Texas Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Provide supply of hot water and maintain smoke detectors in good working condition (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 7 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenants can’t withhold rent, but they have right to repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Texas does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs No
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Only if person in mobile home is renter, not owner
Condos Only if person in condo is renter, not owner
Hotels/Motels No

Additionally, rental agreements are not allowed to include any provisions that waive the tenant’s right to live in a habitable residence.

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Texas, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Hot water only
Provide working HVAC equipment. Not addressed
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Not addressed
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Not addressed
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Not addressed
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Not addressed
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. Not addressed

Security

In addition to the above requirements, the landlord cannot remove any windows or doors, or locks/latches and hinges for windows and doors, unless it is to repair/replace the item that was removed. In that instance, the repair/replacement must be done “promptly.”

Landlords are also required to provide locks for all exterior doors and latches for all exterior windows.

Additional Landlord Duties

As you can see from the chart above, state law doesn’t specifically address landlords’ maintenance requirements—except for providing hot water and smoke detectors.

For additional landlord duties, you will need to check with the city, town, or municipality in which the rental unit is located to determine whether there are other rules and regulations that lay out minimum requirements in other areas.

For any steps under the next section, Addressing Habitability Issues, it may be best for tenants to obtain legal counsel or seek legal advice before proceeding in any action on their own.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord. Landlords will then have 7 days to repair the problem.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are not required to give the landlord access to the rental unit unless it is written into the rental agreement, except in an emergency. Generally, if the rental agreement does include a provision concerning access, it must also include “reasonable” notice to the tenants prior to entry.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Texas landlord tenant law does not permit tenants to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
  2. Repair and deduct – tenants have the right to make the necessary repairs themselves and take the cost out of their next monthly rent payment provided that the total cost of repairs do not exceed the amount of one month’s rent under the lease or $500, whichever is greater.
  3. Lawsuit – tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

Under Texas law, it is unlawful for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for complaining in good faith about necessary repairs for a period of six months from the date the tenant made such a complaint.

Sources