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Federal and state law prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability.  More information on these protections and what to do if you feel you are being discriminated against, can be found at Know Your Fair Housing Rights | / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Renters with disabilities may have the right to certain reasonable accommodations or modifications to the property.  In some cases, a resident may have a disability-related need for an emotional support animal (ESA).  If the disability-related need for an ESA(or other requested reasonable accommodations or modifications) is not readily apparent, rental property owners may require some types of verification before agreeing to accept the animal.  Not all animals are eligible to be ESAs and the verification must be from a reliable third party (not, for example, just an online service in which there is no doctor-patient relationship or other knowledge of the need associated with the request).  While a resident who needs an emotional support animal does not need to pay an animal deposit or other animal-related fees such as pet rent, ESAs must behave and follow community rules and renters are still responsible for any damage caused by the ESA.

Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division

Regardless of whether the lease requires you to have renters’ insurance, you should consider having coverage to help cover personal losses in case of burglary, fire, natural disasters, or other catastrophes. The property owner’s insurance does not cover your personal belongings against loss. Renter’s insurance can also help if you are liable to the owner and others for certain acts which are normally covered by insurance policies.

You should also consider flood insurance, which isn’t typically covered by renter’s insurance.  Before signing the lease, Texas law requires you to receive a disclosure about whether the owner is aware if the property you are renting is located within a 100-year flood plain or has flooded within the past five years.  Even if neither of these conditions exist, flood insurance can provide protection in case of flooding.

This Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) video also talks about why it’s important to have renter’s insurance (and in some cases, flood, and liability insurance).  For more information, contact your insurance agent or the TDI.

A security deposit is intended to help cover any damages or money owed at the end of your lease.

What can be deducted from your security deposit?

  1. Any charge specified in the lease or any charge resulting from your breaking the lease.
  2. Charges for damages, wear and tear resulting from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse on your part. “Normal wear and tear” items cannot be deducted.
  3. Unpaid rent and other unpaid charges listed in your lease, such as those for late rent payment, returned checks, missing furniture or fixtures, unreturned keys, etc.
  4. The reasonable cost of cleaning if you fail to properly clean before you leave. Many rental properties have written cleaning instructions for you to follow.

Any deduction must be listed in a written description and itemization mailed to you on or before 30 days after you leave. However, there is no obligation that you be furnished this information if you have not paid all your rent or if you have not given your forwarding address in writing.

Some rental property owners may offer alternatives to paying a security deposit, which are basically a type of insurance product.  Texas law sets forth guidelines and disclosures that the owner must provide when offering this type of option.

Check your lease for provisions outlining when the owner or manager may enter your unit, regardless of whether you are home.

Some reasons may include:

  • Responding to repair requests
  • Performing preventative maintenance
  • Showing the dwelling to prospective buyers or renters,
  • Facilitating property condition inspections by local officials, and
  • Addressing health or safety concerns

The only way the property owner/manager is typically aware of the need to make a repair is if you let them know there is a problem.  This is particularly important if the condition is a risk to the physical health and safety of an ordinary tenant.

Owners want to provide good service to their residents and keep the property in good condition, but sometimes repairs may be delayed by a lack of materials, labor or other factors.

Submit all repair requests in writing and keep a dated copy.

Give the owner/manager written notice of the needed repairs and keep a dated copy.  If you don’t receive a response within a reasonable time, reach back out to the the owner/manager both orally and in writing.

Texas law provides specific protections in cases that involve needed repairs for locks and door viewers, a lack of hot water or any condition that materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary resident.

If the needed repair falls into this more serious category and don’t get a response, you may have legal grounds to exercise statutory rights of lease termination, compulsory repairs, damages, penalties, third-party repair and deduct, and attorney’s fees. (Instead of giving two separate written notices, you can give a single notice if it meets certain standards provided under state law.)

Specific procedures must be followed for statutory remedies. Repairs of problems resulting in mere discomfort or inconvenience are not covered by the statute.

If the property owner/manager hasn’t resolved the problem and you believe the condition violates health/safety codes or other local ordinances, you may want to consider contacting the city code enforcement or county health department.

Criminal activity may occur anywhere and ultimately staying safe in your home is your personal responsibility.  Neither TAA nor apartment owners/managers are crime prevention experts.  Many police departments and others provide crime prevention tips for renters that are readily available.

Many properties have limited access gates and/or cameras in common areas that are intended to aid in managing the property.  From time to time, limited access gates may malfunction.

Texas law requires that rental dwellings have certain locks and door viewers. For example, exterior doors must generally have a doorknob lock or a keyed deadbolt, a keyless lock (with certain exceptions for elderly or disabled residents) and a door viewer. Sliding glass doors must have a pin lock and a security bar or door handle latch.

Texas law also requires the owner to rekey all exterior door locks between the time the prior resident moved out and the seventh day after you move in.

If the owner fails to install or rekey required devices, you have the right to do so and deduct the reasonable cost from your next rent payment.

Subject to some limitations, you may also request locks and door viewers to be added, changed, or rekeyed, but you must pay for them unless the device is required by statute when occupancy begins.

Fire Safety Tips for Renters

Fire safety is important for everyone.  Learn how to prevent fires, what to do if one occurs, and how to recover after. You should be familiar with  your surroundings and have a plan for what to do in case of an emergency.

  • Test smoke alarms regularly and keep replacement batteries handy
  • Never disable a smoke alarm
  • Have an evacuation plan for you and your pets.
  • If a fire occurs, get out, stay out and call 9-1-1.

Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

All rental dwellings must have smoke alarms installed by the owner. Hearing-impaired residents may also request installation of visual smoke alarms.  In certain cities, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors may also be required.

You are responsible for replacing batteries during your lease term and checking to make sure that the smoke alarm and/or CO detector is working.

It is against the law to disable or disconnect a smoke alarm or to remove working batteries without replacing them. Anyone who disables a smoke alarm may also be responsible for damages if a fire occurs. Likewise, never disable or disconnect a CO detector.  Report any malfunctioning smoke alarms or CO detectors to management immediately.

Fire Safety Resources

View TAA’s free “Stay Safe” fire safety tips video below.  Thanks to the Coppell Fire Department for its assistance in filming these videos.
TAA Fire Safety Tips for Students
TAA Fire Prevention Tips for Students downloadable checklists and fact sheets (including in Spanish) How to Prepare for Fire Emergencies
Texas State Fire Marshal’s “Have an Exit Strategy” website
National Fire Protection Association.

You are entitled to be given the name and mailing address of the owner and/or the name and street address of the property management company by giving a written request to the manager.

This information is also available to government officials acting in an official capacity.