Know Your Rights as a Tenant

August 21, 2015 | by Katie Claflin

Categories: Rental Housing

Texas state law provides rental housing tenants with basic rights to help ensure their health, safety and security and to protect them from discrimination.  Knowing these rights can help tenants identify if their rights have been violated and, if necessary, take action to defend themselves.

According to the Texas Attorney General, Texas tenants are entitled to the following rights:

  1. The right to “quiet enjoyment” of your home. This means your landlord cannot evict you without proper cause (most commonly nonpayment of rent) or otherwise disturb your right to live in peace and quiet.  Your landlord must also protect you from any wrongful actions taken by other tenants.
  2. The right to health and safety in your home. Your landlord has an obligation to repair any conditions in your home that negatively affect your health and safety. 
  3. The right to security in your home.  Your landlord must provide you with basic security measures for your home, which include working window latches; deadbolts on exterior doors; locks, latches or security bars on sliding doors, and door viewers (peep holes).

The Rental Agreement

Your rental agreement is the most important source of information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, so make sure you read it carefully before signing it. In it you will find:

  1. Your rent amount and due date
  2. Lease time period and month-to-month provisions after your lease expires
  3. Deposits and late fees
  4. House rules (even if these are not provided as part of your lease document, make sure your landlord provides you with a written copy of any rules or regulations, such as pet policies, insurance requirements, visitor policies, etc.)
  5. The circumstances in which your landlord has the right to enter your home

For more information about rental agreements and your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, please refer to the Tenants’ Rights Handbook produced by the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Young Lawyers Association.

What to Do if Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you think your rights have been violated, you may be entitled to terminate your lease or obtain other remedies.  You do NOT have the right to withhold your rent payment, and doing so may give your landlord the ability to evict you or even file suit against you. We recommend the resources below, which can provide you with additional guidance.

Website of the Texas Attorney General

Texas Tenant Advisor

Austin Tenants’ Council

Tenants’ Council of Houston

Texas Tenants’ Union (Dallas-based)

Texas Workforce Commission- Civil Rights Division (specifically for tenants who believe they may be a victim of housing discrimination)

**Please note that the purpose of this blog is to be informative. TSAHC cannot provide advice about specific circumstances or situations. If you have a question or concern, please contact your local tenants council or legal aid service.


On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

Comments

Laura Ross

Hi Crystal, TSAHC cannot provide advice about specific situations.  For all questions and concerns, we recommend contacting your local tenants council or legal aid services for assistance.

Laura Ross

Hi S. Nelson, your local tenants council or legal aid services can assist you.

Crystal

My mother has a mental illness and I live with her. I was not officially put onto the lease but I live with her because I cannot live independently. I pay for expenses in the home as I stay here as I complete my bachelor’s. The house is not always tidy because of my mom’s condition and I was diagnosed with cancer. Her landlord implied the state of apartment as my responsibility, even though the apartment is usually in a state of disrepair regardless if I am there. Does the landlord get to harass a guest and get involved in personal family matters?

S. Nelson

My apartment rent used to cover the cost of water & dumpster.  Then, they began charging an additional $35 month.  Now, we have to pay whatever whatever Hocutt, Inc determines.  Last month, it was $36.75 and this month it’s $58.21!  So, that’s $23.21 more than 2 months ago & the sky’s the limit!  My apartment isn’t metered so these random charges seem unfair.  Can they do this to an unmetered apartment?  Thank you for your advice or referral to someone who can help.  Sincerely, S. Nelson

Laura Ross

TSAHC cannot provide advice about specific situations.  For all questions and concerns, we recommend contacting your local tenants council or legal aid services for assistance.

Delynna Kelley

We moved into a house in Seabrook, TX. Within a month, the vents started leaking. We checked and the duct work from the AC has holes in it causing the leaks. We have told them about and they are putting insulation around the duct work. It is beginning to smell like water is sitting closed up and some areas look like they may be molding. What all would we have to do if they will not fix it properly and we want to get out of the contract with our $1500 deposit back?

Asha Tidwell

I’ve have been harassed by another tenant every time me and my daughter go swimming in the pool. She comes outside and videos us and leaves her door open the whole time we are there. She’s reported we don’t live her and manager verified we do but she still video records us daily. She doesn’t do this to anyone else just me and my daughter. I feel harassed eveytime I go. I have rheumatoid arthritis and dr says swimming is good for me to move around in. I don’t drink alcohol there or make loud sounds and we don’t play music like others. What can I do to get her to stop recording us? Do I have any right?

James

I know this is a sensitive subject, but here it is.  I was falsely accused and convicted of a sex crime with a minor more than 20yrs ago. I was released after 4yrs. I’ve never missed my appts, and have always abided by Texas laws in reporting.  My wife and I have lived in our motor home in an RV park for approximately 8 months. With zero problems. Today, my landlord called me and said that we have to move out by the 1st of August because of the reason for my incarceration.  We’re not behind on rent and have never caused problems. 
Can our landlord kick us out because of my record? And if she can, how long does the law say that we have before we have to move out? I was notified by a phone call from her. I was not sent anything in writing. Thank you for your help.

Rebecca

I live in a rental house as an occupant on the lease. The people I live with have created a hostile environment and it is no longer a livable situation. What are my rights?

Laura Ross

Hi Sarah, TSAHC cannot provide advice about specific situations.  We recommend you contact your local tenants council or legal aid services for assistance.

Laura Ross

Hi Angela, your local tenants council or legal aid services can assist you.

Laura Ross

Hi Tryp, your friend should contact her local tenants council or legal aid services for advice about her situation.

Laura Ross

Hi Michelle, TSAHC cannot provide advice about specific situations.  We recommend you contact your local tenants council or legal aid service for assistance.

Sarah Southerland

I just moved out of an apartment. After sharing my experience through rating apps(including belly button rings that I found by stepping on them, and various bobby pins, all in my carpet. But was told it’s brand new and that they have a receipt for it I was never shown) I received a call from management being yelled at, and they threatened to puplically post my personal information(a criminal background) if I didn’t stop. Is that even legal?

Angela Lowe

Please help… Issued an Eviction notice under wrongful accusations. I have been here 10 months out of my 12 month lease and have had four huge floods from plumbing and issued never resolved still leaks from upstairs to downstairs and toilets. I had no working AC for almost four months. I need advice ASAP

Tryp white

My friend was assaulted by her X he kicked in her for held a gun to her head and fled. The landlord wants her to pay for the damages and is threatened to evict her. What should she do.

Michelle

Hello. I moved into a house 1 month ago. My 2 current roommates were already living there for 6 months already as I took over a girls room that had moved out. They both have dogs and I have a dog who is a service dog and is trained. Before signing the lease, I looked at the house to see if it met my standards. It was night time and seemed to “look ok”, so I went ahead with it because I had two weeks to find a place before my old lease ended so I was kind of forced into it. Anyways when I moved in 2 weeks later, it was daylight hours and saw the yard. The yard is FULL of dog feces. When I say full, I mean you cant walk out there without stepping on it. It is months old, gray, white, hardened and etc. I cannot even bring my dog out there because I don’t want her stepping in it. IT IS A MAJOR HEALTH HAZARD FOR ME AND MY DOG. I have tried talking to my roommates multiple times about it and they haven’t done anything about it. Haven’t picked up any poop at all since I’ve been living there, so I would assume that the feces out there might be at least 6 months old. One of my roommates dogs had tape worms last week, and she STILL DID NOT pick up after her dog, causing a major risk to my dog, and even myself. Also my bedroom is right above the yard, so I cant even open up my window to get fresh air without smelling poop and feeling like I’m breathing it in. ALSO, their dogs go in the house. I have an auto immune disease that causes my immune system to be low so this is even more of an concern. It is almost spring and the temp is starting to heat up meaning it was start smelling more, and bugs will come. I have told my landlord about this situation when I moved in and how nothing has changed since then and he has done nothing about it. I have looked in the lease,  and it says that we are suppose to maintain the yard and he can fine us if its not. I have spoken to austin tenant council and they said i can write the landlord a certified letter and if he doesn’t respond i can call code enforcement and he can get fined. My worry is that it can back fire and he can evict me for doing that even though ive done nothing wrong? Any suggestions? The lease ends July 31st of this year and my desire is to be able to terminate my lease without any consequences. The lease also says that if theres a health hazard and the landlord does nothing about it, im able to terminate? Thank you

Laura Ross

HI Joanne,  We recommend you contact your local tenants council with your question.

Joanne Odom

I live in complex for people over 62. For twelve years i have lived here the mailman could leave pkgs in our office. Most of us are wheelchairs or electric chairs and don’t have cars. We get meds thru the mail. Now the office people won’t let the mailman leave pkgs and we are told tough luck, get them on our own. Most are disabled have limited function. Can we have our pkgs delivered here again?

Laura Ross

HI Belen, TSAHC cannot provide advice about specific situations.  We recommend you contact your local tenants council or legal aid services.

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