The information in this page is provided as a free resource for renters in Houston. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice or additional legal help, contact https://www.lonestarlegal.org/services/eviction-right-to-counsel/.
Does Houston have “rent control?”
Rent is not regulated in Houston. This means that the only limit on how much a landlord in Houston can charge for rent is what people are willing to pay. This is sometimes called a “market rate.”
What does it mean to have a “safe, habitable” place to live in Houston?
A landlord must make a diligent effort to complete repairs if the problem materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant OR arises from the landlord’s failure to provide and maintain a device to supply hot water of a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Tenants must notify the landlord (or whomever the tenant pays rent to) about issues that need repair. The landlord is only required to make repairs if the tenant is current on their rent at the time that the notice is given.
Windows and Doors
Landlords in Texas must provide Secure locks on all doors and windows, including a keyless bolting device. See ATC’s brochure, Locks and Other Security Devices, for a complete list of security devices required by law.
Heat and Air Conditioning
Texas Property Code (section 92.052) requires landlords to make repairs when an issue “materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant” and if the tenant has notified the landlord about the issue. But if the tenant owes rent, then the landlord is not required to make the repairs. Heat and air conditioning aren’t specifically mentioned, but a lack of heat or air conditioning may affect tenant health and safety.
For tenants living anywhere in Texas, the landlord must provide hot water at a minimum temperature of 120° Fahrenheit. A landlord should make a diligent effort to repair or remedy any problems if those problems are caused by the landlord’s failure to provide and maintain in a water heater or other device that supplies hot water.
Landlords can’t interrupt electric service if any of the following are true: – The landlord or their representative isn’t available to collect electric bill payments to reestablish electric service. – The previous day’s highest temperature was below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours, according to the nearest National Weather Service reports. – The National Weather Service issues a heat advisory for the apartment’s county on one of the two preceding days. There are two exceptions to this rule: – The tenant requests disconnection. – The electricity is creating dangerous conditions and needs to be shut off for safety reasons.
Does my landlord have to provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in Houston?
Landlords in Texas must provide smoke detectors.
How long does my landlord have to fix problems at my apartment in Houston?
Usually that depends on how severe the problem is. Landlords must complete repairs in a “reasonable” amount of time. That will vary depending on the date when the landlord received the tenant’s notice, the severity and nature of the problem, and the availability of materials and labor for a repair. If the repair is related to utilities like gas and electricity, the availability of the utility company should be considered. 7 days is typically considered reasonable.. .
What can I do if my landlord can’t or won’t fix problems at my apartment in Houston?
Repair and Deduct
To exercise the right to repair and deduct, two things must be done:
- The tenant must have a local housing, building, or health official or other official having jurisdiction notify the landlord in writing that the conditions affect the material health or safety of the tenant (but see exceptions described below); and
- The tenant must deliver the required notices requesting the repair as outlined above.
However, the final notice given to the landlord must state the tenant’s intent to exercise the right to repair and deduct and include a reasonable description of the intended repairs.
(NOTE: If the tenant sends the first request for repair by a certified, registered, or trackable private mail carrier, then a second notice is not required.) The first notice sent via certified, registered or trackable private mail carrier is also the final notice and must state the tenant’s intent to exercise the right to repair and deduct and include a reasonable description of the intended repairs.
The tenant’s deduction for the cost of the repair or remedy may not exceed the amount of one month’s rent or $500, whichever is greater. If the tenant’s rent is subsidized in whole or in part by a governmental agency, the deduction limitation of one month’s rent shall mean the fair market rent of the dwelling and not the actual amount the tenant pays.
In two situations a tenant may exercise the right to repair and deduct without having an official send the landlord notice that the condition is a threat to health or safety:
- If the landlord has failed to remedy the backup or overflow of raw sewage inside the tenant’s dwelling or the flooding from broken pipes or natural drainage inside the dwelling; or If the landlord has agreed to supply potable (drinking) water to the tenant’s dwelling and the water service to the dwelling has totally ceased. If the condition involves sewage or flooding, the tenant may repair and deduct immediately after giving notice of intent to repair and deduct. If the condition involves a lack of water, the tenant may repair and deduct if the landlord fails to repair the condition within three days following delivery of the tenant’s notice of intent to repair.
- If the condition involves inadequate heat or cooled air, the tenant may repair and deduct three days after giving notice of intent to repair and deduct (provided that an official has also sent the landlord notice that the condition is a threat to health or safety).
The tenant may give only one notice provided the notice is sent by certified, registered or trackable private mail carrier. The notice must inform the landlord of the tenant’s intent to repair and deduct. Repairs must be made by a company, contractor, or repairman listed in the yellow pages or business pages of the telephone directory or in the classified advertising section of a local newspaper. Repairs may not be made by the tenant, the tenant’s immediate family, the tenant’s employer or employees, or a company in which the tenant has an interest. Repairs must also be made in compliance with applicable building codes, including obtaining a building permit when required. When deducting the cost of repairs from the rent payment, the tenant shall furnish the landlord, along with the balance of the rent, a copy of the repair bill and the receipt for its payment.
After the landlord has been notified of the needed repair and has failed to make a diligent effort to remedy the problem within seven days, tenants may give the landlord a written notice that the tenant is terminating the lease. The notice should give a date by which the tenant will move out. The tenant will be entitled to a refund of the security deposit in accordance with the law and to a refund of the rent for the remainder of the month after the tenant leaves. The tenant may also deduct the security deposit from the prorated rent. A tenant who moves is also entitled to the other remedies listed below, except the court order directing repairs and the court-ordered partial rent reduction when taking the landlord to court.
After the landlord has been notified of the needed repair and failed to make a diligent effort to remedy the problem within seven days, the tenant may file a lawsuit in justice court without an attorney and seek an order for the repair, reduction in the rent, civil penalty of $500 plus one month’s rent, actual damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees if an attorney is hired.
What are the rules for security deposits in Houston, and how do I get my security deposit refunded?
If a landlord’s property is taken over by someone else (by sale, assignment, death, bankruptcy, etc), the new owner is liable for the return of security deposits. The new owner must give a signed statement to the tenant acknowledging that the new owner has acquired the property and is responsible for the tenant’s security deposit and specifying the exact dollar amount of the deposit.
Texas landlords must refund security deposits within 30 days of a tenant moving out. Landlords may deduct from the deposit for damages and charges described in the lease or that resulted from a tenant breaking the lease. If a landlord keeps part of a deposit, they must give the tenant a written and itemized list of anything they’re not refunding. Landlords can’t deduct for normal wear and tear.
What kind of notice does my landlord need to give me in Houston?
Landlords must give tenants written notice to vacate before the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict. This notice to vacate must be given to tenants at least three days unless the lease allows for a shorter time. The written notice can be delivered by hand to the tenant or anyone in the unit over age 16, by mail, or posted on the inside of their front door. The date in the notice to vacate is not the date the tenant will be removed. Landlords must go to court to evict a tenant. The notice requirements differ for tenants in public or subsidized housing or if the landlord participates in certain federal programs. Rules are different in Dallas, San Antonio, San Marcos, and Austin.
At the time an applicant is provided with a rental application, the landlord must give the applicant a printed notice of the landlord’s tenant selection criteria and the reasons for which the rental application might be denied,
Landlords should provide reasonable notice before entering a rental unit and explain the purpose of the entry. 24 hours is typically considered “reasonable.” The landlord may enter the home if the lease specifically allows it without advance notice. The landlord may enter the home if the lease specifically allows it without advance notice.
Can I end my lease early in Houston?
If something comes up in your life, you may find that you need to end your lease early. This can be stressful and very expensive, with most leases including steep penalties and fines for early termination. Here are some potential options.
If you’re active military, you may be able to terminate your lease early under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides certain protections for active-duty military members, including the right to terminate a lease early if you receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment. To terminate your lease early under the SCRA, you must provide your landlord with written notice and a copy of your orders. The notice must be provided at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to terminate the lease.
What should I know about eviction in Houston?
In most areas, including Houston, you cannot be evicted for owing fees. A landlord cannot evict a tenant solely for non-payment of fees that are not related to rent, such as late fees or other charges.
Where can I get help if I’m being evicted in Houston?
Lone Star Legal Aid can help with housing issues like evictions, unlawful lockouts, utility shutoffs, and security deposits.
What can I do if my landlord harasses me or discriminates against me in Houston?
The Texas Fair Housing Act (www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us), protects your right to rent an apartment, buy a home, obtain a mortgage, or purchase homeowners insurance free from discrimination based on Race, Color, National Origin, Religion, Sex, Familial Status, and Disability.
If the landlord enters the home for reasons other than those stated in the lease agreement or does not give notice when required, the tenant can send a written demand to the landlord—requesting that they stop and giving a date by which to stop.
SixFifty can help!
Now that you know your rights as a renter in Houston, what can you do? Take action! SixFifty built HelloLandlord with the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University as a free resource for people who can’t afford legal help. You can use HelloLandlord to:
- Make a plan with your landlord to avoid eviction
- Request repairs
- Ask for a copy of your lease
- Get your security deposit refund
Tens of thousands of Americans have used HelloLandlord to assert their rights. It only takes 5 minutes to generate a high quality letter—the kind of letter a lawyer would write. And we offer discount codes so you can send your letter by mail, right from your computer.
SixFifty is building more tools to help renters all the time. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.