition.  Tenants can go to justice court without an attorney to obtain a repair order.  Justice of the Peace have the authority to order landlords to make repairs affecting a tenant’s health and safety as long as cost does not exceed $10,000.
  • Security; your apartment must have security devices such as window latches, dead bolts, sliding door latches and door viewers at the landlord’s expense.

If you have problems:

When your landlord is not willing to make needed repairs protecting your tenant rights and you have followed these procedures required by law:

  1. Send landlord or deliver in person a dated letter by certified mail outlining needed repairs.  Make sure to keep a copy.  Also ensure your rent is current when notice received.
  2. Your landlord has a minimum of seven days to make an effort of making needed repairs.  If your landlord has not made an effort to complete repairs within seven days you will need to send a second notice letter listing repairs.
  3. You may be entitled to the following if your landlord has made no effort to complete repairs:

–  end your tenant lease, if unit is deemed as “totally unusable”

–  make all repairs ensuring cost gets deducted from your rent, or

–  consult with an attorney to file suit forcing the landlord to make needed repairs

Please keep in mind that you do not have the right to withhold rent if your landlord fails to make repairs.  If you are able to stay in the unit while your landlord makes repairs, you are obligated to pay rent.  Your landlord is not responsible for damages to your personal property.  If you were required to carry or you purchased renters insurance it may cover damage to your personal property.  Since Hurricane Harvey was declared a disaster you can apply for disaster relief through FEMA via their website or by calling 1-800-525-0321.

 

RESOURCES:

  • Lone Star Legal Aid (http://www.lonestarlegal.org/) offers free legal service for people who cannot afford attorneys.
  • Call Houston Apartment Association (713-595-0300) if you have questions about what your landlord is asking of you.
  • The City of Houston’s website has a section dedicated to tenant rights.
  • Texas Apartment Association offers a list of available units for those looking for places to move.