Here, learn how to ask for repairs and what to do if your landlord won't perform the necessary repairs.
Special thanks to the Austin Tenants Council, Austin Community Law Center, and the Texas Justice Courts Training Center for contributing to this article.
What kinds of repairs is my landlord required to make?
The law requires your landlord to repair conditions that affect ordinary tenants' physical health and safety. These could include roaches, rats, sewage leaks, roof leaks, faulty electrical wiring, and normal wear and tear to the unit (such as ripped carpeting or broken flooring). Landlords are not required to provide security guards. Depending on where you live, local housing laws may hold landlords to higher repair standards. People with disabilities may have the right to additional repairs. Landlords must also repair damage caused by emergencies like fires, hailstorms, hurricanes, and flooding. In these cases, the landlord can wait to make repairs until the insurance company pays the property damage claim. If your unit is uninhabitable because of a fire, for example, you can terminate your lease without penalty if you do it in writing.
See the Austin Tenants' Council website for more information on what conditions a landlord must provide.
Can my landlord refuse to make repairs?
Yes, your landlord does not have to pay for repairs:
- If you are behind on rent payments. The law treats rent, the right to repairs, and the refund of security deposits differently. Always pay your rent on time.
- If you, your roommates, family members, or guests created a condition that needs repair; for example, if your guest punched a hole in the wall and broke a window, your landlord does not have to pay for repairs.
Can my landlord evict me if I ask for repairs?
No. Your landlord cannot retaliate against you for requesting repairs that affect your health and safety. If you pay rent on time and comply with the lease terms, for the next six months from your request to repair, your landlord can’t evict you, terminate your lease or increase your rent (unless the increase is scheduled or it affects all of the units).
How do I ask my landlord for repairs?
Important: Pay your rent on time so that your landlord can’t try to evict you instead of making the repairs.
- Take pictures of the conditions that need repair.
- Give written notice to your landlord about the repairs. If you send it by certified mail return receipt requested, you only need to do this once. Otherwise, you will need to send a second notice. Be very specific about the repairs needed. Keep a copy of the written notice and the pictures.
- Give the landlord a reasonable time to make repairs, at least seven days, unless the repair need is urgent and requires a quicker response (for example, a roof leak or sewage overflow).
The Austin Tenants Council’s Self-Help Repair Packet can help you request repairs.
Can I make my own repairs?
It is usually not a good idea to try to repair the condition yourself or to call in your own repair person. Special laws apply in these situations. You might not get reimbursed for your time and money. If you make the damage or condition worse, you might have to pay more than you expected.
My written request for repairs has been ignored. What now?
If your landlord ignores your request or keeps putting off the repairs, you should make a second written request to your landlord and ask for a written explanation about why repairs haven’t been made. You do not have to send a second notice if you sent the first one by certified mail.
If the repairs still aren’t made, here are some options:
- Terminate the lease: If repairs aren’t made, you gave proper notice, and you don’t owe rent, you can terminate your lease. Give written notice about why you are terminating and the date you will vacate the unit. You have the right to a refund for rent already paid for the days you won’t be there. You are entitled to a refund of your security deposit minus damages the landlord can deduct according to your lease.
- Go to court: Sue your landlord to make the repairs and for damages. A court can order your landlord to make repairs, reduce your rent from the date you asked for repairs, and award you damages caused by failure to repair, damages of one month’s rent plus $500, court costs, and attorney’s fees. You can sue in the Justice of the Peace court, where you will not need a lawyer, and the court should hear your case quickly, as soon as ten days from when you file your lawsuit. (Claims in Justice Court are limited to $20,000, plus court costs and interest. If your damages are more than $20,000, consult an attorney.)
I have to go to court. Are there any forms I can use?
Yes. You can use the Texas Justice Court Training Center's Repair and Remedy forms. You file such "repair and remedy suits" in Small Claims Court (also known as "Justice Court"), which hears most types of landlord-tenant cases. Read How to Sue in Small Claims Court. See also the Austin Tenants Council's Self-Help Repair Packet.
Where can I read the law on repairs?
Texas Property Code sections 92.052 through 92.061 describe your right to repairs. It also explains what tenants must do to enforce their rights. It also explains what remedies are available for a if the fails to make the repairs. It also explains that tenants must give proper in to get their repair remedies.
Also read Repair Rights by the Austin Tenants Council.
This article provides information about unlawful utility disconnection in Texas.
General explanation of residential tenant rights in Texas.
Tenants with health issues have protections against discrimination.