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Texas Rental Property Laws

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									                                                                                                                                                                  POINTS TO REMEMBER
                            NEW TEXAS LAWS REGARDING
                            TENANTS’ RIGHTS                                                                                                                                     TENANTS’
                            by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott                                                                                                               RIGHTS

TEXANS WHO LIVE IN RENTED                           devices to be installed at the landlord’s expense,   still refuses to make repairs, the tenants can
residences, including apartments and rental         including window latches and keyed deadbolt          move out – even if their lease has not expired.
                                                                                                                                                              Under Texas law, tenants have the right to:
houses, should be aware of state real estate laws   locks on all exterior doors. Landlords also are      Alternatively, tenants may make reasonable
                                                                                                                                                              • Quiet enjoyment of their rental property
governing residential leases.                       required to provide at least one smoke detector      repairs themselves and deduct the repair costs
                                                                                                                                                              • A refund of their application fee if their
   Tenants’ relationships with their landlords      on the ceiling or wall of the apartment. Renters     from the rent they owe the landlord.
                                                                                                                                                                application was rejected and the landlord
                                                                                                                                                                fails to explain why
are largely controlled by their lease or rental     who discover that required safety devices are           The law also provides protections for tenants
                                                                                                                                                              • Security devices installed at the landlord’s
agreements. Tenants should always request           either defective or missing have the right to        who are asked to leave their property after a
                                                                                                                                                                expense, including window latches, deadbolt
a written agreement and review it very              demand that the landlord resolve the deficiency.      landlord serves them with a “Notice to Vacate.”
                                                                                                                                                                locks and a smoke detector
carefully with the landlord to ensure they fully    The law gives landlords a reasonable amount          When landlords ask a tenant to leave, the renter
                                                                                                                                                              • Dispute their eviction in small claims court
understand the contract terms before signing        of time, usually about seven days, to install or     is not legally required to depart by the date
any documents. Renters may ask the landlord         repair the devices.                                  indicated on the eviction notice. In fact, tenants
                                                                                                                                                              The Austin Tenants’ Council and the State Bar
to make changes to the lease before it is signed,      Landlords also have a legal obligation to         cannot be evicted from their rental property
                                                                                                                                                              of Texas provide additional information on
though the landlord does not have to accept the     ensure their rental properties do not pose a         unless the landlord obtains a court order
                                                                                                                                                              tenants’ rights, including brochures:
proposed amendments.                                threat to the tenants’ health or safety. However,    granting the landlord permission to remove the
   In many cases, landlords ask prospective         landlords are not required to repair uninhabitable   renter and the renter’s personal belongings from     Austin Tenants’ Council
tenants to fill out a rental application, which      circumstances that result from damage caused         the premises.                                        1619 E. Cesar Chavez Street
tenants must submit along with an application       by renters or their guests.                             Beginning January 1, 2008, landlords              Austin, TX 78702
fee. Under a new law that applies to all leases        If a landlord fails to repair problems that       may insert specific language into their lease         (512) 474-1961
and contract renewals submitted after January       impact their tenants’ health, safety or security,    agreements to circumvent the eviction process.
1, 2008, application fees are considered            the tenants must follow specific steps to seek        Landlords now have the authority to change the
non-refundable payments to offset the cost          a remedy. First, they must make sure that            door locks on rental properties when tenants’        State Bar of Texas
of screening rental applicants. In the event        their rent is fully paid and no payments are         rent payments are delinquent, if they included       P.O. Box 12487
an application is refused, the landlord must        delinquent. Then, tenants should outline the         that authority in the rental agreement. Although     Austin, TX 78711
either explain why the tenant was rejected          necessary repairs in a written complaint. To         the law effectively allows landlords to lock out     (800) 204-2222
or refund both the application fee and any          prove that the landlord received the complaint,      tenants who fail to pay their rent, tenants cannot
application deposit. In this way, the new law       tenants should send the letter via Certified          be legally evicted unless the landlord obtains a
protects applicants by guaranteeing that they       Mail with a return receipt. When the complaint       court order allowing the eviction.
                                                                                                                                                              Legal Aid
will learn why they were rejected – or get          arrives in the landlord’s mailbox, the U.S.             In Texas, legal disputes between residential
their money back.                                   Postal Service will require that the landlord        landlords and tenants are typically heard in         Additional information on this and other topics
   Tenants also enjoy the right to “quiet           acknowledge his or her receipt of the letter by      small claims courts. If a landlord files an           is available on the Attorney General’s Web site
enjoyment” of their rental property. When other     signing a form. If the problems are not resolved     eviction suit to remove a tenant, the tenant will    at
residents are being disruptive or disturbing the    and the tenant is forced to take legal action, the   be served with an eviction notice. Tenants may
peace, tenants may complain to the landlord.        signature form will be helpful evidence during       appear before a justice of the peace, present
Once notified about a problem, landlords have        court proceedings.                                   their version of the facts and explain why they
a duty to remedy behavior that disturbs tenants’       Tenants who want to avoid going to court have     should not be evicted. Tenants who lose in
ability to quietly enjoy their rental residence.    a couple of additional options. First, if they’ve    small claims court may appeal their loss to a
   Texas law also requires certain security         provided the required notice and the landlord        county court.

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