Generally, the implied warranty of habitability requires a landlord to maintain their rental property in a manner that makes it livable. However, each state interprets the warranty somewhat differently. While there is a warranty of habitability in Texas, it's pretty open-ended—and requires action on the tenant’s part before it applies.
Texas’s warranty of habitability is relatively broad
Although the warranty of habitability is defined by Texas state law, it still leaves a lot of room open for interpretation. Instead of including a list of specific requirements for habitable rental units—such as a functional plumbing system or a working lock on the front door—Texas law simply states that landlords have to fix anything that “materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant."1 The one exception is for hot water supply. State statutes do note that any problem arising from a landlord's failure to provide a hot water supply at a minimum of 120°F is definitely a breach of the warranty.
Texas’s warranty of habitability is contingent on three things
In most states, the warranty of habitability applies no matter what. This isn’t the case in Texas, where a tenant must inform their landlord of the problem before the warranty goes into effect. For a tenant to successfully use the warranty of habitability as a defense in court, three conditions must be met:2
- The tenant must notify the landlord of the problem
- The tenant can't be behind on rent at the time notice is given
- The problem must either a) materially affect the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant or b) arise from the landlord's failure to supply hot water at a minimum temperature of 120°F
There are some scenarios in which the warranty doesn’t apply
A landlord isn't required by law to repair an issue caused by a tenant or their guests, family members, or pets.3 Also, if the repairs were caused by a casualty loss—something like a hailstorm, a flood, or a fire—a landlord doesn't have to make a repair until they receive the insurance money.4
Landlords have seven days to make repairs
Although the warranty is relatively open-ended about which issues constitute a breach, Texas law is very specific about what is considered a “reasonable” amount of time to make repairs. Landlords have seven days to repair the problem—or explain why they can’t—before a tenant can exercise one of three remedies available to them by law. This period may be shorter, however, if the problem with the rental is very severe.5
Tenants have several options to deal with a breach of the warranty
If a tenant has informed their landlord of the breach, waited seven days, and the problem persists, they can respond in one of several ways. First, a tenant could “repair and deduct”—that is, make the necessary repairs themselves and take the cost out of their next monthly rent payment. Or, a tenant could terminate their lease and claim constructive eviction if their landlord ends up suing them for unpaid rent.
Finally, a tenant could take their landlord to court and pursue one of five judicial remedies6 allowed:
- A court order directing the landlord to take reasonable steps to repair the condition
- A court order that reduces the tenant’s rent according to the decreased rental value resulting from the condition
- A judgment for one month’s rent plus $500
- A judgment for the amount of the tenant’s actual damages
Court costs and attorneys’ fees excluding those relating to recoveries for personal injury
If the tenant wins the case, the court cannot award them more than $10,000 (including repair costs, but excluding interest and court costs).7
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.