A Guide to Understanding Your Tenant Rights

Houston is home to approximately 700,000 rental units. It is not uncommon for disputes to arise between these renters and their landlords. Tenants do not always understand the rights provided to them under the law, and landlords sometimes take advantage of this fact. If you are renting a home, apartment, or condo in Houston or anywhere else in the state, it is critical that you know your rights. Below, our Houston real estate lawyer explains these rights and how to exercise them.

The Right to Quiet Enjoyment

As a tenant, you have the right to quiet enjoyment. This is a legal term that means you cannot be evicted without just cause, and you have the right to live in your unit in peace and quiet. If other renters are violating this right, you should submit a complaint to the landlord in writing. Likewise, you also cannot interfere with another tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. Landlords also cannot interrupt your utilities unless they are making necessary repairs, there is an emergency, or it is necessary due to construction.

The Right to a Safe and Healthy Environment

When a condition significantly impacts your physical health or safety, you have the right to demand that your landlord repair it. A justice of the peace can order a landlord to repair conditions that affect your physical health or safety so long as the repair does not cost more than $10,000. 

Your landlord is also under no obligation to repair a condition created by you, a member of the household, any other lawful occupant, or your guests unless the condition results from natural wear and tear. Your landlord must also provide you with a smoke detector, and you do not have the right to waive this provision or to disconnect the device.

The Right to Repairs for Normal Wear and Tear

When a condition arises due to normal wear and tear, you have the right to demand that your landlord pays to have it fixed. For example, if you need a new carpet because you and your family have been walking on it for five years, you can ask the landlord to replace it. On the other hand, if your dehumidifier leaks and causes mildew to grow in the carpet, you may be responsible for fixing the condition.

The Right to Security Devices

You have the right to a dwelling that is equipped with certain security devices, such as keyed deadbolts on exterior doors, window latches, sliding door handle latches, door pin locks, and sliding door security bars. Landlords must bear the expense of installing these items. If your unit does not have these devices, or they are defective, you have the right to ask your landlord to install them.

The Right to Complain in Good Faith

If your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs to protect your safety, health, or security, you have the right to take certain steps under the law. You may have the right to terminate the lease or force your landlord to make the necessary repairs. You can also file a lawsuit against them so the court can order your landlord to remedy the situation.

You must follow certain steps when trying to force your landlord to correct certain conditions. These are as follows:

  • Send your landlord a dated letter by registered or certified mail and request a return receipt. Outline the necessary repairs and keep a copy of the letter for yourself. Before delivering the letter, you should also ensure you are current with your rent.
  • After your landlord receives your letter, they should diligently try to correct the issue within a reasonable amount of time. If within seven days of receipt of the letter, the landlord has not tried to remedy the condition, you may have to send a second letter if you delivered the letter yourself. If you sent the letter by registered or certified mail and you received a receipt, you may not have to take this step.
  • If your landlord has not repaired the condition after taking the above steps, you may have the right to take legal action. Before doing anything, you should speak with a Houston real estate lawyer who can advise on the next steps to take.

The Right to Be Free From Retaliation

After you make a good faith complaint against your landlord, you have the right to be free from retaliation for six months from the date of the complaint. Your landlord, however, still has the right to evict you if you intentionally damage the property, fail to pay your rent, or threaten your landlord’s safety. If your landlord does not make necessary repairs, you do not have the right to withhold rent unless the condition negatively affects your safety or physical health. If you do withhold rent and that exception does not apply, your landlord may have the right to file a lawsuit against you.

Rights Regarding Security Deposits

Most landlords require tenants to pay a security deposit that will cover any necessary repairs upon the termination of the lease or a failure to pay the last month’s rent. If the last month of rent is paid and there are no necessary repairs, you have the right to receive a full or partial portion of your security deposit. If your landlord withholds part or all of your security deposit, they must provide you with a valid reason.

When you move out of your unit, state law requires you to provide your landlord with a forwarding address so you can receive your security deposit. Within 30 days, your landlord must then return the deposit, minus any deductions for damages. If the landlord does not return a full or partial deposit, they must provide you with a full itemized list of the deductions made, along with a complete description of any damage.

Did Your Landlord Violate Your Rights? Our Real Estate Lawyer in Houston Can Help

As a tenant, you have many rights. If your landlord has violated them, our Houston real estate lawyer at Integrity Law Group, PLLC, can advise on your situation and the next steps to take. Call us now at (832) 280-9197 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation and learn more.

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