It seems unfathomable, but some of our neighbors in North Texas are still dealing with broken pipes, flooding and caved ceilings. NBC 5 wanted to know what, if anything, tenants could do. For those still dealing with damage, one of the primary questions is how long is too long to wait for repairs?
Sarah Ahmed, an attorney with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, said the winter storm was such an anomaly that it’s difficult to look at code or even case law for a definitive answer.
“Let’s say you’re the only unit in your apartment complex that had the busted pipe. Seven days might be considered reasonable,” said Ahmed. “But if you’re one of 77 units, seven days might not be considered reasonable.”
However, that doesn’t mean tenants are defenseless. Ahmed said the first step is to tell your landlord about the problems you’re experiencing inside your unit. Then she said to take pictures and document everything, even verbal communication.
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“You go back to your home after the conversation, you type up an email, and you say, ‘To recap our discussion, you said you would repair this damage by this time,’ and then send it to the landlord and attach any pictures you can,” she said.
Ahmed suggests using free legal services like Legal Aid of Northwest Texas to help determine whether the apartment is uninhabitable.
“Which means they are unlivable entirely,” she said. “Not just for you but for any tenant, then you have an option to send a notice of termination of lease.”
She said there’s even an option for apartments only partially uninhabitable.
“For that, you do need a judgment from a county or district court to be allowed to reduce or discount some of the rent. But you need that judgment,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed said calls for help have picked up, but she suspectsed many more people in North Texas need assistance. Ultimately, she wants people to know they don’t have to navigate this time alone.
“The truth is I don’t think we have as many calls as we should be getting, and I believe it’s because people just don’t know about these services,” said Ahmed.
For free legal help concerning post-storm damage, visit Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.