Texas Landlords Will Forced To Be Slightly Less Abusive in 2014

Greedy slumlords have a lot of leeway in Texas to stomp on renters as they please. But starting Wednesday, that will change -- slightly. Under new legislation that went into effect yesterday, landlords are no longer allowed to hide your own lease from you or retaliate against you. Landlords, we think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Anyone who knows anything about contract law might be surprised to learn that hiding a lease from the very same renter who signed that lease is, in fact, a thing.

But there was never anything in the Texas Property Code that explicitly banned hiding the rental agreement. So, naturally, certain landlords saw an opening there and just went for it.

"We see people fairly frequently that only have a page or two of their lease," says Sandy Rollins, the Executive Director of the Texas Tenants' Union, an organization that gives free legal advice to tenants. "We also have people that have to request repeatedly for their contract. ... We wanted something on the books that said the tenant had a right to a copy."

Enter Senate Bill 630, a bipartisan bill authored by none other than Senator John Carona, the lawmaker who is usually known for screwing the little guy in favor of big business. Well, not this time. In fact, the apartment industry and real estate industry also threw their support behind this bill -- everyone agrees that you can't hide contracts from people who signed them and are giving you money.

The bill, signed into law this June, states that "a landlord must provide at least one complete copy of the lease to at least one tenant who is a party to the lease" within three business days.

The bill also amends the retaliation part of the Texas property code. Now, landlords can't go on a revenge spree against tenants who establish or just participate in a tenants' organization.

"Tenants should also have the right to meet with their neighbors to deal with common problems and to form a group without fear of retaliation," Alice Basey, board president of the Texas Tenants' Union, said in a statement. "Now we'll be able to do that, when needed, and be protected from eviction."

So, while it's still legal for your landlord to sue you for a bogus rental "discount" or to tow your run-down car, at least now you can form a support group to talk about it without fear.

In a press release, Rollins adds: "While more advances are needed to protect tenants from unfair situations, we are happy that these two laws are now on the books."

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn