Good-Faith Complaints About Maintenance to Gov’t or Nonprofit
Activity Regarding a Tenant Organization
Landlord Retaliatory Actions
Reducing Access / Services
Bad-Faith Interference With Tenant’s Rights
Penalties for Retaliation
All Tenant’s Costs + Civil Penalty
When Is It Illegal for Landlords to Retaliate in Texas?
It’s illegal for Texas landlords to retaliate withraised rent,reduced services, eviction,orbad-faith interference with tenant rights,against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past six months:
Good-faith exercise of rights under the law or lease.
Good-faith complaints to relevant nonprofits or government agencies about code issues.
Participation in a tenant organization.
The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.
What Can Tenants Do in Response in Texas?
Texas tenants can respond to landlord retaliation with acivil lawsuit seeking costs including court and attorney fees(including things like moving costs), plusa civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $500. Tenants might also seek an injunction to compel repairs or other services.
“(b) A landlord may not, within six months after the date of the tenant’s action under Subsection (a), retaliate against the tenant by: (1) filing an eviction proceeding, except for the grounds stated by Section 92.332; (2) depriving the tenant of the use of the premises, except for reasons authorized by law; (3) decreasing services to the tenant; (4) increasing the tenant’s rent or terminating the tenant’s lease; or (5) engaging, in bad faith, in a course of conduct that materially interferes with the tenant’s rights under the tenant’s lease.”
“(a) A landlord may not retaliate against a tenant by taking an action described by Subsection (b) because the tenant: (1) in good faith exercises or attempts to exercise against a landlord a right or remedy granted to the tenant by lease, municipal ordinance, or federal or state statute; (2) gives a landlord a notice to repair or exercise a remedy under this chapter; (3) complains to a governmental entity responsible for enforcing building or housing codes, a public utility, or a civic or nonprofit agency, and the tenant: (A) claims a building or housing code violation or utility problem; and (B) believes in good faith that the complaint is valid and that the violation or problem occurred; or (4) establishes, attempts to establish, or participates in a tenant organization.”
“In addition to other remedies provided by law, if a landlord retaliates against a tenant under this subchapter, the tenant may recover from the landlord a civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $500, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees in an action for recovery of property damages, moving costs, actual expenses, civil penalties, or declaratory or injunctive relief, less any delinquent rents or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord. If the tenant’s rent payment to the landlord is subsidized in whole or in part by a governmental entity, the civil penalty granted under this section shall reflect the fair market rent of the dwelling plus $500.” (By implication, the statue describes injunctive relief as a potentially available remedy requestable in retaliation cases.)