Apartment complexes responsible for fixing broken heaters

The last thing you want to see right now is your heater go out. If it does, and you're renting, you have some rights
January 3, 2014 8:29:48 PM PST
The last thing you want to see tonight? The heater go out. For some renters here in Houston, the heat has been out for days. Renters in one complex have been dealing with the cold after the heaters broke down more than a week ago.

Marianna Jessee says her west Houston apartment has been cold since before Christmas.

"The heat just stopped working; every time you turn on the air, it blows cold air," Jessee said.

Jessee says over the last 11 days she's called, spoken in person with, and left messages for the complex management. Each time she's been told the same thing.

"They were ordering the part for the unit and they expected it in a few days," Jessee said.

Apartment complexes in Houston must follow the rules when it comes to providing heat.

"The habitability inspectors check that on a regular basis and they respond to complaints," said Andy Teas with the Houston Apartment Association.

Teas says renters without heat can call 311 to file a complaint, but first he says make sure complex managers know the heat is off. Teas adds most complexes have people on standby to fix these issues.

In Jessee's case, the heater broke down and the management knew. However, complexes are given a reasonable time to fix problems.

"Reasonable depends on weather conditions, the availability of labor and materials and things like that," Teas said.

While we were speaking with Jessee, a note appeared on her door. The complex is getting a temporary generator because parts for the 44-year-old main unit have not yet arrived.

"So we should have heat tonight. Yay!" Jessee said.

When can you just walk away from a lease? When there is a problem that materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary resident, and our experts says no heat with no plan to fix it would qualify.

To have a lease voided, our expert says renter should go to JP court and file for breach of lease.

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