What protections does this law provide?
According to this law, your landlord cannot keep you from calling 911 or from getting other emergency assistance as long as you are calling for help that you actually need. Your call has to be based on your “reasonable belief” that you or someone else is in need of emergency help. Also, the landlord cannot limit the amount of times that law enforcement can be called to your residence, or charge you with any fines or penalties.1
Even if the landlord had language in your lease about not calling 911 or the police for help, it would be considered void and unenforceable. In other words, the landlord cannot say that you “agreed” to those terms just because you signed a lease where limitations or penalties were included – you can ignore that part of your lease.2
1 TXProperty Code § 92.015(a)(1), (a)(2)
2 TXProperty Code § 92.015(b)
What can I do if the landlord breaks the law?
If a landlord disobeys the law, you (the tenant) can take the landlord to court. In court, the judge can order that you get the following:
- a civil penalty in an amount equal to one month’s rent;
- any actual damages that you suffered as a result of the landlord breaking the law - for example, let’s say you stayed in a hotel because the landlord told you that you had to get out, you could sue for your hotel bill;
- court costs;
- an order that tells the landlord to do something or not do something, known as injunctive relief - for example, the judge can order that the landlord stop sending you letters to vacate the home every time you call 911; and
- reimbursement for attorney’s fees that you spent due to having to take the landlord to court due to his/her violation of this law.1
1 TXProperty Code § 92.015(c)