Can a landlord disconnect the utilities of a tenant in Texas for failure to pay rent?
No. Under TX Property Code Sec. 92.008, a landlord may not disconnect the utility service (electricity, gas, water, ect.) of a tenant for failure to pay rent. In fact, a landlord may not disconnect the utilities of a tenant for any violation of a lease, including the obligation to pay fees to use such utilities. This means that even if a portion of the rent goes toward the payment of utilities (ex. utilities included in rent), the landlord may not disconnect a tenant’s utilities. The only times a landlord can disconnect utilities is to make bona fide repairs, complete temporary construction, or if there is an emergency. This right cannot be waived by a tenant and any lease provision which purports to do so is void.
If a landlord has wrongfully disconnected a tenant’s utility service, the tenant may recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease. In either case, the tenant may recover actual damages, one month’s rent or $500 (whichever is greater), and reasonable attorneys’ fees and cost, less any delinquent rents or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.
To restore utility service that has been wrongfully disconnected, the tenant must strictly adhere to the procedure set forth in TX Property Code Sec. 92.0091. Under this statute, the tenant must file a sworn complaint specifying the facts of the alleged unlawful utility disconnection with the justice court of the precinct in which the rental property is located. The tenant may also request a writ of restoration of utility service to immediately and temporarily restore the utility pending a final hearing on the tenant’s sworn complaint.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
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