Landlord Retaliation
Under the Texas Retaliation Statute, when a tenant takes a protected action (such as requesting repairs, or complaining to a government agency) the landlord is prohibited for a period of six months from taking certain actions against the tenant. If the landlord violates this statute, the landlord can be held liable for:

  • A civil penalty of one month's rent plus $500;
  • The tenant's actual damages, such as moving costs or property damage;
  • The tenant's reasonable attorney fees; and
  • Court costs and interest. 
Money that the tenant owes the landlord is subtracted from these amounts. Moreover, a tenant can sometimes be entitled to additional remedies, such as injunctive relief or recovery of possession of the property. These remedies are in addition to other remedies allowed by law, meaning that if the landlord retaliates against a tenant by, say, failing to make repairs, the tenant can recover both the repair remedies and the retaliation remedies. 

What tenant actions are protected by the retaliation statute?

The protections of the retaliation statute are invoked only when a tenant takes an action off a list of protected actions under the statute. The full list can be found in the statute, but stated succinctly the actions are:

  • Exercising, or attempting to exercise, a right under the lease or the law against the tenant's landlord;
  • Asking for repairs;
  • Complaining in good faith to a government agency (or nonprofit organization) responsible for enforcing housing or utility standards;
  • Establishing, attempting to establish, or participating in a tenant organization. 

What is the landlord forbidden from doing once the tenant takes a protected action?

After a tenant takes a protected action, the landlord is barred for a period of six months (subject to various exceptions) from taking any of the following actions:
  • Attempting to evict the tenant;
  • Increasing the tenant's rent or terminating the tenant's lease;
  • Decreasing services to the tenant;
  • Materially interfering in bad faith with the tenant's rights under the lease;
  • Depriving the tenant of use of the property, except as allowed by law.
However, it is important to remember that this prohibition is subject to a number of exceptions which you should be familiar with before engaging with your landlord. For example, your landlord can still evict you if you don't pay rent, engage in criminal activity, or seriously damage the property. Moreover, the landlord can avoid liability for retaliation if the landlord proves that its action was not taken for the purpose of retaliation.   

What should you do if you believe your landlord is attempting to retaliate against you?

Retaliation cases vary heavily from case to case, so giving general advice is hard. However, you should always keep copies of every communication sent to or by your landlord, as those can form an important part of your evidence at trial. When communicating with your landlord in person, try to have an uninvolved witness with you.