Renter's Rights and Guidelines
It is important to know what you are agreeing to and what your rights are when renting property. Remember to read your lease before signing it and ask any questions you feel are necessary. Also, keep a copy of your lease and other important papers for reference later.
Renter's Issues Guide
A landlord must make an effort to repair or replace items he or she supplies if the condition is caused by normal wear and tear and:
- You describe the condition to your landlord (in writing if required by your lease)
- You have paid your rent on time when the description is written
- The condition materially affects an ordinary tenant's physical health or safety.
A landlord must make repairs in a "reasonable time" — meaning the time it would take a reasonable person to repair or replace the item — or provide a written explanation of the delay on or before the fifth day after receiving the tenant's letter.
If you have paid your utilities on time, a landlord cannot shut them off except in cases of emergency or for repair. Electricity may be shut off for repair only during normal business hours and cannot be intentionally turned off at all on days when the landlord or manager is not available.
If you fail to pay your rent or utilities, a landlord must:
- Wait until you are at least seven days late in payment
- Provide a written warning at least five days in advance of turning off utilities stating the exact date of disconnection.
Failure to Pay Rent
If you fail to pay rent, a landlord can change your locks following a written warning mailed five days prior or three days prior if hand delivered or posted on the inside of your front door. The warning must tell you where to go to pay your rent, where you can pay late rent and a number answered 24 hours a day that you can call to get a new key within two hours.
The landlord must provide a new key at any hour, even if you do not pay any of the late rent. Failure to pay rent, however, may be grounds for eviction.
If stated in bold or underlined print with specific steps in your lease agreement, a landlord may enter a residence and seize property to sell to pay the amount of rent owed. A landlord cannot take:
- Tools and books of a trade or profession
- School books
- Family libraries
- Family portraits or pictures
- One couch, two living room chairs
- Beds, blankets, sheets or pillows
- Kitchen furniture and utensils
- Medicine and medical supplies
- One car and one truck
- Agricultural tools
- Children's toys not commonly used by adults
- Items the landlord or representative knows to be owned by someone other than the tenant
- Items the landlord or representative knows to be security for a loan.
Following a minimum 24-hour "Notice to Vacate" or a "Notice of Proposed Eviction" informing a tenant that he or she has broken lease terms, a landlord may file an eviction lawsuit to remove you from the property. The notice can be mailed to you, hand delivered to any tenant over the age of 16 or posted on the inside of your front door.
Grounds for eviction in leases vary, but generally include:
- Failure to pay rent
- Breaking any criminal law
- Violated rules or policies of the apartment or residential community
- Violating the pet policy
- Letting people live in your residence who are not on the lease agreement
- Moving out early
- Having illegal drugs or paraphernalia in your residence
- Disturbing the rights and convenience of neighbors or guests
- Incorrect information on your lease application.
State law allows for eviction if the residence is used for prostitution; to display or distribute obscene material; for the sale, distribution or display of material harmful to minors; or possession or promotion of children pornography.
If you have additional questions regarding issues with a landlord or possible eviction, contact one of the following agencies:
Better Business Bureau
West Texas Legal Services
|Union Gospel Mission Homeless Legal Clinic
1331 E. Lancaster Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
Residents in Fort Worth Housing Authority property also may contact:
Tenant Complaints and Landlord Concerns Program Information
Apartment Association of Tarrant County
Customer Inquiries and Complaints Help Line