Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
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If you believe that your landlord is seeking to evict you for asserting your rights as a tenant, your landlord may be retaliating against you in violation of Texas law. Your landlord is restricted for six months from retaliating against you because you gave a repair notice, complained to a city code enforcement agency, public utility, or civic or nonprofit agency, or exercised a right or remedy granted to you by lease, municipal ordinance, or state or federal law. Some examples of illegal retaliation by a landlord might include terminating your lease, deciding not to renew your lease, filing for eviction, depriving you of the use of the premises, decreasing your services, increases your rent, or engaging in activity that materially interferes with your rights under the your lease.
There are several exceptions. For instance, your landlord can increase the rent if the lease has a provision for an increase in the rent due to higher utility taxes or insurance costs. The landlord may also increase the rent or reduce services if it is part of a pattern of rent increases or service reductions for the whole complex. Furthermore, the landlord can still terminate the lease and evict you if you fail to pay your rent, intentionally cause property damage to the premises, threaten the personal safety of the landlord or the landlord's employees, or break a promise you made in your lease.
There are other proper grounds for termination available to the landlord that are not considered retaliatory. Of course, if you received a notice of termination at the end of the lease before you gave the landlord notice to repair, you are not protected. This is why it is a good idea to give the first repair notice in writing, date it, and make a copy for your protection. If fact, the best method is to send the request via certified mail return receipt requested and keep a copy. There may be another exception to obtaining retaliation damages if the landlord legally closes down the premises, but you are typically entitled to damages in that situation.
If the landlord engages in activity that constitutes unlawful retaliation, you may file a lawsuit and seek a court order against your landlord awarding you: (1) one month's rent, plus $500; (2) the reasonable costs to move to another place and other actual damages; and (3) attorney's fees and court costs. You have two years from the date of the violation to file such a lawsuit.