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Requested Locks And Security Devices

What must the property owner or Houston apartment rental complex manager do at apartment resident’s request?
A Houston apartment rental resident may also ask for certain security devices that the rental property owner or apartment manager must install, but the apartment resident must pay for them. If an apartment resident requests, a rental property owner or apartment manager must install:

1. a keyed deadbolt on an exterior door if the door has a doorknob lock but not a keyed deadbolt or keyless bolting device but not a keyed deadbolt or doorknob lock

NOTE: The rental property owner or apartment manager does not have to install a deadbolt or doorknob lock if at the time the apartment resident agrees to lease the apartment in Houston, Texas, at least one exterior door usable for normal entry, has both a keyed deadbolt and a keyless bolting device, and all other exterior doors have a keyless bolting device.

2. Security bar on each exterior sliding glass door if the door already has a pin lock and a handle latch;

AND

3. Additional re-keying or changing of a lock as many times as the Houston apartment rental resident wants.

The rental property owner or apartment manager must pay for all locks required without apartment resident’s request and for changing or re-keying locks at the apartment resident turnover date. The apartment resident is only required to pay for the installation or re-keying of locks described in this section. The rental property owner or apartment manager may require advance payment if a written lease authorizes such advance payment and the apartment resident is either more than 30 days delinquent in reimbursing the rental property owner or apartment manager for previous lock changes or the same lock has been changed within the previous 30 days.

How Does The Tenant Request A Lock?
If the apartment resident has a written lease, the apartment lease agreement can require that the request be in writing. Because verbal requests are difficult to document, it is usually best to make requests in writing whether or not the lease agreement requires it. Written requests should be sent certified mail, return receipt requested or hand delivered with a witness. The apartment resident should keep a copy of the letter.

What If The Landlord Fails To Install A Requested Lock?
If the rental property owner or apartment manager fails to install or repair a lock requested by the apartment resident, the apartment resident may:

1. install or repair the lock and deduct the costs from the next month’s rent payment;

2. unilaterally terminate the lease without court proceedings; or

3. file suit against the rental property owner or apartment manager and get a judgment for:

  • a court order for rental property owner or apartment manager’s compliance;
  • actual damages;
  • punitive damages (if actual damages suffered);
  • civil penalties of one month’s rent plus $500;
  • court costs; and
  • attorney’s fees (except when the suit seeks damages for rental property, personal injuries, or wrongful death).

When Does The Rental Property Owner Or Apartment Manager NOT Have To Follow The Law?
If a apartment resident is obligated to pay for installing or rekeying a lock, the rental property owner or apartment manager has a defense for not following the law if the apartment resident is behind in rent or did not fully pay the costs in advance as requested by the rental property owner or apartment manager. The fact that a apartment resident is behind in rent or owes money is not defense for failing to install the security devices required by law described earlier. A lawyer or the Austin Apartment residents’ Council should be consulted if there are any questions about this section.

What Else Does the Law Say?
1. If either the apartment resident or the rental property owner or apartment manager files suit in court to harass the other person, they can be held liable for a civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $100 plus attorney fees.

2. The apartment resident cannot waive (give up) the right to have locks, even in a written lease. This means that any lease provision under which the apartment resident agrees that the rental property owner or apartment manager does not have to provide locks is unenforceable.

3. The rental property owner or apartment manager may not charge more than the total cost of labor, material, taxes, and extra keys when a apartment resident must pay for a security device.

4. The expenses of rekeying locks for purposes of the use of the rental property owner or apartment manager’s master key must be paid by the rental property owner or apartment manager.

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