Know Your Legal Rights
Keryl Burgess Douglas
The Houston Sun
Prior articles have briefly covered basic rules and laws regarding landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities. The contentious issue of the security deposit and possibly requiring a landlord to return up to three times the deposit amount plus $100 catches the attention of many. In this economy, a 3-fold return on a security deposit can be a boon for the tenant and a bust for the landlord.
Tenants can be liable to landlords for improper application of the deposit in lieu of rent, etc. Both should be well aware of the Texas Property Code(TPC) in this regard.
The TPC also provides advantageous information on rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants in several other important areas.
Several subsections include civil penalties where non-compliance by parties to a leasing contract can be shown.
Proven non-compliance in legal actions can be another area of financial bust or boon for either landlord or tenant if they are either unaware or willfully rebellious toward the stipulations altogether. Many landlords may feel that renters will either be woefully unaware of their legal remedies, or too cash- or time-limited to pursue legal remedy.
For those having issues with the landlord-tenant relationship and/or thinking of pursuing legal remedy, either party should be aware of prerequisite actions and/or required steps to prevail in such disputes; especially where monetary damages are being sought. Prevailing parties needn’t worry about legal or court costs in some instances because the losing party can be ordered by the Court to pay those expenses.
Some subsections should be particularly reviewed by both landlords and tenants before a problem arises and most often before renting a property or signing a rental lease agreement/contract altogether. This is especially important for subsections that provide for civil penalties and other financial awards or damage claims by either party; as well as those that stipulate certain acts/steps must be followed to pursue remedy.
Key subsections pertain to landlord’s liability and duty to repair or remedy; failure to rekey, change or install locks; installation or repair of proper security devices; material affect to physical health and safety; bad faith litigation or harassment; landlord retaliation against tenant for pursuing legal rights pertaining to the lease; non-compliance with Texas Smoke Detector Statute; etc. Penalties in these areas can equal cost of one month’s rent plus $500. Landlords and tenants beware: “Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse!” Awareness can either avoid unnecessary costs or result in financial damages award windfalls.
Landlords and property owners should review the Texas Smoke Detector Statute, especially installation and maintenance of smoke detectors. Duties/responsibilities for rental property differ from that for personal residential property. Landlords/owners are required to install, and test in a certain manner, smoke detectors at the time of initial occupancy of tenant. People who decide to lease their home may not be aware that legal problems could arise in this area at some point if they don’t know of duties to renters.
Failure to comply with the duties and responsibilities in Chapter 92 of the Property Code could result in penalties, money damages, court and/or attorney costs that neither landlord or tenant can afford to pay in this economy. A quick review of the Code can avoid unnecessary financial hardship, liabilities or penalties related to the renting experience. Copies of the code for review are available in some libraries, via the internet, and through several advocacy agencies. Consulting an attorney or advocacy agency is very often a helpful option.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please e-mail email@example.com or write us at the Houston Sun at 1520 Isabella St.; Houston, TX 77004. This information is provided for general purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice nor considered a solicitation to provide legal advice. For legal advice, see the lawyer of your choice.
Keryl Burgess Douglas finished Law School summa cum laude with a ranking of #5 out of her class of 202. She has one son, James Matthew Douglas II, has a private law practice, and serves as President of NAACP-Fort Bend/Missouri City.