What are a tenant’s rights if all landlord/tenant laws were breached by landlord from day one of move in?

Proper inspections were never performed on rental house as required by law. to rent it out. Was never listed with city as a rental. Landlord had prior knowledge of, but never revealed prior to move in, that roof was leaking, major sewer problems, improper heating/cooling system, plus termites and a bug infestation. House has become uninhabitable due to his refusal to fix any issues, even after code enforcement was called to make him comply. Was the lease legal if not properly obtained? Major health issues imminent and personal items damaged due to his neglect. I have no financial means to move. Can he evict when home is uninhabitable?

Asked on July 2, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Texas


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You have a couple of different options.  The first is to give the landlord written notice of the issues that make the residence uninhabitable, give him a reasonable time to repair (usually around seven days), and then give a notice titled second notice--- if he does not fix the issues after the second notice and a reasonable time to repair then you can terminate the lease an move out.  You can also sue him in small claims for rent from the date that you moved in and any damages that you have incurred.  A third option is the "repair and deduct" option of repairing the conditions yourself and then deducting the expenses from your rent payment.  If you are short on funds and/or don't have a way to move out, then your options tend to be somewhat limited-- because filing a case in small claims will usually require the payment of at least court costs up front (even though you can seek recoupment from the landlord later).  Some courts will waive the court costs if you can show the judge that you are indigent-this is rare, but not unheard of.  If you can't do any of these methods, then you do have some other administrative options.  First--- nag the city health/code inspector.  Second-- files compaints with agencies that help consumers.  The Attorney General has an online complaint process.  Do the same with a local BBB. 


You mention in your question about how the lease was entered.  What is really going to affect your remedies is the condition of the property, not the how the lease was entered.  If it's an invalid lease, your remedy is to break it and move on-- which seems to be an issue financially.  Regardless of how the lease was developed, you have a right as  tenant to live in a habital residence.  Your rights will be upheld as long as you are current on your rent.  If you fall behind on your rent, then he can evict you for non-payment.  You can potentially fight an eviction if you have copies of your notices to the landlord requesting repair of the property as described above and you were using the repair and deduct method.   

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