Similar to the majority of states, the property laws in Texas outline various duties and requirements for Texas landlords. Specifically, Texas property laws are where one should look when searching for a landlord’s responsibilities and Texas mold laws for tenants. Many of a landlord’s duties involve keeping the premises safe to dealing with various repairs and other issues that can arise in connection with the property.
In addition, failure to comply with the duties and requirements of Texas property laws can result in legal liability as well as penalties for the landlord. For instance, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act requires landlords to disclose facts about a property that could strongly influence a prospective tenant’s decision to rent a place. This includes disclosing knowledge about current issues with the property, such as mold infestations and/or water leaks.
In most cases, a landlord will provide this information to avoid any possibility of future lawsuits. Also, if a prospective or current tenant inquires about any of these issues, a landlord must answer them truthfully.
However, if a landlord does not answer truthfully and a tenant discovers an issue that the landlord previously knew about, the landlord can face serious legal consequences for lying about the problem. This is especially true when it comes to issues with mold and toxins.
Does a Landlord Have a Duty to Remove Mold from a Rental Property?
The Texas Property Code requires a landlord to address and repair certain conditions that may affect the physical health and safety of a Texas tenant. In general, a Texas landlord must “make a diligent effort” to fix a problem when all of the following factors are met:
- A tenant provides sufficient notice of the issue to the person who regularly accepts the rent (e.g., a landlord or management company);
- The tenant is not delinquent or behind on rent payments at the time the issue occurs;
- The issue materially affects the physical health, safety, and/or overall well-being of an “ordinary tenant”; and
- The tenant, a tenant’s family member, or a tenant’s guest did not cause the issue (e.g., mold) in question.
What if the Tenant was the Cause of the Mold Problem?
In general, a landlord is not usually responsible for repairing mold damage if a tenant or a guest of the tenant’s caused the mold problem. The same holds true when a tenant or someone the tenant knows causes water damage to a property. However, if the tenant did not cause the mold problem, then there are several Texas renters rights regarding mold, such as:
- A Texas tenant has a right to end their lease and move out if a landlord refuses to remove the mold;
- They may file a lawsuit against the landlord in a Texas court;
- They can hire a contractor to remove the mold and deduct the cost of removal from their rent (note this remedy is only available under certain circumstances);
- They may obtain a court order to require the landlord to remove the mold; and/or
- Various other remedies depending on the terms of their rental agreement.
Can a Landlord Rely on a Waiver to Avoid Repairing Mold Problems?
In general, a landlord may not rely on a waiver to avoid repairing mold damage. According to Texas state law, a landlord has a statutory duty to make repairs for certain conditions that can never be waived by a tenant. In other words, a Texas landlord has an affirmative duty to abide by these Texas statutory requirements regarding repairs in almost all instances.
One issue that frequently arises in connection with waivers is whether a landlord and tenant have agreed to specific terms or included a certain clause in a rental agreement (i.e., a lease).
While creating a lease agreement is clearly an acceptable practice, the terms of a rental agreement must comply with Texas state laws. Accordingly, any attempts to waive mold repair requirements in such a contract can make the contract invalid or else unenforceable in regard to a particular term.
One final important note about waivers and repairing mold problems is that the Texas Property Code provides some exceptions. According to Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code, a tenant may not waive requirements that affect the physical health or safety of the tenant unless:
- The landlord and tenant enter into an agreement that the tenant will repair or remedy any issues at the landlord’s expense.
- The landlord and tenant agree that a tenant repair or remedy issues at the tenant’s expense, but only if the following conditions are met:
- They agree at the beginning of the lease term and the landlord owns only one rental unit at that time;
- There are no conditions that would affect the health or safety of the tenant at the beginning of the lease term;
- The landlord has no reason to believe that any health or safety issues would occur during the lease term; and
- The lease is in writing and uses specific and clear language.
- The landlord and tenant agree that the tenant will pay for repairs for any of the following conditions, but only if those conditions were not caused by the landlord’s negligence:
- Damage to doors, windows, or screens;
- Damage from doors or windows left open; and
- Damage from wastewater stoppage caused by foreign objects discovered in pipelines that exclusively serve the tenant’s unit.
Therefore, if a landlord and tenant wish to enter into a formal rental agreement, then it may be in both parties’ best interests to hire separate lawyers. A real estate lawyer can make sure that the agreement complies with the Texas Property Code and other state laws. A lawyer can also ensure that the agreement was formed in accordance with contract laws and that their client did not sign away any important rights.
Can a Tenant Sue Their Landlord if They Get Sick from Mold?
One of the primary issues concerning mold damage is that it not only affects property, but it can also lead to injuries and/or illnesses. For instance, it can create new harm to persons who were not previously sick and it can aggravate people who might already have existing medical conditions, such as asthma.
Toxic mold is a major concern if it is discovered in central air conditioning, heating, and/or other types of vents that pump air to the rest of the household. The reason why finding mold in vents is so dangerous is because it can spread through those vents and expose tenants to its toxins from simply breathing.
This can have a detrimental effect on several persons involved in a single incident of exposure and can often spread to other parts of a building, such as if it spreads throughout an entire apartment complex or is found in other multiple-resident dwelling places like a condominium or co-op building.
As such, if a landlord knew or should have known about a water leak or mold growth in a rental, then they could be held legally responsible for any resulting injuries, health problems, and/or damages to personal property items that were caused by the mold infestation.
Although Texas does not have any laws concerning specific mold requirements, a tenant can report mold in an apartment by contacting a local news station to investigate the problem. This is especially helpful when a landlord or management company has ignored a tenant’s complaints. A tenant may also contact their insurance company to see if they can recover the costs of mold damage, or they can ask the landlord to return to their security deposit.
Additionally, a Texas tenant may also file a mold lawsuit in Texas court. If a judge or jury determines that a landlord was negligent in upkeeping the premises or lied about a serious mold issue, then the landlord could potentially owe a significant amount of damages. Damages received may help compensate the victim for costs like medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Lastly, if a tenant does not want to go through a trial, they may also be able to petition a Texas court to order a landlord to remove the mold.
Do I Need a Texas Lawyer to Help Deal with My Mold Problem?
Mold issues in Texas can be fairly complex. If you are a Texas property owner who is experiencing issues with mold, then it may be in your best interest to contact a Texas landlord tenant lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced landlord tenant lawyer can recommend the best course of action to take and can assist you with whichever legal process you choose to resolve the issue.
Remember, mold in your home can sometimes cause serious problems that affect not only your property, but your health as well. Thus, if you become sick due to mold growing in your home, a landlord tenant lawyer will be able to provide representation in court and can help you to recover damages based on the circumstances.