Texas Tenants Win Protections

Way back in 1999 we asked what happened to the tenants' movement? Well, it never quite died, and it might be making a comeback.

Last week we wrote about San Francisco's recent tenant win. In 2011, we wrote about Boston's Bank Tenant Association, which pairs tenant and foreclosed homeowners in a common cause.

And this week there's good news out of Texas. Last we heard, the governor had vetoed some tenant protections (and other important housing provisions) the Texas Tenant Union was trying to get passed, but organizers didn't let that stop them. This year they prevailed on two basic, but very important counts, winning changes to the Texas Property Code in order to:

  • Protect from retaliation tenants who establish, attempt to establish, or participate in a tenant organization.
  • Require that landlords provide tenants with a complete copy of their lease.

Alice Basey, board president of the Texas Tenants’ Union, said in a release,

“We need protections when dealing with unethical landlords.  Everybody renting a house or apartment should have the basic right to a full copy of his or her lease.  This is very important, not only for major issues like when you have to give notice before moving or when the landlord has to give you notice of a change in rent.  But it is also important for day to day issues like keeping a pet or having out of town relatives stay with you or parking restrictions.  All tenants need to know exactly what’s in the lease.  The second part of the law is built on the basic right of free association, and it’s great value is in those practical situations when you have to join with your neighbors to get the landlord to make necessary repairs or to keep the property safe for children to play. Sometimes landlords will ignore a single individual making a complaint, and we have to come together to improve things. Tenants should have the right to form a group without any fear of retaliation.  Now we’ll be able to do that, if it’s needed, and be protected from eviction.”

Sandy Rollins, director of the Tenants’ Union, added,

“Almost 35% of all Texans rent their homes, and in cities like Dallas and Houston, more than half are tenants.  Students, seniors, young couples, parents with children, everyday working people rent – they deserve fair treatment, and this new law will help make that happen.”

A complete list of bills affecting tenants' rights passed in the 2013 Texas Legislative session can be found at: www.txtenants.org.

(Graphic by Melissa Klein.)

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


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