Have Questions?

Contact us at webreg@haaonline.org for further assistance


Common Questions – By Issue

   *First things first - we are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. 

  1. Basics About Resident Relations  
  2. Animals   
  3. Apartment Locating   
  4. Applications/Qualifications   
  5. Bedbugs   
  6. Breaking/Terminating a Lease   
  7. Crime/Criminal Activity  
  8. Deposits and Fees (Security and Application)   
  9. Entering the Apartment   
  10. Foreclosure   
  11. Legal Residency/Immigration Status   
  12. Leins   
  13. Lockouts  
  14. Paying Rent   
  15. Repairs   
  16. Security   
  17. Security Deposits    
  18. Sewage    
  19. Towing  
  20. Water/Water Bills    

 

 How to make a complaint  

  

Apartment residents can contact the Houston Apartment Association at 713-595-0300, to speak with trained staff to ask questions about renter rights, the TAA lease contract or to register a complaint against their property owner. .We accept renter calls on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Thursday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. We will take calls on a first come first serve basis.     

   

HAA does not respond to e-mail. The fastest way to file a complaint is online Resident Relations online complaint form. This is not an emergency service.  

  

Once you submit your complaint you may send us related documents or photos to substantiate your claim by mailing to HAA, 4810 Westway Park Blvd, Houston, TX  77041 or e-mailing to resrel@haaonline.org . HAA will forward your complaint and related documents to the property owner or management company requesting a response.  

  

If the complaint is about a security deposit disposition,  the property is an HAA member property and the complaint is not resolved after both parties have had the opportunity to respond, the complaint is forwarded to a committee for review.  When the committee meets, all documentation provided by both parties is reviewed and a decision is reached based upon state law and information provided in the documentation.   

 

If a resident or the owner or management company retains an attorney at any time during the complaint process, it is not appropriate for HAA to remain involved.   

  

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Animals  

  

Can apartment communities require a pet deposit? 

Yes. Property managers can charge a pet deposit in addition to a security deposit to cover any potential damages caused by a pet. 

 

Can communities charge pet rent? 

Yes. Under the TAA animal addendum, total monthly rent can also be increased by a specified amount agreed upon by the manager and residents to accommodate an animal. 

 

Do I need to inform my community manager if I acquire a new pet during my lease term?  

Yes, BEFORE you obtain another animal. Check your community's guidelines for acceptable breeds, weights, etc. before you get another pet. 

 

Can communities initiate a "no animal" policy? 

Yes, communities can have "no animal" policies (EXCEPT in the case of support or companion animals) if they choose.  

  

If my property has a no animal policy, do they have to allow my support or companion animal?   

Yes. If an individual fulfills the requirements found in Section 100.201 in the federal Fair Housing Act defining physical and mental handicaps, their disability must be accommodated. Their handicap must be verified by a doctor, and they must sign an animal addendum in addition to their lease.  

   

Can the property charge me a fee for a support or companion animal? 

No. To comply with guidance provided by the US Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Texas Apartment Association recommends that owners not charge an animal deposit for a support or companion animal.  

  

If there is no animal deposit for my support animal, can I still be charged for damages?  

Yes. Although the US Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development state that properties cannot charge a security deposit for a support or companion animal, residents are still liable for any damages that the animal may cause.   

 

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Apartment Locating  

  

How do I find an apartment?  

There are a number of apartment communities and apartment providers in Houston. Many communities offer a variety of amenities such as swimming pools, business centers with Internet access, cable TV and other things to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Many apartment companies have Web sites that will allow you to find out more about the company, a particular community, amenities, unit size and availability. You can also check the HAA Directory at www.haaonline.org/Directory to search for apartment locators in the Supplier Directory. 

  

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Applications/Qualifications  

  

What will I have to do to qualify to rent an apartment?  

Apartment communities will have a set of rental criteria that states the guidelines for acceptance. The rental criteria may ask for your credit history, employment history, rental history and criminal history. You should review the rental criteria before applying to rent. This will give you an idea of whether you will qualify. Keep in mind that many apartment communities restrict rental to persons who have not been convicted of certain types of crime and who have an acceptable rental history. 

  

How do I apply?  

Most apartment communities will require that you sign a rental application providing certain information. The questions asked will be used to determine whether you are eligible for rental. Remember that the rental application is a contract between you and the owner of the property. The application contract will tell you what fees and deposits must be paid and whether or not they will be refundable. Many owners require that you pay a nonrefundable application fee, a nonrefundable administrative fee and an application deposit that may or may not be refundable. Read your application closely so that you will know what fees and deposits must be paid and whether you can get them back if you change your mind and decide not to rent. 

  

Should I consult an attorney before signing an application or lease?  

Both the application and lease are legal documents that will govern your application and occupancy, respectively. Whether you get an attorney is up to you; however, you should read these legal documents before signing. If you are unsure of what you are signing, it is a good idea to consult an attorney. 

  

Is the application or lease document negotiable?  

Parties to a contract can negotiate the provisions of a contract in any way that is mutually acceptable. However, most apartment community owners and leasing personnel are reluctant to negotiate the documents they use for all residents. There are legal requirements to treat all residents equally; changing provisions on a case-by-base basis may create differences between residents, and it may be difficult for owners to keep up with different provisions for different residents. 

Can I review the application and lease before signing? 

Yes. These are legal documents that will govern your rights and responsibilities during the application process and during and after the time that you live at the property. You should be fully aware of the rent, fees and deposits you will be required to pay, what fees are nonrefundable and what conditions there will be on any refundable fees and deposits. If an application or lease is not clear with respect to these issues, you and the apartment owner should make them clear on the documents you sign. 

  

Do state and city legislation and rental requirements apply to single-family rental properties? 

Some laws apply to both single family and multifamily rental homes. Most state laws apply to both, including much of the Texas Property Code.  

 

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Bedbugs  

  

Whose responsibility is pest control/paying for it?   

Every lease contract may be different, but the Texas Apartment Association lease is widely used.
According to the Texas Apartment Association lease, reasonable pest control is the cost of the owner. Oftentimes bed bug treatment is not reasonable, as it can cost thousands of dollars. When residents move in, they may sign a Bed Bug addendum. The addendum makes renters aware of what bed bugs are, how they are transmitted and how to protect their valuables from becoming infested. The addendum also clearly defines responsibility for remediation of bed bug infestations.
 

  

Tips for renters:
If you suspect that you have a bed bug infestation, please contact your management office immediately and in writing. The faster the infestation can be appropriately treated, the less likely it is to spread to other renters.
 

  

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Breaking/Terminating a Lease  

  

School is almost out, can I get out of my lease?  

You are responsible for your lease for the entire term of your contract, unless you and the manager work something out. If you want to terminate your lease contract early, it may cause rent to be accelerated and additional charges (like reletting fees) to be levied against you. Get any changes to your lease contract or term in writing.  

  

I'm in the military, and I'm being transferred or deployed. Can I get out of my lease?   

If you are in active service and you've received orders of a permanent change of station or you've been deployed and are not continuing to receive a housing allowance, the TAA Lease Contract requires the owner to allow you and your spouse to move out early. This is in Paragraph 31 of the TAA Lease Contract. That paragraph does not apply if you knew about the change of duty station prior to signing a lease; it also does not cover any residents (other than your spouse) who may be living in the same rental property.  

  

Can I still be held liable for my lease if I am being transferred or laid off from my job?   

Yes. Unless you have a transfer clause in your lease, you can be liable for the remainder of the rent through the end of your lease or until the apartment is rented to another occupant.  

  

What type of notice do I have to give to terminate my lease?  

Your lease contract should identify what notice you have to give to terminate the lease. Many apartment owners use a lease requiring that at least 30 days' notice must be given and that the lease can only be terminated at the end of the lease term or at the end of any month-to-month renewal term. Some owners require more than 30 days' notice. The amount of notice that has to be given should be clearly stated in your lease. 

  

If I don't give proper notice, how much will I have to pay?  

If you do not give the notice required by the lease and vacate your unit without paying rent for the full remaining term (or month-to-month renewal term), you will be in default of your obligations. If you are in default, e various types of damages can be assessed against you. Many leases provide for a reletting charge to compensate the owner for the time, effort and expense in finding and processing a replacement resident. The reletting charge is most often assessed if you:
(i) fail to move out or fail to give proper written move out notice,
(ii) move out without paying rent in full for the entire lease term or renewal period,
(iii) move out after receiving a notice to vacate, or
(iv) are judicially evicted.
In addition to the reletting charge, many leases allow the landlord to assess accelerated rent against the resident. Accelerated rent is all monthly rent for the rest of the lease term or renewal period, which is automatically accelerated without notice or demand if you:
(i) move out,
(ii) remove property in preparing to move out or
(iii) give oral or written notice of intent to move out before the lease contract term or renewal period ends.
There may also be additional damages provided for in the lease, such as court costs, expenses, late charges and collection agency fees.
 

 

The property owner is not complying with my lease contract, what can I do? 

If the owner violates your lease contract in such a way that would harm the health or safety of an average tenant, you may have recourse to terminate your lease contract, however you must make a repair request “in writing once by certified mail, return receipt requested or twice by writing in the office after a reasonable time to remedy the situation has elapsed.” Rent must be current at the time of request.

 

The property owner is not making repairs, even after the aforementioned certified mail and requests. Where can I go? 

Call Houston’s 311 line, who will direct you to the proper channel. Neighborhood Protection inspects single-family homes. 

 

   

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Crime/Criminal Activity  

  

Is my owner responsible for protecting me from the criminal acts of others?  

No. Most owners and management personnel have no more experience, training or ability to prevent criminal acts than you do. You should never rely upon the owner or management personnel to secure you from the criminal acts of third parties. If you are in need of security services, call the police. In the event of an emergency, call 911. If you have questions regarding security issues in your neighborhood, contact the local HPD storefront and discuss your concerns with the officers patrolling the neighborhood. More safety tips are available on www.safeinmyplace.org.  

  

If I want to find out about crime in a particular neighborhood, whom should I ask?  

Many prospective residents make the mistake of asking the manager or leasing agent about crime in the neighborhood. While the manager or leasing agent may know about crimes that have occurred, they are not the best source of this type of information. Call the local storefront of the Houston Police Department for crime statistics. The officers at the local storefront should be able to give you the most accurate crime statistics available. 

 

Can my criminal history be used in the application process? 

Yes. Properties can consider your criminal history while going through the application process. There is no limitation on how far back a property can look into your criminal history. 

   

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Deposits and Fees (Security and Application)  

  

Can I deduct the amount of my security deposit from my last month's rent payment?   

Your security deposit is not a part of your rent payments. If you deduct the amount of your security deposit from your final rent check, you could be liable for the cost of reletting fee in addition to the unpaid rent.  

  

How long after I move out does the owner have to return my security deposit?  

If you gave a forwarding address and did not owe any rent, the owner legally has to contact you in writing within 30 days about your deposit (either returning the deposit or explaining what is being deducted). 

  

I didn’t mention an old misdemeanor that I had on my rental application. I was denied. Can I get my application deposit back?  

If you provided false or misleading information on your rental application, the owner may deny your application and keep the deposit.  

  

If I don't rent, can I get my application deposit back?  

It depends on what your application says. Many communities use an application under which the application deposit may or may not be refundable depending upon certain conditions. The application deposit is not a security deposit; however, it may be used as a security deposit once the lease is signed. Typically the application deposit will not be refundable if: (i) you withdraw your application; or (ii) you fail to answer questions or give false information on the application. Often if you are declined, the application deposit will be refundable as long as you didn't withdraw your application before being declined or give incomplete or false answers on the application. 

  

What amounts are deducted from a security deposit?  

Your security deposit can be applied against any amounts you owe under the lease to the landlord. These can include unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, unreimbursed service charges, repairs or damages to the unit including marks from stickers, scratches, tears, burns, stains or holes. Because issues relating to the deposit are somewhat subjective, it's a good idea to try to walk the unit with the manager after you have vacated to determine what deductions may be appropriate. This will avoid unnecessary surprises when only a portion, or none, of your security deposit is returned. 

  

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Entering the Apartment  

  

Can the management enter my apartment when I am not at home?   

Under the TAA Lease Contract, the apartment management and/or maintenance personnel do not have to wait until you are home to enter your apartment for:  

  • Requested repairs. 
  • Estimating repair costs.  
  • Pest control; preventive maintenance.  
  • Filter changes.  
  • Testing or replacing smoke-detector batteries.  
  • Retrieving unreturned tools or appliances.  
  • Preventing waste of utilities; exercising contractual lien.  
  • Leaving notices.  
  • Delivering, installing, reconnecting or replacing appliances, furniture, equipment, or security devices.  
  • Removing or rekeying unauthorized security devices.  
  • Removing unauthorized window coverings.  
  • Stopping excessive noise.  
  • Removing health or safety hazards.  
  • Removing unauthorized pets.  
  • Cutting off electricity according to statute.  
  • Retrieving property owned or leased by former residents.  
  • Inspections when immediate danger to person or property is suspected.  
  • Entry by a law-enforcement officer with search or arrest warrant.  
  • Showing apartment to prospective residents (after move-out or vacate notice has been given). 
  • Showing apartment to government inspectors, fire marshals, lenders, appraisers, prospective buyers or insurance agents.  

However, a notice of entry is to be left inside your apartment stating that they were inside your apartment and the reason. 

  

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Foreclosure  

  

What protections do renters have if their property is foreclosed upon?   

Protections are in place in federal law for renters whose properties are foreclosed upon.
Residents should have at least 90 days notice before termination of their lease agreement(s). Renters must continue to pay rent. If renters are not paying rent or have some other lease violation, eviction may be sought. In many cases, sustaining and increasing occupancy is a priority and the receiver that takes over the property will want to keep residents who meet their criteria for tenancy.
 

  

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Legal Residency/Immigration Status  

  

Can a property ask me if I'm a legal resident?   

Yes, many rental applications require disclosure of legal status or proof of legal residency. 

  

Why would a rental owner want to know if I am a legal resident?   

Property owners may review many different sources of information (or none at all) prior to entering into a lease contract with someone. These may include: credit history, rental history, criminal history and/or proof of residency. Most rental property owners review these types of background information to decide if you meet their criteria for rental. For instance, a property owner may not want to enter into a 12 month lease contract with a prospective renter, if the renters' student visa expires in 9 months. This may indicate to the owner that the renter would not be likely to complete the entire lease term, as they do not have the proper permission to be in the country for that length of time. 

  

Can a property owner make me fill out special forms if I'm not a legal resident?   

Yes, if the property owner is seeking to obtain information from all individuals, in compliance with fair housing laws, he can ask for you to fill out the rental application. The Texas Apartment Association/Houston Apartment Association rental application includes a question about whether a potential renter is a legal US resident. If the renter answers the question negatively, they may be asked to fill out an additional form entitled "Supplemental Rental Application for Non-U.S. Citizens." In a 2001 memo to the Texas Apartment Association, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development noted that the Fair Housing Act does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of citizenship. 

  

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Leins  

  

Can the manager take items from my apartment for non-payment of rent?   

Section 54.041 of the Texas Civil Statute states that non-exempt items can be held providing that the clause is in the lease. It must also be either underlined or in bold print. If you have this clause in your lease, the management may seize property that is non-exempt by statute and hold it until the rent is paid. 

  

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Lockouts  

  

Can I be locked out of my apartment for non-payment of rent?   

The Texas Civil Statute, Section 92.0081 states that the landlord clearly has the right to change the door locks on an apartment unit if the rent is delinquent. However, they have to first notify the resident at least three days before the locks are to be changed. After the lock-out the owner must leave notice where the key can be obtained 24 hours a day. They cannot deny the resident access to the apartment. 

  

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Paying Rent  

  

Can I withhold rent when maintenance repairs are not taken care of?   

It is a state law that a resident cannot withhold rent for needed repairs. If the resident does withhold rent for non-repair, the owner has a right to evict for non-payment of rent.  

  

Can I be locked out of my apartment for non-payment of rent?   

The Texas Civil Statute, Section 92.0081 states that the landlord clearly has the right to change the door locks on an apartment unit if the rent is delinquent. However, they have to first notify the resident at least three days before the locks are to be changed. After the lock-out the owner must leave notice where the key can be obtained 24 hours a day. They cannot deny the resident access to the apartment. 

  

Can the manager take items from my apartment for non-payment of rent?   

Section 54.041 of the Texas Civil Statute states that non-exempt items can be held providing that the clause is in the lease. It must also be either underlined or in bold print. If you have this clause in your lease, the management may seize property that is non-exempt by statute and hold it until the rent is paid. 

  

I would like to know exactly when, how much and how often a rental increase can be given. Also, is there a ceiling on the amount of any given increase? If so, what is the highest amount?   

Under the terms of the TAA lease, no rental increases can be given until the initial lease term has expired. After the lease has expired, an increase of any amount (the state of Texas has no rent control) can be given provided the resident has been served with a 35 day notice prior to the effective date of the new rental amount. 

  

How much grace period must I be given before my rent is considered late?   

The grace period allowed in the TAA lease does not refer to when the rent is actually due, it simply refers to when the late charges will begin. The lease states that rent is due and payable on the 1st of each month. This means that if rent is late the earliest you can be charged a late fee is the 3rd of the month. How much grace period (if any) is given before late charges begin depends on the owner and what is stated in the lease contract. 

  

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Repairs  

  

What do I do if I need a repair made?  

First, always put your request for repairs in writing. Most lease contracts require that this be done, in order for management to be required to make the repairs.  

  

Can I withhold rent when maintenance repairs are not taken care of?   

It is a state law that a resident cannot withhold rent for needed repairs. If the resident does withhold rent for non-repair, the owner has a right to evict for non-payment of rent.  

  

My apartment has been severely flooded and most of my personal belongings were damaged. The cause of the flood was through no fault of my own. Who is responsible for replacing all of my items that I lost?   

The TAA/HAA lease contains a clause which states that the owner will not be liable for any damages to the resident's personal belongings or to that person. Only if the disaster occurred due to the owner's own negligence will the resident have a cause of action. The lease strongly suggests that the residents secure insurance to protect themselves against any personal losses. 

 

Sewage is backing up in my rental home/unit, what can I do? 

Contact the owner of the property immediately. If this issue occurs outside of normal business hours, use the emergency maintenance phone number.  It should be posted outside your rental office or provided to you by your manager.  You should also report this issue in writing.  If the issue is unresolved, and your dwelling is in the City of Houston, you can call Houston’s 311 line to inform the city and submit a service request.  

 

 

My city garbage can is missing or broken. What do I do? 

City-issued garbage containers are property of the city. You should inform the property owner of the missing or broken container, but you should also contact the city through 311. You can submit an online garbage container service request here. Only communities with 8 or fewer units are provided garbage service by the City of Houston.  

 

 

  

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My property is "All Bills Paid." What rights do I have if the owner fails to pay and my utilities are disconnected?   

If an owner does not pay their bills to a utility, and the utility is disconnected, renters have many rights under state law. 

  

As of January 1, 2010, landlords are not allowed to disconnect electricity for nonpayment of rent. Electricity may be disconnected in certain instances, such as for repairs. Section 92.0091 - RESIDENTIAL TENANT'S RIGHT OF RESTORATION AFTER UNLAWFUL UTILITY DISCONNECTION - describes that a renter may seek a writ of restoration from a Justice of the Peace, if the landlord illegally disconnects utilities. 

  

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Security  

  

What security devices must my rental home/unit have?   

The property must provide the security devices listed in subchapter D of the Texas Property Code - Section 92.153, Security Devices Required Without Necessity of Tenant Request. For a full list please see subchapter D. 

These devices include:
A keyless bolting device
A keyed dead bolt
Door viewer, meaning a peephole or window
A sliding door pin lock
    sliding door handle latch
    or sliding door security bar
Window latch

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Security Deposit  

  
What laws govern security deposits?
Section 92.109 - TEXAS PROPERTY CODE:
LIABILITY OF LANDLORD
  1. A landlord who in bad faith retains a security deposit in violation of this subchapter is liable for an amount equal to the sum of $100; three times the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld; and the tenant's reasonable attorney's fees in a suit to recover the deposit.  
  2. A landlord who in bad faith does not provide a written description and itemized list of damages and charges in violation of this subchapter:  
    1.  forfeits the right to withhold any portion of the security deposit or to bring suit against the tenant for damages to the premises; and  
    2.  is liable for the tenant's reasonable attorney's fees in a suit to recover the deposit. 
     
  3. In an action brought by a tenant under this subchapter, the landlord has the burden of proving that the retention of any portion of the security deposit was reasonable. 
  4. A landlord who fails either to return a security deposit or to provide a written description and itemization of deductions on or before the 30th day after the date the tenant surrenders possession is presumed to have acted in bad faith. 

***Please note that bad judgement does NOT equal bad faith. The case of King v. Swanson, 291 S.W.2d 773, has stated a fairly clear guideline for determining bad faith: "Proof of bad judgment is not proof of bad faith. To prove bad faith some improper motive must be shown...something more than a mere mistake in judgment is necessary to establish bad faith. Bad faith is not imputable if honest intentions or freedom of unworthy motives characterizes the exercise of discretion." 

 

When does the landlord have to return my security deposit?
Section 92.103(a) of the Texas Property Code states that the 30-day time period starts on the date of surrender, i.e., on the date the resident moves out:"Except as provided by Section 92.107, the landlord shall refund a security deposit to the tenant on or before the 30th day after the date the tenant surrenders the premises."

Do I have to provide a forwarding address?
Yes. Section 92.107(a) states that the resident must give a forwarding address before the owner has a duty to provide the refund or accounting:

"The landlord is not obligated to return a tenant security deposit or give the tenant a written description of damages and charges until the tenant gives the landlord a written statement of the tenant's forwarding address for purposes of refunding the security deposit." 

 

I moved out, but my roommates are still living in my old apartment. Can I still receive my security deposit back? 

No. In the case of multiple residents, the dwelling unit is not "surrendered" until the last resident moves out. Therefore, none of the residents' deposit is due for refund until 30 days after the last resident moves out.  

 

Can my security deposit be forfeited if I didn't give the require move-out notice? 

No. Under the TAA Lease Contract, the security deposit is never forfeited for failure to give the required move-out notice.
 

 

Can my security deposit be forfeited if I move out early and don'y pay the rent in full through my lease term?
Yes. Paragraph 11 of the TAA Lease Contract calls for the payment of an agreed "reletting charge," which represents liquidated damages for the owner's costs and efforts in preparing the dwelling another tenant
, regardless of whether reletting is successful. The agreed reletting charge does not terminate the resident's liability for future rentals and other charges. Under paragraph 30 of the TAA Lease Contract, a reletting charge may not be imposed when a replacement resident, acceptable to the owner, is procured by the departing or remaining residents.

  

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Sewage   

   Sewage is backing up in my rental home/unit, what can I do?  

Contact the owner of the property immediately. If this issue occurs outside of normal business hours, use the emergency maintenance phone number.  It should be posted outside your rental office or provided to you by your manager.  You should also report this issue in writing.  If the issue is unresolved, and your dwelling is in the City of Houston, you can call Houston’s 311 line to inform the city and submit a service request.   

  

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Towing  

  

What laws govern towing?
The Texas Operations Code, Chapter 2308 (link: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/OC/htm/OC.2308.htm) also known as the “Texas Towing and Booting Act” gives the authority to regulate and enforce towing/booting to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations. 

Residents and visitors should be aware that apartment community parking lots are private property. 
  

 


Who is liable if damage or theft results after a tow is preformed?
An owner is protected from liability for damage or theft to the vehicle during towing and storage if the towing is performed by an insured towing service, the storage is performed by an insured storage company and if the towing is based on a state approved reason for towing.

Who can be towed at an apartment community? 
  

  • A vehicle improperly marked in a handicapped space  - signage identifying the space is required.  
  • A vehicle that is leaking hazardous fluid parked anywhere  
  • A vehicle obstructing an aisle, entry, exit, pedestrian or vehicle access gate, dumpster, another vehicle from moving its spot.  
  • A vehicle that is parked in a properly marked fire lane.  
  • A vehicle that is parked in a properly marked “Tow Away Zone.”  
  • A vehicle parked in any location properly marked with signs designating that unauthorized vehicles will be towed.  

Other vehicles may be towed with certain types of notice.  


Can emergency vehicles (police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, other vehicles belonging to governmental agencies) be towed?
No.  They can park anywhere and cannot be towed. 
  



Does my property have to give me notice before they tow my vehicle?
No.  No notice is necessary if a vehicle is illegally parked in a properly marked fire lane or is blocking an aisle, entry, exit or another vehicle from exiting its space.  No notice is necessary when the vehicle is parked in a non-fire lane zone that is brightly painted with the words “TOW AWAY ZONE” with 3 inch contrasting letters.  No notice is necessary if the vehicle is blocking a dumpster, pedestrian gate or vehicular gate, or is leaking a hazardous fluid endangering others or their property.  No notice is necessary if the vehicle is a semitrailer, truck-tractor or trailer of any kind that is parked without the property owner’s express permission (this includes U-Haul type trailers and boat trailers, with or without boats on them).
Some people believe that vehicles must be tagged prior to towing for 24 hours.  This is just a myth and is not the case. 
  



My vehicle has an out of date license or inspection sticker, can it be towed?
Yes, your vehicle can be towed with proper advance notice (10 day notice prior to towing, in most cases, via hand delivery or certified letter).  The property owner must have a lease or contract with the vehicle owner prohibiting parking without a current license or inspection sticker, too. 
  



My vehicle is parked in a space that is not authorized for my vehicle, can it be towed?
Yes, your vehicle can be towed, following oral or written notice.  
  



Can towing companies “patrol” a property for improperly parked vehicles?Yes.  A property owner can contract with a towing company to tow vehicles that are parked improperly on their private property.  The owner or property owners’ representative does not have to be present at the time of the tow. 
  



Can a property tow based on entry signs (signs located at entrances to the property)?
Yes, the statute allows the property owner to remove vehicles illegally parked in violation of properly posted signs at ALL entrances.  The signs must comply with requirements in Section 2308.302 of the Texas Occupations Code.
  

  • The requirements include size of the signs, placement, coloring, etc.  

   

Who should I contact if I have questions or concerns about the way that my vehicle was towed?   

  • First, contact your property owner and see if the issue can be resolved.    
  • The Houston Apartment Association has a Resident Relations Department that takes complaints via www.haaonline.org (click on “renters”).  
  • Questions are answered Wednesday 9 a.m.-1p.m., Thursday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2p.m. - 4 p.m.  
  • Per the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation:
    • “This Department does not have jurisdiction over towing fees for nonconsent tows unless the fee exceeds the fee schedule filed with the Department by the towing company. Disputes regarding the legality of a tow are decided through a requested hearing with the Justice of the Peace for the precinct where the vehicle storage facility is located.”  
    • In addition, complaints may be filed through the TDLR website at https://www.license.state.tx.us/Complaints/ComplaintForm.aspx?strRadiobutton=Tow%20Truck  
     
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Water/Water Bills  

  

My landlord wants to charge me for water. Can he/she do that?   

All apartment residents pay for water. Some through their rent, some separately. As water becomes more expensive, many owners are using submeters, or a water allocation system to bill residents for water directly.  

  

If you agree by lease to pay separately for water, there are rules the owner of your property must follow. He must use a billing system that is approved by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, and follow certain other guidelines.An apartment community can charge all residents the same amount for water and just factor the set amount into their rent each month, or they can use a water allocation formula established by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

  

What are the rights of a resident to contest a water bill?   

Disputes about the calculation of your bill are between the renter and the property owner. The TCEQ recommends filing billing disputes in writing with the person identified on your bill to contact about disputes--usually the owner, the on-site manager, or a billing company. The owner or designated person must then investigate the dispute and report the results of the investigation to the renter in writing. The investigation and report must be completed within 30 days from the date the renter provides written notification. 

  

If a renter finds that a TCEQ rule has been violated, they may contact the TCEQ to file a complaint. TCEQ rules require that apartments keep the following records available for residents to inspect at the onsite manager's office during normal business hours: 

  

a. A copy of the water allocation statute;
b. A copy of the TCEQ water allocation rules;
c. A copy of the water utility's current rate card (available from the utility company);
d. Your water utility bills for the apartment community for the current month and the preceding 12 months;
e. Your records of rent income and water bill income from residents, including the date and amount of each resident's payment of rent and water bills for the current month and the preceding 12 months; and
f. the following information relating to billing calculation in Section 291.122(e)(6) of the rules:
1. the formula, occupancy factors, if any, and percentages used to calculate resident bills;
2. the total number of occupants or equivalent occupants if the equivalent occupant ratio is used; and
3. the square footage of the resident's dwelling unit and the total square footage of all units in the apartment community, used for billing if dwelling unit size is used as part of the formula.
 

  

Can an apartment owner profit from an allocated water bill?   

No, An apartment owner cannot profit from a water bill. In fact, in the allocation formulas permitted by the TCEQ, common areas must be excluded from the allocation to residents. A small percentage may be charged on the water bill to cover the cost of administering the billing. 

  

What are the criteria to divide the water bill among residents?   

First, the allocation method must be laid out in the lease contract. 

  

If you agree by lease to pay separately for water, there are rules the owner of your property must follow. If a property chooses to bill residents directly for water, they can use a water allocation formula that is set by the Texas Commission on Environment Quality   

  

There are several different formulas for water allocation which have been approved under TCEQ rules. The rules provide that water can be allocated under any one of five formulas, but no others. The TCEQ-approved formulas are based on:  

  • actual occupancy 
  • ratio occupancy (TCEQ formula for average number of occupants in unit); 
  • average occupancy (TCEQ formula for average number of bedrooms in unit); 
  • combination of actual occupancy and square feet of the apartment; or 
  • submetered hot/cold water, ratio to total. 

An owner cannot change the allocation formula during the lease term unless the resident consents to the change in writing in a mid-lease term agreement or in a lease renewal. Notice of the change must be given at least 35 days prior to the change. 

  

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