Views expressed in this blog are mine alone and are not intended to represent Williamson County policy nor intended as legal advice.

6/27/2019

What to do when your landlord won’t fix what’s broken

Withholding rent to force your landlord to make repairs is not as simple as many think. The Texas Property Code has specific requirements that must be met before a tenant can force the issue. It also has limits on how much you can deduct from your rent.

The Property Code that relevant is Sections 92.052 and 92.056. It lists specific instances where what is called repair and remedy or repair and deduct can occur. The problem with the property must either be with plumbing – “backup or overflow of raw sewage inside the tenant's dwelling or the flooding from broken pipes or natural drainage inside the dwelling” or water supply to the dwelling has totally ceased; or heating and cooling equipment supplied by the landlord that “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.”

In short, what’s not working must directly affect the health and safety of the occupants. Damage to the dwelling such as rotten floors, non-functional locks, broken steps, and so on are not covered under this statute.

Having these conditions present is not enough to withhold rent. There are specific procedures to follow. You must be current on your rent. The damage cannot have been caused by the tenant, their family, co-occupants or guests. Most importantly, you must notify the landlord in writing of the issue BEFORE you do anything else. In the case of heating and cooling as above, you should also contact the local housing authority to inspect the dwelling and report to the landlord.

Notice in writing can be given by “certified mail, return receipt requested, by registered mail, or by another form of mail that allows tracking of delivery from the United States Postal Service or a private delivery service”. Verbal notification is insufficient. Email is insufficient.

In general, the landlord has seven days to make the repair. If at that time the repairs have not been made, the tenant can make repairs themselves by hiring a professional and deducting the cost of repairs from their rent. That cost “may not exceed the amount of one month's rent under the lease or $500, whichever is greater”.

And there’s the kicker. You must still pay the balance of your rent. Failure to pay your full rent can lead to eviction.

Resources:

Taylor Housing Authority www.taylorha.org

Round Rock Housing Authority www.roundrockha.org

Taylor Code Enforcement: https://www.ci.taylor.tx.us/21/Code-Enforcement

Hutto Code Enforcement: http://www.huttotx.gov/citizenrequestcenter/index.php

Williamson County & Cities Health District: http://www.wcchd.org

Texas Tenant Advisor: https://www.texastenant.org/repairs.html

Nolo.com: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/texas-tenant-rights-repair-deduct.html

Texas Property Code: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PR/htm/PR.92.htm

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