North Austin Civic Association

First published in Your Neighborhood News, April, 2008

Letter from the President

Attention Renters: Know Your Rights!

Dear Renters,

Is your home in need of maintenance or repairs? Have you reported these issues to your landlord, only to be ignored, disregarded, or even threatened? Does it take you Landlord weeks or months to make a repair? Are there repairs needed in your home that affect the health and safety of you and your loved ones? If so, you have certain rights under Texas law to take action!

In the State of Texas, there are laws that protect renters from certain living conditions. These laws include:

Your Right to Peace & Quiet

Your rights as a tenant include the right to "quiet enjoyment" as it is called in the law. This means the landlord cannot evict you without cause or otherwise disturb your right to live in peace and quiet.

If other tenants in your building are disturbing you, you should complain to the landlord. The landlord has a duty to see that you are protected from other tenant's wrongful behavior. Of course, you may not disturb other tenants, either.

Except under certain circumstances and subject to certain conditions, a landlord may not interrupt utilities to a tenant unless the interruption results from bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency.

Your Right to Health & Safety

You have a right to demand that the landlord repair any condition that materially affects your health and safety. Under Texas law, by renting you the property, the landlord guarantees that the unit will be a fit place to live. Under certain conditions, you and the landlord may have a written agreement that you will make needed repairs.

The landlord does not have a duty to pay for or make repairs if you or your guests cause an unsafe or unhealthy condition through negligence, carelessness, abuse or accident, unless the condition resulted from "normal wear and tear." Also, the landlord must provide smoke detectors. You may not waive that provision, and you may not disconnect or disable the smoke detector.

Your Right to Security

Although there are some specific exceptions, under Texas law, a dwelling must be equipped with security devices such as window latches, keyless dead bolts on exterior doors, sliding door pin locks and sliding door handle latches or sliding door security bars, and door viewers. These devices must be installed at the landlord's expense. If such devices are missing or are defective, you have the right to request their installation or repair.

If You Have Problems

If the landlord won't make repairs needed to protect your health, safety, or security, and you follow the procedures required by law, you may be entitled to:

o End the lease;

o Have the problem repaired and deduct the cost of the repair from the rent; or

o File suit to force the landlord to make the repairs.

You MUST Follow These Steps:

1. Send the landlord a letter, by certified mail, return receipt requested, outlining the needed repairs. Or you may deliver it personally. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter.

2. If the landlord does not respond within a reasonable time (a week or two), send another letter, in person or by certified mail. In this letter, you should let the landlord know whether you intend to end the lease, repair the problem and deduct the cost from the rent, or file suit if the repairs are not made.

3. If the landlord does not make the repairs within seven days after receiving the second letter, you should contact an attorney before taking the next step.

Most importantly

You have THE RIGHT NOT TO BE THREATENED by your landlord for reporting problems with your rental unit. Under Texas law, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against you for complaining about necessary repairs. Of course, you can always be evicted if you fail to pay your rent on time, threaten the safety of the landlord or intentionally damage the property, so avoid these behaviors if you are having problems with your rental home.

The bottom line: no matter what race, age, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, as a renter in the State of Texas, you have rights! To learn more, contact the Austin Tenant's Council at 1619 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702. Their Counseling Line (only for residents of the city of Austin and Travis County) is (512) 474-1961 (M-F 9 a.m. -12 p.m., 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.) or visit They can provide information in Spanish, and have Spanish speaking counselors to assist you with your situation.

Exercise your right to rent a safe, quiet and secure home!!

by Anthony Williams