ABC13 Renters' Rights: Tenants' top questions answered on crime problems, added-on fees, and more

Courtney Carpenter Image
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
ABC13 Renters' Rights: Houston attorney answers tenants' top questions
From crime problems to added-on service fees, it can be difficult to know where the responsibility lies for renters. ABC13 spoke with an expert to answer tenants' top questions.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Renters reach out to ABC13 to find answers to their questions and concerns about where they live. From crime problems to added-on service fees, it can be difficult to know where the responsibility lies.

ABC13 reached out to a Houston-area attorney, Richard Amagwula, to help answer some top questions Eyewitness News has received from viewers.

Tamara in northeast Houston said she moved out of her complex after being concerned about crime and her safety. Someone else moved in, but she ended up with a big bill.

Q: If someone else takes over your lease, are you still responsible for paying rent?

A: "So as a tenant, even if you leave early and they find a new tenant, you may still have a requirement to pay additional or additional rent that is required for the remainder of your lease," Amagwula said.

Amagwula explained that tenants could also be on the hook if the landlord could not rent out the unit for as much money as they were paying. You may be responsible for paying the difference.

Q: Lisa in Pasadena wants to know: Can an apartment complex decide to use an outside service to do utility billing that will end up adding extra fees to my rent payment?

A: The attorney ABC13 spoke with says you will have to look at your lease to see if there was anything about the fees in there. A tenant can be responsible for these kinds of fees, even if the cost goes up. However, if the landlord is trying to enforce a provision that is not in your lease at all, you should notify them of that in writing and, at that point, should not be required to pay the fee.

Q: Tia in southwest Houston asked if there is any recourse if you've been a victim of a crime at your apartment complex?

The attorney said it's possible to get some financial recourse in this situation under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, which holds the landlord responsible for other tenants who create disturbances.

A: "You'd first have to point out that covenant itself and then actually prove that the landlord has actually breached that covenant. From there, obviously, if the court agrees and sees that the landlord has breached that covenant, there's some possibility of some financial recourse, but obviously, you have to go through the process of litigation to get there," Amagwula said.

Rodnisha from the Alief area said the complex where she lives had ongoing issues with the hot water, leaving her and her children going days at a time without hot water each month.

Q: How long can apartments keep you without hot water?

Amagwula explained that if the complex is actively trying to fix the problem, there's no set timeframe for how many days they have to do so. However, if the issue is not being worked on, this tenant should make repair requests in writing. If there's still no solution, that's when the tenant can decide if they want to start the litigation process or seek to end her lease.

Q: After a renter has filled out an application, can an apartment change its rent price without notification?

A: Unfortunately, according to the attorney we spoke with, there is probably not much you can do about this because, typically, applications are not binding agreements, so you likely would not be able to hold the complex accountable for a breach of contract because they changed the price after you filled out the application and planned to move there.

Q: Do landlords have to give renters a heads-up when maintenance crews will be inside their homes?

Amagwula said it depends on what kind of repair it is. If it is a mandatory repair or an emergency repair, generally, landlords do not have to give notice before coming to your apartment.

A: "You may see for routine repairs or routine visits to the property that the landlord has a requirement to provide you with 24 hours notice or reasonable notice depending on what they're actually coming to the property for. Generally speaking, there are situations where notice is not required for the landlord to either come on to the property or to make these mandatory repairs," Amagwula explained.

Do you have questions about your rent? Are you struggling to get help from a landlord? Send us your questions, and we will look into it.

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