Owning a rental property can be a great source of passive income. But being a landlord also comes with its share of responsibilities. And one of these is ensuring that the residential property they are leasing is fit for human habitation. But what happens when the landlord fails to ensure that the unit is livable?
If the landlord fails to address a serious problem that makes the rental property unfit for habitation – like a leaking roof or broken HVAC system – you need to figure out your options. And one of the “big sticks” in your arsenal may be whether you can withhold rent or not.
You do have rights when landlords fail in their obligations
As a tenant, you are required to pay rent per the lease contract. Failure to do so can lead to an eviction. However, Texas law exempts you from this penalty under certain circumstances. If the damage to the rental property is not your fault and it is impacting your right to enjoy the property, then you may withhold rent if the landlord is unwilling to heed your appeal.
Texas’ Property Code comes with a “repair and deduct” clause. This provision allows you to fix a hazardous condition or hire a contractor to remedy the fault and subsequently deduct the cost of repair from your monthly rent. However, the following conditions must be met before you can deduct rent:
- The repair in question must never exceed the first month’s rent or be greater than $500.
- You must notify the landlord in writing that you intend to repair the damages in question using part of the rent
- The damages must be the landlord’s responsibility
Whether or not you can withhold rent depends on the circumstances of your case. Understanding Texas residential tenancy laws can help you protect your rights and interests if your landlord has failed to maintain the property.