“Repair and deduct” is a tactic tenants can use if a negligent landlord won't make serious repairs to their rental unit. Although the general concept is the same across the board—the tenant takes care of the repair themselves and then subtracts the cost from their rent payment—the details vary between states.
In Texas, tenants are allowed to repair and deduct, but the law is incredibly specific about what situations it can be used for. There's a good chance tenants will need the help of a local building, health, or housing inspector.
Tenants must follow a specific process to repair and deduct
It's more complicated for a tenant to repair and deduct in Texas than some other states. First, the issue must violate the warranty of habitability in Texas. Second, the tenant must have already contacted the landlord to inform them of the problem with the unit. (If the first notice wasn’t sent by certified mail, then the tenant must send a second one after waiting seven days.) One of those notices must mention that the tenant plans to repair the problem and include a reasonable description of the intended repair.
Finally, the issue has to fall into one of the five categories outlined below:1
- There is a backup or overflow of raw sewage inside the unit
- There is flooding from broken pipes or natural drainage inside the unit
- There is no running water (assuming the landlord agreed to provide water)
- The landlord has agreed to furnish heating or cooling and the equipment is not working adequately, and the landlord has been notified in writing by a local health, housing, or building official that the lack of heating or cooling materially affects health or safety of an ordinary tenant
- The landlord has been notified in writing by a local health, housing, or building official that the condition materially affects health or safety of an ordinary tenant
That means that, unless a tenant’s issue involves raw sewage, flooding, or a lack of running water, they will have to contact the local government to get an inspector out to survey their unit before they can legally repair and deduct.
A tenant must wait a maximum of seven days to repair and deduct
A tenant must wait seven days after notifying their landlord of most issues before they can hire a repair person. There are a few exceptions, however. If the issue involves serious flooding or sewage problems, a tenant can make the repairs immediately after providing proper notice. If the problem is a lack of drinking water, heat, or air conditioning, they only have to wait three days.2
A landlord can delay the timeline in certain cases
If a landlord is having trouble purchasing the necessary parts for a repair—or if a natural disaster occurred and there’s a shortage of available contractors—they can extend the timeline for repairs. Repairs can be delayed by either:
- 15 days, if the landlord is having trouble obtaining the necessary parts to make the repair
- 30 days, if a natural disaster (such as a hurricane, flood, extended freeze, or major windstorm) has caused a general shortage of labor or materials for repair
To legally extend the repair process, a landlord must deliver an affidavit of delay to the tenant. The affidavit must include the reasons for the delay, including details like the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of contractors and repair people contacted by the landlord. A landlord could be subject to severe penalties if they issue an affidavit of delay in bad faith.3
The cost of the repair can’t exceed one month’s rent or $500
Repair and deduct can be used by a tenant in Texas as often as needed, but the total deductions in one month can’t be more than one month’s rent or $500—whichever is greater.4 The money can only be deducted from the next month’s rental payment. When a tenant pays their reduced rent, they must provide a copy of the repair bill and a receipt for its payment.5
Tenants can’t make their own repairs
All repairs must be made by a company or a contractor that's listed in the phone book or classified ads. Nor can they have any personal connections or business connections with the tenant requesting the repairs. A tenant cannot deduct for any repairs made themselves unless the landlord agrees to it (an agreement that should be made in writing).6
Rent withholding is illegal in Texas
Although Texas allows tenants to repair and deduct, state law does not allow another common remedy: withholding rent until the landlord finally makes repairs. If the needed repairs would cost more than a month's worth of rent, tenants may have the option of terminating their lease entirely and moving out.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.