Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Updated Texas tenants law provides new protections

jpg_law_justice_003Several changes to Texas tenant/landlord law went into effect on January 1, 2016.  Senate Bill 1367 was supported by the Texas Tenants’ Union, and it makes several improvements to tenant/landlord law, including expanding the methods for delivering repair requests to trigger tenants’ rights, prohibiting lease provisions that waive a tenant’s right to a jury trial, and requiring new owners to notify tenants that they have purchased the property.
The bill was authored by Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), sponsored in the Texas House by Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and co-sponsored by Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville). 
 
Texas Tenants’ Union Board President Alice Basey stated, “While much still needs to be done to improve Texas tenant/landlord law,  we are steadily winning protections for tenants in the State Legislature.  We are grateful to Senator West and Representative Anchia for carrying the torch. ”
Sandy Rollins, director of the Texas Tenants’ Union, added, “These changes will alleviate everyday injustices faced by tenants.”
Here is a description of the bill:
  1. It changes the repair law to expand the way notices can be delivered to trigger the landlord’s duty to repair.   Currently, if the tenant’s request for repairs is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or by registered mail, only one notice is required.  If the notice is sent by any other method, two notices must be given. A reasonable period of time must lapse after each notice before the tenant can exercise their rights.  If the tenant sends the notice by priority mail, express mail, or overnight mail by a private delivery service, it doesn’t meet the standard for one notice to be sent.  When there is no heat, no water, flooding, sewage, electrical problems or other health and safety issues, time is critical. Tenants shouldn’t be denied their rights to repairs simply because they didn’t use the correct delivery service.  When the statute was written, there were fewer trackable delivery services. SB 1367 will update the law to trigger the tenant’s right to repairs after a reasonable period of time when the tenant’s request for repairs is sent by any trackable form of delivery by the U.S. Postal Service or a private delivery service instead of only by certified mail, return receipt requested, registered mail, or by two separate notices.
     
  2. It changes the security deposit law to state that the landlord has an obligation to notify tenant of any charges for damages even if there is not a refundable deposit. Tenants who move in on specials sometimes aren’t aware the landlord is claiming they owe damages until they look at their credit report.  
     
  3. It states a tenant’s right to a jury trial may not be waived.  Landlord/tenant disputes are usually heard in the Justice of the Peace Court in the precinct where the property is located. Either party can request a trial by jury, unless the landlord has included a provision in the lease denying the tenant a jury trial.  Most standardized leases do not include a waiver of the jury trial, but some less-than-ethical landlords include it in their contracts. 
     
  4. If a tenant is behind on rent and there is a “landlord’s lien” in the lease contract, the landlord can seize some of tenant’s property without going to court.  If the landlord willfully violates the landlord’s lien law, the tenant is entitled to actual damages, return of any property seized that has not been sold, return of the proceeds of any sale of seized property and one month’s rent or $500, whichever is greater, less any amount for which the tenant is liable, and for reasonable attorney’s fees.  Senate Bill 1367 updates the penalties for violation of the landlord’s lien from one month’s rent or $500, whichever is greater, to one month’s rent plus $1,000. The new language is consistent with recent changes to the lock-out law and utility cut-off law.
     
  5. It clarifies the security deposit law by stating that the new owner shall deliver a signed statement that they have acquired the property and are responsible for the security deposit.  Changes in ownership can be very confusing when a tenant is unsure who to pay rent to and who has their deposit.  The current language is not clear.
 There were two provisions amended onto the original 5 provisions of SB 1367.
  1. The first provision slightly expands the circumstances under which landlords can deliver a notice to vacate on the outside of the main entry door prior to filing an eviction case, and requ/ires the notice to be put in a sealed envelope with the tenant’s name and address and the words IMPORTANT DOCUMENT on the outside of the envelope, and for the notice to be mailed in the same county by 5:00 pm on the same day.
  2. The second allows landlords to install a handle latch lock on a sliding glass door instead of a pin lock.
 The entire bill can be read at this link.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I am a landlord in San Antonio Texas my tenant has given me her 30 day notice to vacate by March 18, 2016 she has gone overboard to keep me out of the house as a landlord I have asked and sent letters to allow me entry for an inspection she has denied me and Tree several times I was able to go in to show the house to a potential renter yes I gave her notice by email and handheld letter which she refused the letter and found the house to be very unsanitary full of clutter and the smell was horrible . The tenant is now requesting maintenance to the bathroom but is denying me the landlord access to enter without her presents apparently the wax gasket is broken it needs repair and there is water seeping from under the toilet according to the tenants report

  2. I am a tenant and my landlord has failed to do any repairs. After two times of telling however she has not giving any address to mail a certaified letter. There is a rodent problem I have had to pay out of my pocket to attempt to get rid of them. She did put some medicine in my addiict and now it stinks like dead animals there are roaches everywhere and the grass is long and the alley is Long a stove is in the back it’s rediculous.

  3. Does anyone know what I can do to fight illegal eviction procedures, specifically, removal of my property from the moving truck I had hired, including all exempt property. They then allowed residents to help themselves to anything they wanted and I was ordered off the property and told not to return. That’s it in a nutshell and I lost everything I owned. I know what they did was illegal and immoral but I don’t know where to go to get help. And I really need it.

  4. There was damage due to a tree the owner didn’t have cut down on the eave of house. I had told the previous management company and the current one about it. They both said owner doesn’t want to cut tree, but they are saying it’s my responsibility to trim branches which I do. I have lived here or over 8 years. I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to do major tree cutting with a chainsaw to appease this. Original lease said trim branches, mow. I do this. But we’re talking a 10-12 around branch off the trunk and the trunk is pushing into the house. They fixed a leak this tree caused, didn’t send a bill or notice of a repair bill. They take my rent automatically on the 1st every month and they decided to take the charge out of that rent and then said I was late on rent. Can they do that? They sent an eviction letter within 2 days of me finding out about this charge and they added court fees to the account on top of that before they even filed. The owner knows he was in the wrong as they offered to split the cost. I didn’t want to as I feel the owner knew this needed to be addressed but I agreed. But they had to remove the court charges since it was before the 4 days for be to respond. I don’t want to pay for something they haven’t done yet. They said no, all has to be paid. I said do what you have to do then. I can’t find it now but I did read on a tenant/landlord site it was against the law for them to do and say I was late and then access fees on top of it. Did I read this right? Because when I go to court I’m going to point this out. They have locked me out of the tenant portal so I can’t even get copies of anything.

  5. Kathy,

    Perhaps you can get a response at one of the upcoming free legal workshops scheduled in April:
    East Dallas (Grace United Methodist Church—4105 Junius at Haskell)
    • Thursdays, April 4; and April 18
    South Dallas (Martin Luther King, Jr. Center—2922 MLK Blvd.)
    • Tuesdays, April 2; April 9; and April 23
    West Dallas (2828 Fish Trap Rd., Dallas, TX 75212)
    • Thursdays, April 11; and April 25
    Garland (Salvation Army—451 W. Avenue D, Garland, TX 75040)
    • Thursday, April 18
    Friendship West Baptist Church (2020 West Wheatland Rd., Dallas, TX 75232)
    • Wednesday, April 17
    St. Phillip’s Community Center (1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Dallas, TX 75215)
    • Tuesday, April 16
    Veterans Resource Center (for veterans and their families only)—1:30 p.m.
    • Friday, April 5

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