As Texans continue to face the effects of a record-breaking winter storm, they’re faced with new issues, like broken pipes or plumbing problems that have caused flooding and other damage in their homes. Texas renters have a right to ask their landlord for repairs.

Identify where you need to submit your request for repairs. Your lease should tell you who to contact for repairs or maintenance. If you normally text someone, do that. If the repair isn’t fixed within a reasonable amount of time, send the request in writing. Be sure to ask for a delivery receipt when you’re sending via mail or other courier service (like FedEx or UPS). If you are renting from a large complex, you may be able to submit your request online. If so, make sure you save a screenshot or request an email receipt to keep track of your records.

You can use this sample letter to a landlord for repairs, filling in your own information and any details about the problem you are experiencing in your unit.

[Date]

[Apartment name]

[Apartment address]

Re: Notice of Duty to Repair

Dear ______:

This notice is provided to you in accordance with the terms of the lease agreement of ______ regarding the premises at [Address], and in accordance with the Texas Property Code.

You have previously received a request for repair of the following items, which have not yet been repaired:

*a. ______

*b. ______

______ is under the legal duty to make diligent efforts to repair the conditions specified above.

As you are aware, the lease specifies your duty to make such repairs. Further, the Texas Property Code requires such items be provided by you and maintained in good repair to satisfy conditions of habitability for the premises. Therefore, you are urged to complete the needed repairs.

If the repairs are not completed by ______, other actions may be taken to preserve and protect rights under the agreement and the law.

Sincerely,

[your name]

After this, you must give the landlord a reasonable time to make repairs, at least 7 days, unless the repair need is urgent and requires a quicker response. If the landlord does not fix the problem(s), make another written request to your landlord and ask for a written explanation about why repairs haven’t been made. (You do not have to send another notice if you sent the first written one by certified mail or have another form of record/delivery receipt.)

Note: Rent must be paid in full before a landlord is required to make any repairs. Even if you gave your landlord a CDC declaration, rent still has to be paid before the landlord has to make repairs.

You have legal options if your landlord refuses to fix the problems.

You could cancel your lease. Most standard Texas Apartment Association leases have language saying that tenants have a right to cancel their lease if the home is unlivable and the landlord refuses to fix the problem(s). If you cannot live in any part of your rental unit, you must give your landlord written notice you are canceling your lease. You should also ask, in writing, for a refund of your security deposit and any pre-paid rent from your landlord. You must give your landlord your new address to receive any refund.

You could take your landlord to court. You can sue your landlord to perform the repairs and for damages. A court can order your landlord to make repairs, reduce your rent from the date you asked for repairs, award you damages caused by failure to repair, damages of one month’s rent plus $500, court costs, and attorney’s fees. You can sue in the Justice of the Peace court, where you will not need a lawyer, and the court should hear your case quickly.

If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, you can apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-733-8394 or by visiting http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: media@lonestarlegal.org