Texas Housers is working to make sure that Texas’s laws are fairer to tenants. We are advocating several improvements to tenant/landlord laws, including the following:
- Make it easier for a tenant to give proper notice for repairs.
- Ensure that tenants live in safe and habitable units. The landlord should be required to ensure that the rented unit be safe and habitable and fully compliant with local building code standards when the tenant moves in. If the landlord does not promptly address serious health and safety issues, the tenant should be allowed to withhold rent payments until the issue is repaired or remedied.
- Protect tenants from retaliation. Make retaliation and harassment protections permanent, not just for six months. Residents in mobile home parks should be protected from retaliation for participating in a tenant organization like tenants in traditional tenancies.
- Add a “Pay and Stay Provision.” Give tenants the opportunity to cure for nonpayment of rent up to the date of judgment for eviction.
- Reform the Notice to Vacate and Create an Opportunity to Cure. Because tenants often confuse a Notice to Vacate with an eviction, the Legislature should require the notice to state that it is not an eviction and provide tenants with contact information for legal help. The Notice should also state the reason for its issuance. Further, parties should not be allowed to contract for a shorter time period to vacate than the three-day statutory minimum. Before a notice to vacate is issued, a landlord must give a tenant, who defaults for nonpayment of rent, a ten-day written notice, and opportunity to cure the default.
- Protect tenants’ dignity and privacy. Require landlords to give a 24-hour written notice to tenants before entering except for emergencies.
- Regulate landlord-imposed fines and fees. Landlords often charge tenants excessive fees on top of their rent. Aside from the basic utilities of gas, water and electricity, any mandatory fees should be included as part of the rent.
- Protect tenants from predatory late fee practices. Require that late rent payments be applied to rent first and late fees only when rent is fully paid. Tenants should not be evicted and lose their homes for owing late fees. Late fees should also never be higher than the lesser of $75 or 10% of the total rent.
- Ban lockouts: Landlords should be prohibited from changing tenants’ locks when they are delinquent paying rent.
- Protect tenants’ rights in disaster. Landlords should provide tenants notice before lease signing that their property is in the floodplain.
- Limit the dissemination of eviction records. Limit the public dissemination of eviction filings from the general public until judgment is rendered. If the case is dismissed, or judgment is for the tenant, or after 3 years, the record should remain sealed.
- Make it easier for re-entering tenants to find housing. Prohibit landlords from enacting blanket-bans on occupancy for tenants who have criminal records. Require instead that landlords perform individualized assessments considering factors, such as the length of time since the crime occurred and mitigating circumstances.
Many organizations around the country and state are taking action on housing issues. Here are a few opportunities to get involved.