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What to do when the landlord says they can't afford to make major repairs?

Houston, TX |

We rented a 3/2 house in Houston only to find out once we moved in that we can't use one of the bathrooms because it is broken. We sent a cert. letter about repairs and our landlord told us NOT to call because she doesn't speak English. She told us she could not afford to make repairs and she might when her income tax comes in. We also have plumbing issues and currently can not use out shower or toilets because they back up and flood the house. We are using the neighbors house to bathe and use the restroom and have sewage on our floors. I called and messaged our landlord about it being an emergency and she said she could afford to fix it. Doesn't this make the house uninhabitable and she is breaking the lease. How do we legally break our lease, so we get a lawyer or go to court?

We sent our landlord 2 certified letters about repairs. She never got the first one because she said she put her address incorrectly on out lease agreement. She had the apartment number missing and has the wrong city. She is all the way in Florida now. She will only communicate through text and this does not work for us becasue its to hard to discuss issues by that means. We are also missing a chimney cap which has allowed birds and animals to get in our chimney. Luckily we found out this was missing because this device keeps the sparks from a fire from blowing back onto the roof. e told her about this once again through text because she doesn't respond to letters and she said once again that she couldn't afford to fix it. She moved back to Florida because her husband couldn't find work. Why should we be forced to live in these conditions because she can't afford to fix things?!? We think she is breaking the lease but we don;t know what to do.

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Generally, if you notify the landlord by certified mail, return receipt requested, about an issue in the rental property that is a threat to your health or safety, the landlord has a week from when they receive your letter (or notice of your letter) to fix the problem. If the landlord does not fix the problem, you may have the right to terminate your lease, sue the landlord for $500 plus one month's rent (plus actual damages, court costs and attorney's fees), and/or obtain a court order requiring the landlord to fix the problem. You may want to consult with an attorney to determine if you have taken all the steps necessary to legally terminate your lease. Generally, if you are entitled to terminate your lease, you should give the landlord written notice (preferably by certified mail, return receipt requested) that you are legally terminating the lease due to the landlord's failure to make necessary repairs within a reasonable amount of time.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

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3 comments

David Jahan Sadegh

David Jahan Sadegh

Posted

If there is sewage on the floors, the landlord should fix the problem immediately (rather than the standard 7 days), and you may have the right to do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost of repairs from your next month's rent. You may also want to call the CIty of Houston hotline (3-1-1) and let them know your landlord is not taking care of serious health issues in your home. Throughout this process, you should make sure you are current on your rent and continue to pay your rent until you move out of the unit, or else your landlord may have the right to evict you, regardless of the repair issues.

Asker

Posted

We are 100% current on rent. If we are in our rights to break the rent due to her non repairs and we do it all by written notice and we do it legally by certified mail, can she go after us for breaking the lease? Will it hurt us if we are trying to find a new rental home?

David Jahan Sadegh

David Jahan Sadegh

Posted

Even if you are within your legal rights to unilaterally terminate the lease, it is always possible that the landlord will view the situation differently and try to harm your credit or rental history. You should make sure you have everything documented in case you have to prove that you had the right to terminate the lease. The best way to avoid possible retaliation from the landlord is to find a way to get the landlord to agree to cancel or terminate the lease early. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to accomplish that is to either take the step of filing a lawsuit against the landlord and/or get an attorney involved to communicate with the landlord on your behalf.

Posted

Texas Property Code § 92.052 LandLord Duty to Repair and Remedy

A landlord shall make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition if:
(1) there is notice to the person to whom or to the place where rent is normally paid;
(2) the rent is not delinquent; and
(3) the condition:
(A) materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant;

TENANTS REMEDIES FOR LANDLORDS FAILURE TO REPAIR:
(1) terminate the lease;
(2) have the condition repaired or remedied according to § 92.0561;
(3) deduct from rent, without judicial action, the cost of the repair or remedy; and
(4) obtain judicial remedies according to § 92.0563.

§ 92.0561 TENANT'S REPAIR AND DEDUCT REMEDIES
(a) If the landlord FAILS TO MAKE REPAIRS THAT AFFECT THE TENAN TS HEALTH OR SAFTY the tenant may have the condition repaired or remedied and may deduct the cost from a subsequent rent payment as provided in this section.
(b) The tenant's deduction may not exceed greater of one month's rent or $ 500, if the tenant's rent is subsidized rent shall mean the fair market rent determined by the governmental agency or a reasonable amount of rent under the circumstances.
(c) Repairs and deductions under this section may be made as often as necessary so long as the total in any one month does not exceed greater of one month's rent or $ 500.

THE TERMINATING TENANT GETS:
(1) pro rata refund of rent from the date of termination or move out, whichever is later;
(2) deduction of security deposit from rent without necessity of lawsuit or obtain a refund of the tenant's security deposit according to law; and
(3) not entitled to the other repair and deduct remedies under § 92.0561 or the judicial remedies under § 92.0563(a) (1) and (2).
(g) Lease must contain language in underlined or bold print that informs the tenant of the remedies available under this section and Section 92.0561.

See the Texas Property Code Section 92.056, (available at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/), for all the steps the tenant must take to preserve their rights if they paln to do the repais and deduct the money from the rent.

Since attorney's fees are recoverable you should beable to have a lawyer help you with this matter.

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Posted

Please follow Ms. Mitchell's advice.

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