When looking for an apartment for rent in Houston the most important thing to think about is the lease. Carefully read your lease thoroughly before signing it. If there are any questionable issues, don′t sign your lease until the landlord agrees to remove or modify the issue in question. A lease agreement can be either oral or written. The parties involved have the right to make agreements as formal or informal as they like. An oral agreement is valid as long as it is for one year or less. Without something in writing, the law implies that a lease agreement is as long as the period between rent payments. Therefore if you pay rent every month then it is a month-to-month lease agreement. You or your landlord must give at least one month′s notice of terminating the
A written lease guarantees protection between the landlord and tenant by documenting the duties of both parties under given circumstances. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against families. Landlords must rent to anyone regardless of the household. The only restrictions that may be place are those that apply to all applicants. For instance, the number of people per unit can be limited. Only one only one major exception and that is those complexes for seniors. If a complex is at least 80% occupied by tenants over the age of 55 it is not required to allow children. Recent changes to the Fair Housing Act also prohibits the discrimination against handicapped applicants. In the State of Texas, tenants aren′t allowed to sublease unless your lease gives you right to do so or you gain permission from your landlord. If your lease allows you to sublease, you must follow the specific provisions of the agreement. If you do sublease, you
are still responsible for the rent if the subtenant doesn′t pay.
An issue most people are unaware of is that of application fees and deposits. Should your application by denied you are entitled to a full refund of both the application fee and deposit. If the landlord doesn′t not abide to this they may be liable for an amount equal to the sum of $100, three times the amount of the application fee, and the applicant′s legal fees in a suit to recover the deposit. Should you decide not to move it, your landlord should not retain the fee and deposit only if you or your landlord secures a replacement tenant and that tenant occupies the property on or before the commencement date of the lease. If it is the landlord who finds the replacement, they may deduct from the deposit a sum agreed to in the lease as a lease cancellation fee, or expenses incurred by the landlord in replacing the tenant.
When it comes to minor inconveniences your landlord is under no obligation to repair the apartment unless he has agreed to make such repairs. This agreement to make repairs doesn′t need to be in the lease itself. If your landlord has agreed to make such repairs he is obligated as if it were in the written agreement. If your landlord has agreed to make minor repairs verbally or contractually, you should contact him in writing when requesting these repairs be made. If repairs are not made, you can make them yourself and recover the costs in small claims court. Only if the landlord agrees should you deduct the cost of repairs from your monthly rent. If there are conditions that can affect the physical health and safety of the tenant, by law, the landlord is required to make such repairs. Failure to do so may entitle the tenant to withhold rent and have the repairs made, get a rent deduction and a penalty of one month′s rent plus up to $500, or terminate the lease and move-out with out penalty to the tenant. If engaged in a repair dispute with your landlord you are not excused from paying rent.
If you stop paying rent your landlord can still have you evicted. The following steps are the appropriate way of handling a serious repair situation. First, you must give your landlord a written notice of the problem. This should be done via certified mail, return-receipt requested. In the written notice, explain the problem and tell your landlord how and why you feel it may affect your health and safety. Given the facts of the situation, the landlord has a reasonable time to repair the problem. For instance, a leaking roof should take no more than 3 days to repair. If the problem isn′t taken care of in a reasonable time, you should give the landlord a second notice of the problem and also explain that unless the problem is repaired you will end your lease, repair the condition yourself and expect reimbursement, or bring a civil suit for damages. If the landlord still doesn′t make appropriate repairs you have the right to move out, have the condition repaired yourself and ask for reimbursement, sue and force a rent deduction, or recover your damages of one months rent plus up to $500.
If you hire legal council and win the case, your landlord must pay your attorney′s fees. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act applies to lease agreements as well and makes it unlawful to misrepresent the qualities of something. Should a landlord misrepresent the quality of the property he is in violation of the DTPA. For instance, telling a tenant that carpet will be replaced and it isn′t is misrepresentation. Under the DTPA you are entitled to up to three times your damages plus any legal fees involved. Should you decide to move-out before your lease is fulfilled, your landlord has a few options. They can accept your termination and not hold you liable for anymore rent, search for a replacement tenant and recover the costs from you in having done so, or sue you for the rest of the rent due under your lease terms.