Tenant/Landlord issue, rental home in Texas.

Joined
Jul 6, 2004
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1,385
Location
Houston, TX
So we've lived in our rental house here in Houston for 14 months, just resigned another 12-month lease two months ago, mostly because we had a baby that week and could in no way possible move. Our house had been recently purchased right before we moved in to rent...there were no occupants living there before us under this new owner. The roof had been replaced. In Sept. 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed our back fence, made new roofing leaks, and collapsed our garage door. The home was inspected by agents of the homeowner as well as FEMA. The fence ended up getting put back up by our neighbor (at his expense) because he was tired of looking at us (haha)and our landlord would not share repair costs with his landlord. We discovered when we had an A/C repairman out that when the new roof was installed, all of the destroyed fiberglas batting insulation had been removed from the attic (because it was wet from roof leaks), but had never been replaced. We sealed up all of the HVAC ducting leaks ourselves, but can never get the home below 90 degrees with the A/C running full blast. The A/C leaks refridgerant constantly, and we can't get any relief. So on top of the air handling issues, it's just not working well anyway. We typically only use 350-400kwH of electricity each month here as we are very concious of our energy usage. Typically when the A/C is in use, we will max out at 1200-1300kwH running that thing 24 hours a day. Last month, our bill said we went from ~900kwH (running the A/C most of the time) to 2496kwH, with no real change in apparent usage other than being gone for 9 days (no use!). Calls to our power provider resulted in a few rude service visits with very bad customer service, but not much else. Meanwhile the meter spins like it's out of control even with all lights/appliances OFF in the house. We finally brought an electrician out (at our expense, as usual) after the lights kept flickering badly, and he was seeing sparking and smoldering at the fuse panel and said it all needed to be replaced as it was way old and a fire hazard. He said this could also be the cause of the additional power usage, though our meter had not been inspected for proper operation since 1996 according to the power company. So on top of this, we have leaky pipes. Bummer. Tired of putting tupperware containers under the sink and emptying them out every night. Worse though, is that I have to replace or clean the faucet aerators out monthly because they get clogged with broken pieces of rust from the original pipes. Kids don't drink tap water any more \:\( In addition to this, we have had two home invasion robberies in the last 12 months. We are paying about 15-20% higher in rent than other homes in our area. My wife desperately wants to move because of the safety issue as well as the house falling apart, but doesn't want to do it with a new born and a toddler....and we both work at a school (she teaches, I am in a non-teaching position) that starts the next schoolyear in 2 weeks. She is worried that if we move now, the landlord will keep our Deposit of $1600 as the house is in shambles, even though much of that was cataloged in our Move-In Inspection paperwork and the rest is Hurricane damage or just major failures. I am at my wit's end with this landlord, she is a realtor that manages the house for her sister, who is the owner. It's hot, our power bill is HUNDREDS of dollars when it is usually $50-$60, I am tired of the disrepair of the home and overpaying for not getting anything done. Short of hiring a lawyer and just moving out, what can I do? I have written letters and emails and had several meetings, she assures me it will be taken care of. It's been months since we've had these meetings. I can't legally withhold Rent payment or else I am liable for 3x in penalties according to TX law. I can have the items repaired and deduct it from the Rent, but these things are THOUSANDS of dollars...insulation quoted at $3.5K, A/C replacement at $5K, plumbing at $1K, garage door a few hundred dollars, etc. I would basically quit paying rent for a year just to cover this stuff, and then what...get Evicted and she gets a nice renovated home? Wits end here guys. Suggestions? Any homeowners/landlords here with their side? Thanks,
 
Joined
May 26, 2007
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West Michigan
you need to document the issue's with the house, first and foremost. is there a landlord-tenant association in your area that will arbitrate these issue's?
 
Joined
May 28, 2007
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earth
sorry to hear about your situation especially with a new baby. i don't know how the law works over there. but, i could say to keep a very good paper trail of every communication. after a phone call, write down what you said, sign it, and fax it to the real estate agent as confirmation of the conversation. it sounds like you may need some legal advise to deal with it. quite frankly, especially with the electrical fault, it would be considered not safe to live in, so you could reasonably move out. maybe you should get council/county inspectors to assess the house? over here, if you break the lease early, you can be held responsible for paying rent until the house is occupied again. some people when breaking the lease do a search for tenants themselves to take over the existing lease. in your case that would obviously not work. I wish you all the best in sorting it out.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2002
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39,802
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Pottstown, PA
 Quote:
I can't legally withhold Rent payment or else I am liable for 3x in penalties according to TX law.
They won't allow you to escrow the rent? That is, sequester it but withhold it from the landlord? There has to be some legal recourse for you beyond footing the bill yourself. How about calling the city inspector? They'll issue citations for the faulty conditions. If she doesn't fix them, they'll fine her.
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2005
Messages
180
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mcminnville tn
Sounds like your going to end up in court one way or the other. Start taking good records. Perhaps write paid in contempt in the memo part of the check each time you pay the rent. Good luck!
 

Solo2driver

Thread starter
Joined
Jul 6, 2004
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Houston, TX
Another letter off today, listing ALL problems. We'll see what happens. Grrr. I wish I could just hold 1/2 rent to show that I mean business and NEED to get these items repaired.
 
Joined
Dec 21, 2003
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12,385
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Northern CA
 Originally Posted By: Gary Allan
 Quote:
I can't legally withhold Rent payment or else I am liable for 3x in penalties according to TX law.
They won't allow you to escrow the rent? That is, sequester it but withhold it from the landlord? There has to be some legal recourse for you beyond footing the bill yourself. How about calling the city inspector? They'll issue citations for the faulty conditions. If she doesn't fix them, they'll fine her.
Gary, he's in Texas. Things are different there. They don't have as much evil government interference in things like that as most other states.
 
Joined
Oct 1, 2006
Messages
466
Location
Alexandria, VA
I don't understand $3.5K for insulation, I had some added to my existing insulation for $500 this spring. Blown fiberglass. With no insulation those electric bills won't come down til October, you know how it is around here. And you'll be cold in the winter, I would think, even with our mild winters. How about doing it yourself by getting the cellulose stuff from Lowe's? They'll throw in a free blower for a day if you buy enough, I'd bet $300 would do it and you'd recoup that in a month. Then, save the receipt and give it to your landlord. Heck, throw in a labor charge, too, just to tick 'em off.
 

Solo2driver

Thread starter
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Jul 6, 2004
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Houston, TX
I see you coming over to my house in the near future, hillclimber :) Home Depot wanted $3.5K for blown-in + soffit vents + radiant barrier on the underside of the roof. I'm okay with buying fiberglas batting and rolling it out.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2002
Messages
39,802
Location
Pottstown, PA
 Originally Posted By: XS650
 Originally Posted By: Gary Allan
 Quote:
I can't legally withhold Rent payment or else I am liable for 3x in penalties according to TX law.
They won't allow you to escrow the rent? That is, sequester it but withhold it from the landlord? There has to be some legal recourse for you beyond footing the bill yourself. How about calling the city inspector? They'll issue citations for the faulty conditions. If she doesn't fix them, they'll fine her.
Gary, he's in Texas. Things are different there. They don't have as much evil government interference in things like that as most other states.
I see. Maybe he can wound her to get her to fix the stuff. Fair is fair
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2007
Messages
1,242
Location
arkansas
Document all problems and send a copy of the statement from the AC man as to the condition of the wiring. Keep copies of everything and send to your landlord. Send it certified with a signature required. After that document everything with date, time and who you spoke to concerning each problem. Ask who ever you talk to to send you a statement as to when you can expect repairs completed and if they do not make a notation that they either refused to or failed to follow through. If repairs are not made take your documtation to a lawyer and since you have small children that may be enought to break your lease. The city inspector is a good option because if it is not up to code she can be forced to fix the problems. I wish you the best of luck in getting out of the lease and getting all your deposits back.
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2003
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ME
Get the electric fixed and dock it from your rent. This will be the first shot in what will be a long going salvo. This will show you mean business because annoyed tenants are just so much background chatter for any property owner. You could also get the city inspector to condemn the place; if that happens, you can break the lease. Think of it this way, you can keep paying rent and the next tenant will get a junky house... or you can fix the place up at the landlady's dime and do a little social justice. She's more scared of you leaving than you think, esp since rents have dropped since you locked in your lease. Usually the law favors the tenant. Texas seems a little draconian, but there still must be ways to use the system.
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2006
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Chicago Area
My brother could not get his obviously faulty electric meter fixed by Commonwealth Edison. Total doo doo heads about it. With every circuit breaker off, it spun like a fan. So he bashed it silly with a sledge hammer and called them to say he had no power. Got a new one with no problems, and strangely no questions. The electric monopoly has many morons working for them. And many clever gougers.
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2003
Messages
36,781
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ME
^ you might want to leave a broken tree branch in the vicinity as "storm damage", even if there's no tree around and calm weather.
 

Solo2driver

Thread starter
Joined
Jul 6, 2004
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Houston, TX
HAHA I like that. My only fear with the new "smart meters" is that they can just turn the power off remotely if you are having issues (billing, etc.) rather than resolving in person. Something about that does not sit well.
 
Joined
Jun 5, 2009
Messages
965
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San Antonio, Texas
Get 2 or 3 bids from repairmen for all the problems. Send it all to her with signature confirmation by her only return receipt requested. If she still doesn't do anything and you feel safety or health is an issue then call a city inspector to come look at the problems, the bids you got, and make a determination. The city won't play around if things aren't what they should be. It sounds like you've been much more patient than I ever would be.
 
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