Regardless of the terms of the lease, there is a law which requires the landlord to repair conditions which materially affect a tenantís physical health or safety, and to provide hot water to a tenant. Texas law requires the landlord to make reasonable efforts to repair any condition which materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant and to provide hot water to the tenant. The landlordís failure to comply with this law may entitle a tenant to perform the repair and deduct the costs from rent, a court order requiring the landlord to make the repairs, a court order reducing the rent, and a penalty of one monthís rent plus $500. Alternatively, the tenant may terminate the lease, move out, and obtain a penalty of one monthís rent plus $500.
As mentioned above a remaining tenant may have conditions repaired and deduct the cost from the rent. This may be done only if:
1) the landlord has failed to remedy the backup or overflow or raw sewage inside the tenantís dwelling or the flooding from broken pipes or natural drainage inside the dwelling;
2) the landlord has expressly or impliedly agreed in the lease to furnish potable water to the tenantís dwelling and the water service to the dwelling has totally ceased;
3) the landlord has expressly or impliedly agreed in the lease to furnish heating or cooling equipment; the equipment is producing inadequate heat or cooled air; and the landlord has been notified in writing by the appropriate local housing, building, or health official or other official having jurisdiction, that the lack of heat or cooling materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant; or
4) the landlord has been notified in writing by the appropriate local housing, building, or health official or other official having jurisdiction that the condition materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant.
It is worth noting that under the law, even if you have a claim against your landlord for not maintaining your apartment, you are not excused from paying rent until you take the necessary steps. If you stop paying rent, your landlord could have you evicted.
Here is what you must do to exercise your rights:
1) You must give the landlord written notice. Explain the problem, and tell the landlord that it materially affects your health or safety. You cannot be delinquent in the payment of rent at the time notice is given. The notice should also state that unless the condition is repaired you may terminate the lease, have the condition repaired and deduct the costs of repair from your next rent payment, or bring a civil action for a court order and damages. You should send this notice via certified mail, return-receipt-requested.
2) The landlord has a reasonable time to repair the problem. What is reasonable depends on the facts of the situation. A leaking roof for example, is serious, and a few days may be a reasonable time to repair the leak.
3) If your apartment is not repaired within a reasonable time and you sent the repair notice by certified mail, your landlord is liable. If you gave the notice any other way, you must give the landlord a written second notice and wait another reasonable period of time before your landlord is liable.
If the landlord is liable for not making the repairs, you have the right to:
(1) have the condition repaired and deduct the costs from your next rent payment;
(2) sue and force a rent reduction;
(3) sue and get a court order requiring the landlord to make the repairs; and
(4) sue to recover damages of one monthís rent plus $500.
1. terminate the lease, move out; and
2. sue to recover damages of one monthís rent plus $500.
If you have to hire an attorney and you win the case, the landlord must pay your attorneyís fees.