Under Texas state law, landlords must provide their tenants a safe residence. Sometimes, however, lack of maintenance results in fires or other catastrophes.

Before renting a property in Texas, renters should understand their landlord’s responsibilities and the steps they can take if they or a family member suffers a serious injury or wrongful death in a rental home.

Understanding landlord health and safety responsibilities

Texas tenants can demand repair for any aspect of the apartment or rental home that negatively impacts their safety or health. Landlords must also provide working smoke detectors and security devices such as security bars, pin locks, handle latches, deadbolts and window latches.

When landlords fail to provide these items or make necessary repairs, the tenants can request repair up to $10,000 in justice court. However, landlords do not have legal responsibility to repair conditions caused by tenants, occupants or visitors.

Resolving dangerous conditions

Tenants have several legal options when the landlord refuses to maintain safe premises. Depending on the circumstances, they may be able to file a lawsuit, end the lease or fix the problem independently and deduct the cost of the repairs from their rent. To seek a legal remedy, the tenant must:

  • Send a letter to the landlord that details the required repairs and notes the current date. The tenant can either give this document to the landlord in person or send it by registered or certified mail.
  • After the landlord receives this letter, he or she has about seven days to make the necessary repairs. Otherwise, the tenant must send a follow-up notice letter.
  • If the landlord still does not reapir the issue after the second letter, the tenant can legally terminate his or her lease, sue the landlord or deduct the repair cost from the next rent payment.

Before taking any of these steps, tenants may want to seek legal counsel. Although Texas law prevents landlords from retaliating against tenants who seek repairs, they may seek eviction if the tenant’s rent is not current.