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

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.

TIRED OF RENTING? 

TSAHC helps Texas families purchase a home through our Homes for Texas Heroes and Home Sweet Texas Loan Programs. Both programs provide up to 5% in down payment assistance that you can put towards your down payment and closing costs. TSAHC also offers a Mortgage Credit Certificate Program for first time home buyers that provides a tax credit that can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your home loan. 

Take our Eligibility Quiz to see if you qualify for one or both assistance options. You can also compare assistance options by using our Program Comparison Calculator


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

rdeleon

Hello Dawana,

Thank you for writing. I’m sorry you have had so much trouble. 

Your lease should contain a wealth of information to include details of potential repairs, parking and often an early-release clause, which requests one or two months’ rent from the tenant after they vacate. If there are no terms, you’ll need to negotiate with your landlord. Always be straightforward with your landlord about your situation and respectful of their needs. If you truly felt like you were harassed, you may want to bring legal counsel into it to help you review, negotiate your lease and any other options available. For legal issues, we recommend you contact your local tenants’ rights council or another trusted legal source.

D Maine

The complex in which I reside is predominantly Hispanic. I am AfroAmerican. I’ve lived here since June 2022. A new apartment mgr took over some time after that. I feel that she has been harassing me since she got here. First it was they needed a copy of the key to my apartment in which I responded if I have to then they need to deduct the cost.  I was never told about parking so my car was towed…oh well. That’s $300 I had to pay for their mistake. Next it was the visitation of dogs (2) to my apartment. I was in violation so I said I’d paid the deposit. She charged me $250 per dog and $30 per month for rent. I informed her that’s not what the lease or addendum says. I even directed her to the info on the lease and addendum. Still wants to charge me. I keep getting notices of past due balances. Then my heat wasn’t working. I put in the work order, went to her office, and emailed her without any assistance. I called the city for help. Heat was fixed but then the next thing was the windows not opening. The city gave them 24 hours to fix. I then got another violation for my husband being here. Now they know he’s been here for the past 3 months and now I’m in violation. I have read and re-read my lease. No AC units but people have them, no indoor furniture on the patios, but people have them. I had a wooden pallet on my patio and was put in violation and given 24 hours to move it. I have complied with all of this and she has become relentless on her “violations” on whether or not I sneeze to the left or right. I believe she is retaliating every time I speak up or prove her incorrect. What can I do to stop this or get out of this lease so that I can move?

rdeleon

Generally, only if the lease requires it. While it is common for a landlord to give advance notice, notice is only required if the lease says so.

If the lease does not require advance notice and it seems like the landlord is taking advantage of this, the tenant may request in writing that the landlord only enter after giving advance notice: for example, 24 hours. The tenant may also request that the tenant be home when the landlord enters the unit.

The TAA lease does not require advance notice, but it does require the landlord to leave a note after entering if the tenant is not home at the time of entry. The note must say that the landlord entered the apartment and why they were there.  For further inquiries, please notify your local tenant’s rights council.

VVG

Is it legal for the property management company to begin showing the townhome 8 months before the lease ends to prospective renters, without giving notice to the current tenants AND also giving prospective renters a key to the townhome so they can go tour it themselves, without any notice to the current tenants?  Regardless of time or day?  Even if they put it in the lease that it will be allowed?

rdeleon

Hello Kristina,

Liveable accommodations fall under the responsibility of a Landlord.  Please reach out to your landlord with any questions.  I’m sure they will have a target date to resolve the sewage problem.  If the problem persists, please reach out to your local tenant’s rights council or other trusted legal source for advice.

Kristina Cox

The apartment unit under ours had a toilet back up and flood the unit with sewage, luckily it was unoccupied at the time. But the sewage water was drained into the parking lot and left standing so tenants have to walk through it to get to their vehicles.  Many of the tenants have small children including myself and I’m concerned for their health. Also I do not believe the flooded unit has been properly cleaned and dried to avoid any future health risks. The patio under ours still has standing sewer water. I do not believe the management will take care of these issues especially involving the parking lot.  What processes would be recommended to have this issue resolved?

rdeleon

Hello Charles,

Thank you for your question.

Landlords are required to make routine repairs in a timely fashion, no matter how small. Major repairs that compromise day-to-day living for tenants should be a top priority. If your landlord does not respond to your first request, then send a second request with a repair deadline. After all, you are paying to live there. You are entitled to a clean, functioning household. If major repairs go ignored for more than five days, contact your local tenant rights council to discuss your options.

rdeleon

Hello Judith,

Thank you for letting us know the links were out of date.  We have updated them.

Charles

The apartments I’m currently living in have. Numerous dead trees that have branches falling constantly. Ornamental trees with constantly trip hazards ( spikey balls). You can’t walk your dogs through. Holes from sewer clean outs in the middle of walk ways. And recently started towing vehicles. Without proper signage. The pool has to be filled daily because the concrete broke. A water bill for me last month was 100$. And I live alone. Can someone please help

Judith

Your answer to all the questions is to go to local council and that website does not exist and if it did it would say the same thing all the other sites say… if you are a tenant you have no rights!!
I am in a situation where there is 6 people living in a 1 bedroom below me with 4 children. The children scream constantly and the I believe the father may be abusing them. No, I am not going to call the police and or CPS - it is the landlord’s responsibility to create a safe quiet environment.. violated! Now I have to take the time money and effort to make them do their fiduciary duty to create a safe and quiet environment. I am a paralegal and can do the legal work however, I should not have to!!

rdeleon

Hello TW,

Thank you for your question.  Please contact your local tenants’ rights council or another trusted legal source.

T W

Help. My sprinkler system in my apartment when off on December 23rd. Yes, 2 days before Christmas. A lot of my kid’s Christmas present got damaged so we had to buy them new stuff to open on Christmas Day. Mostly everything is my apartment is damaged.  We have no where to go that’s within our budget and our kids school district. We are a big family. So, I asked the apartment complex for a discount on my rent until they can fix things properly.  She refused to and told me that the full amount of rent will be required by the 1st. Is this fair? ? I do not want to terminate our lease because there’s nothing available in our area that’s within our budget. Please help.

rdeleon

Hello May,

Thank you for writing us.  Please check with your local tenants’ rights council.  You can reach them by googling “local tenants’ rights council” and picking the one nearest you.

May

Hi,

The raunchy apartments I live in is asking for proof of car insurance but that’s not listed in my lease. (Also mentioned tow trucks will be assigned to apartments).  Is that legal? also, i havent resigned a lease in 5 years. Is that legal?

rdeleon

Hello Calli,

Thank you for your question.  Please consult your lease, first.  If it is not addressed, please contact your local tenant’s rights council or other legal counsel.

Calli Hancock

My husband and I rent a home that has had foundational issues over the last several months. We have been notifying the property manager. We have several doors that cannot close in the home, floors bulging, major cracks even causing drywall to fall out. The owner does not want to conduct foundational work until we move out but is wanting to charge us to terminate our lease. Is that legal?

rdeleon

Hello L. Sandoval,
Your rental agreement is the most important source of information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.  Without a written agreement, it is your word against theirs.  Please seek the advice of your local tenant’s rights council.

rdeleon

Hello Jeanette,
Thank you for writing in.  You would be wise to seek legal counsel. Please contact your local tenant’s rights council or another trusted legal source.

rdeleon

Hello Melissa,

Thank you for writing in.

This is a good question to think about. The most important source of information about your relationship with your landlord is your rental agreement, whether it is written or oral.  If you want to change part of the lease, discuss it with the landlord. If the landlord agrees, the two of you should decide how you want to word the change and then write it into the agreement.

To discuss this further, please contact your local tenants rights council.

LSandoval

I have a landlord that we have no rental agreement or contract and I’ve been here for 3 years and we have an agreement that I would pay him half the month everytime I got paid which let me over pay for a month since two months this year I got three check he lives in Mexico and is really hard to get in contact with. Recently I lost my job but since I was ahead it was a buffer I was a little short this month for rent since I just started working and I told him that. He recently left a note saying I have two weeks to move out or he is going to evict me and my family since we didn’t pay but he took money from me and and I owe him less than half a month can he do this to us

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