Here’s a guide to what you should know about your rights as a tenant
in a Texas rental home
If you rent a home in Texas, here’s what you need to know, whether you’re the tenant or the landlord.
About 4 million people rent a home in Texas, which makes the Lone Star State the second largest population of renters in the country. Census data in 2019 indicated that about 38.12% of households were renters.
As a renter, you have certain rights for living in and paying for your home. Landlords are responsible for upkeep and maintenance, but Texas is regarded as a landlord-friendly state concerning laws for security deposits and eviction notices.
Renter’s rights under a Texas lease agreement
Most landlords will require a written lease agreement for a rental property. A written lease is a contract between the landlord and the tenant, and it assigns responsibilities and protections to both parties. It’s to your benefit to have a written lease because if a dispute arises, it will be important to refer to the specific terms of the agreement.
Leases can be changed or amended if both parties agree. For instance, some leases prohibit pets. If your circumstances change and you wish to bring a pet into the home, you might be able to have your landlord amend the lease to permit certain types of animals. Any change should be in writing and signed by both parties.
Peace, quiet, enjoyment of premises
A tenant is entitled to “quiet enjoyment” of the property. This applies in two ways:
- The landlord may not evict you without cause or disturb your right to live in peace and quiet; and
- You can complain to the landlord if other tenants or guests disturb your right to quiet enjoyment of your home.
However, the provision goes both ways—you must respect other tenants’ rights to peaceful enjoyment, also. There might be terms in the lease that specify “quiet hours” at certain times or specific activities that are prohibited. Normal noise might include sounds of footsteps, elevators, running water, etc. at various hours of the day or night. If you live in a home that shares walls, floors, or ceilings with other units or a hallway, you must be prepared that there will be certain sounds that are acceptable.
Health and safety
The Texas property code (Tex. Prop. Code Ann., § 92.052) requires a landlord to repair any condition affecting your physical health or safety. If the repair cost is less than $10,000, a tenant may go to justice court without an attorney to obtain a repair order.
However, the landlord is not responsible for repairing problems the tenant created, unless the problem was from normal wear and tear.
The landlord is required to provide working smoke detectors and the tenant is not permitted to disconnect or disable them.
The Texas Property Code specifies that each dwelling unit must include security devices like window locks, keyed dead bolts on exterior doors, sliding door pin locks and handle latches, or sliding door security bars, and door viewers. The landlord is required to install these items at no expense to the tenant. The tenant may request installation or repair of these items if any are missing or broken.
It’s standard practice for a landlord to collect a security deposit upon lease signing in case the tenant does damage to the unit. However, Texas law says the landlord may not refuse to return the deposit after the tenancy ends unless there is a valid reason.
The landlord may not deduct from your security deposit for normal wear and tear. The only allowable deductions are for “actual abnormal damage.” Some leases require 30-day notice to the landlord when you plan to move out as a condition of returning your deposit.
What to do if you have a Texas landlord-tenant dispute
If you’ve provided notice to your landlord of a necessary repair, unsafe condition, or other hazard to your health or safety, and the landlord is unresponsive or refuses to take action, you have a few options.
You may terminate your lease, repair the problem at your cost and deduct that amount from your next rent payment, or file a lawsuit against the landlord to compel them to remedy the situation.
Under Tex. Prop. Code Ann., §§ 92.056 and 92.0561, you must take these steps to resolve a Texas landlord-tenant dispute:
- Provide the landlord notice. This must be in the form of a dated letter by certified mail, receipt requested, OR by registered mail, OR hand-delivered in person. The letter must detail the needed repairs. Your rent must be paid and up-to-date at the time the letter is received. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
- The landlord has seven days in which to make a diligent effort to repair the condition. While seven days is considered reasonable, the landlord could take extra time if absolutely necessary.
- You might terminate the lease if the landlord does not make an effort to remedy the issue within a reasonable amount of time after receiving notice. You might also have the option to repair the problem and deduct the cost from your rent, but you should consult a landlord-tenant lawyer before taking action.
You do not have the right to withhold rent because the landlord failed to repair a condition unless the condition materially affects your physical health or safety.
Texas law prohibits retaliation
Texas law prohibits a landlord from retaliating against a tenant for a good-faith complaint about a hazardous condition or needed repair.
Under federal law, landlords are not permitted to discriminate against a prospective tenant based on ethnicity, religion, sex, or other protected characteristics.
If you have a Texas landlord-tenant dispute, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney before taking action. The law can be nuanced and has some exceptions, so you want to know both your rights and your legal obligations before proceeding with any action.