Fair Housing Tenant Law
Security Device Law of 1993
1. A landlord should have all security devices in proper working order when a tenant moves in. A landlord should re-key each time before a new tenant occupies a unit, but not later than seven days after move in.
2. A landlord is required to install a keyless deadbolt lock on all exterior doors, and any door leading from the garage into the rental unit. Exterior doors should also have keyed deadbolt locks and door viewers (peepholes). A clear glass pane or a one way mirror may also be used.
3. A landlord must install both a pin-lock and a security bar (charley bar) or a door handle latch on sliding glass doors. Each door that opens directly into a pool yard must have an automatic door closer.
4. A landlord may not harass tenants by filing an action for eviction based upon request by tenants:
- for landlord to repair defects in the rental unit;
- for proper security devices (LOCKS) on doors and windows;
- for tenant using the "repair and deduct" law to get small repairs done quickly; or for any requests which are the landlord's duty to provide for tenants.
5. A landlord must install a window latch on each window.
All installed security devices should meet the following criteria:
- Both keyed and keyless deadbolts if installed after 9/1/93 should be installed between 36 and 48 inches above the floor.
- Security bars and sliding door pin-locks installed after 9/1/93 should be installed between 0 and 48 inches above the floor.
- The bolt throw for both keyed and keyless deadbolts should be at least one inch long. Metal strikeplates are required to accompany each type of deadbolt unless they are accompanied by a metal door jamb. The screws for the strikeplate should be at least three (3) inches long.
One door must have bolts with a three quarter inch (3/4") throw into the jamb above and the threshold below. The other door must have a keyless deadbolt, doorknobs lock, or a keyed deadbolt.
What the landlord may not do
1. The landlord may not KEEP YOU OUT OF YOUR HOME for any reason. If you are locked out by your landlord, he or she must leave a note saying where the key is. You are not required to pay back rent to receive the key. (if he or she will not give it to you, call a lawyer. You might also call the police.)
2. The landlord may not CUT OFF YOUR UTILITIES if you are paying the utility companies directly. If you do not pay the utility companies directly, the landlord may cut off utilities only after the tenant has failed to pay rent by the due date and only if the premises are otherwise in substantial compliance with the City's Housing Code. Contact the City's Housing Code Division. (713) 525-2525
3. A landlord may not KEEP YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT for more than 30 days after you move unless:
a. You do not leave a forwarding address;
b. You leave owing rent;
c. Within 30 days he or she gives you an itemized list of how your deposit was spent on repairs for damages you did to the house or apartment.
Even if you receive an itemized list of repairs, you do not have to pay for "normal wear and tear." If money is taken from your security deposit for "normal wear and tear," it is illegal. you may file in Small Claims Court for the money. It is easy and inexpensive. (See Small Claims Court)
4. A landlord may not EVICT YOU, only a judge can (see Evictions),
5. The landlord may NOT TAKE YOUR PROPERTY FOR BACK RENT, unless your lease gives him this right. If your lease does not state that he may, then only a constable may do so. Before you go to court, the constable or the landlord may take only luxury items: TV, stereo, an extra car, etc. Clothes, furniture, food and tools of one's trade may not be taken. If a landlord knowingly damages or destroys your property while moving it, you may sue in Small Claims Court. (see Small Claims Court.)
6. The only time the landlord can take your property is AFTER YOU LEAVE, unless your lease says otherwise. If property is illegally removed by your landlord, call a lawyer. If rental or borrowed property is taken, contact the owner immediately.
7. If you don't have a lease, your landlord can RAISE YOUR RENT only after giving you notice equal to your rent period interval. This means that if you pay rent by the month, you should have a month's notice before your rent is raised - by the week, a week's notice. If you have a lease and unless it states otherwise, your rent cannot be raised until the lease expires. THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO RENT RAISES IN TEXAS. If you don't receive proper notice, call a lawyer.
8. No one can REFUSE TO RENT TO YOU OR SELL a house to you because of your race, sex, national origin, religion, family status, or handicap. This is discrimination. If you feel this has happened to you,call the City's Fair Housing Office (713) 868-8300.
What the Tenant must do
To receive his or her deposit back a tenant must leave a forwarding address, give proper notice and leave the rental unit in a reasonably clean condition.
What the Tenant must not do
1. A tenant must not move other persons into his rental unit without the approval of the management or the landlord.
2. A tenant must not use his rent money to pay for repairs made to the rental unit unless authorized by the management.
3. A tenant must pay rent as long as he lives in a rental unit. If a tenant believes he is owed money by the management, this should not be withheld from his rent, but the matter must be resolved in court. (see Small Claims Court)
4. A tenant must not use his Security Deposit in lieu of a monthly rent payment.
What to look for in a lease before you sign
Sometimes your landlord writes sections into a lease which could cause you to give up your rights. If you find statements like the ones below, cross them out on both your copy and the landlords's copy of the lease.
Look for these statements:
- The landlord or manager may enter your home at any time;
- The landlord or manager will not give advance notice in the case of eviction;
- The landlord or manager may take non-exempt property for back rent;
- The landlord or manager may end your lease because you're an "undesirable tenant."
If your landlord will not agree to taking out these phrases try to rent elsewhere.