When to Fight for Rights to Repairs
Finding an apartment in Houston entitles you to certain rights. Once you sign the lease agreement to an unfurnished Houston apartment, you are automatically entitled to certain privileges. Unlike apartment owners, you are not responsible for making all repairs. Rental property owner or apartment managers are required by the rental property owner–apartment resident law to keep things in a "fit and habitable condition" during your residency at the apartment complex. If the rental property owner or apartment manager fails to do this for your unfurnished Houston apartment, you may have to get a bit aggressive.
Although the specifics of these requirements will vary slightly from state to state*, the responsibilities of rental property owner or apartment managers are generally the same, which you should keep in mind when finding an apartment in Houston. Some of the typical rental property owner or apartment manager responsibilities include:
- Putting and keeping the premises of Texas apartments for rent in a fit and habitable condition.
- Keeping the common areas of the property safe and sanitary.
- Complying with building, housing, health, and safety codes.
- Keeping all electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems and fixtures in the apartment in good working order.
- Maintaining all appliances and equipment supplied or required to be supplied by the rental property owner or apartment manager. Providing running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat, unless the hot water and heat are supplied by an installation that is under the exclusive control of the apartment resident and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up.
If the rental property owner or apartment manager does not fulfill these duties, and you have been a responsible apartment resident (keeping all fixtures and appliances clean and undamaged), you need to be aggressive. Now by "being aggressive" I do not mean slashing your rental property owner or apartment manager's tires and leaving threatening messages on his or her answering machine. I simply mean that you shouldn't let your rental property owner or apartment manager convince you that the repairs "aren't that important" or that they'll "get to them whenever they get a chance."
The first step you need to take is to let your rental property owner or apartment manager know there is a problem. According to Neighborhood Link, an on-line web site for the people of Ohio, "If a rental property owner or apartment manager does not meet the duties imposed by the Rental property owner-Apartment resident law... then an apartment resident may give the rental property owner or apartment manager a written notice to correct the condition. This notice must be in writing and delivered to the person or at the place where the apartment resident normally pays rent. The apartment resident should keep a copy of this notice."
It is incredibly important to have a written notice. Don't assume that your rental property owner or apartment manager will remember that you told him or her there was a leaky faucet in apartment 3G while you were walking by. Rental property owner or apartment managers are busy people! So, providing physical copy of a letter will actually help them remember there is a problem. Not only will this be easier on your rental property owner or apartment manager, but in case your rental property owner or apartment manager refuses to make the repair, you can use your copy of the notice as a defense. If you tried to take your rental property owner or apartment manager to court without a copy of the written request, you wouldn't have any substantial evidence to back up your claim. However, if you provide the judge with a typed, signed and dated copy of the request for repairs, the chances of getting those repairs made to your apartment are much higher.
A proper written notice should include a list of the problems in the apartment, a reasonable date for completion (about thirty days) and it should be signed by you, the rental property owner or apartment manager and dated. Make sure both you and your rental property owner or apartment manager have copies with original signatures, and you might want to get them notarized.
Most rental property owner or apartment managers will make the requested repairs, and you won't have to worry about anything after that. However, there's a chance that your rental property owner or apartment manager will continually put off the repairs or simply refuse to make them. This is when you must move to step two.
Neighborhood link states that "If the rental property owner or apartment manager fails to correct the condition within a reasonable time, (usually about thirty days) then the apartment resident may terminate the rental agreement." In order to do this, you are required to provide the rental property owner or apartment manager with a written notification of your residency termination. (This is sort of like putting in your two weeks notice at a job you plan to quit.)
In some states, there is one final remedy in the event that a rental property owner or apartment manager fails to make repairs. According to their laws on apartment resident rights & responsibilities, the apartment resident can "make the repairs on his or her own, in which case the apartment resident may deduct the expense for the repairs from the rent." This might involve going to small claims court, but if you have a copy of the signed and dated repair request, getting reimbursed shouldn't be too much of a problem.