It is a big deal if you lose power in the middle of a Houston summer, especially if it takes days to fix the problem. Tenants have asked if they should be compensated or get a discount on their rent when this happens.
Eric Kwartler with Lone Star Legal Aid joined me for an episode of Ask Amy to answer some of your questions about apartment living.
Question: Can you withhold rent if management is not fixing the problem you have?
Answer: “You cannot just say, ‘Well, they are not doing their job, so I’m not going to pay them for it.’ You have to pay your rent. With a repair request, the landlord does have some leeway as long as they’re making a diligent effort to repair the situation,” said Kwartler.
Question: “Who can I call if I feel like my landlord is not making a diligent effort, even if they tell me that they are? But now we’re going on day two or three in August with no electricity or no AC. Is there somebody that I can report that to?”
Answer: “My first thing piece of advice is to send a letter to your landlord via certified mail, return receipt requested. Telling him or her that they need to make whatever repair it is it has to be by certified mail.”
You should send that certified letter even if you have already made the repair request through the apartment’s website or in person in the office. Sending the certified letter is required if you decide later to go to court to ask a judge to let you out of your lease or force the landlord to do something.
Contact for Lone Star Legal Aid.
Question: Can a landlord lock you out of your apartment?
Answer: The short answer is no.
“They have to give you notice several days in advance,” said Kwartler. He added that even when that happens, your landlord must give you a new key when you request it. If you are locked out, they should leave another notice. “So they have to provide a number on there that says you can call this number any time, any day, and you can come and get a new key. You do not have to pay your rent to get a new key.”
In the full episode of Ask Amy, we also discussed the legalities of landlords raising rent, when they can do it and how high they can raise it. You can see the full episode here.
In the Houston area, you can call the Houston Apartment Association and speak with a trained consultant to help answer your questions or to file a complaint against a property owner.
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