SECURITY DEVICES REQUIRED BY TEXAS LAW (Texas Property Code, Subchapter D, Sections 92.151 - 92.170).
All apartments, rent houses, condos and townhomes offered for rent must have these devices, provided at the owner's expense:
* a keyless deadbolt or keyless bolting device on all exterior doors
* a peephole or clear glass pane in all exterior doors
* a keyed deadbolt or door handle lock on a main entry door
* a pin lock on each sliding glass door
* either a door handle latch or a security bar on each sliding glass door
* a window latch on each window
LOCKS AND SECURITY DEVICES
As of January 1, 1995 all residential rental properties were required to fully comply with the revised lock law of 1993. The Texas Property Code, Subchapter D, Sections 92.151 - 92.170, guarantees tenants certain rights for locks, also know as security devices. This article explains which locks every rental dwelling must have, which locks the landlord has to install at the tenant's request, and defines each security device.
What Locks Are Required?
1. A landlord, at the landlord´s expense, is required to change or re-key locks within seven days of a new tenant moving in.
2. A landlord is also required to install the following security devices without the tenant having to request them:
a. one window latch on each exterior window in the dwelling;
b. a doorknob lock or keyed deadbolt on each exterior door; (see NOTE)
c. a keyless bolting device (i.e. a keyless deadbolt) on each exterior door;
d. a door viewer (i.e. a peep hole) on each exterior door; and
e. a pin lock and either a handle latch or a security bar on each exterior sliding glass door.
NOTE: The landlord does not have to install a deadbolt or doorknob lock if at the time the tenant agrees to lease the dwelling, at least one exterior door usable for normal entry, has both a keyed deadbolt and a keyless bolting device, and all other exterior doors have a keyless bolting device.
Tenant Remedies if the Landlord Does Not Install or Repair a Required Lock
If the landlord fails to install a lock required without the tenant's request or fails to change or re-key a lock after the tenant turnover date, the tenant may, without written request:
1. install or re-key the lock and deduct the cost from the tenant´s next rent payment;
2. file suit against the landlord for compliance and obtain a judgment for:
a. a court order directing the landlord to comply (avail- able only in County and District Courts);
c. court costs; and
d. attorney´s fees (except when the suit seeks damages for property, personal injuries, or wrongful death)
The tenant can serve a written request for compliance and if the landlord fails to comply in three days, the tenant may:
1. file suit against the landlord for compliance and obtain a judgment for:
a. a court order directing the landlord to comply (avail- able only in County and District Courts);
c. punitive damages (if actual damages suffered):
d. civil penalty of one month´s rent plus $500;
e. court costs: and
f. attorney´s fees (except when the suit seeks damages for property, personal injuries, or wrongful death);
2. unilaterally terminate the lease without court proceedings. However, if the lease contains a provision that in substance notifies the tenant of the rights described in section one of this brochure, the tenant must wait seven days after the notice is served before the lease can be terminated. In addition, if the lease notifies the tenant of the tenant´s rights about security devices and the tenant notifies the landlord that there has been an actual or attempted break-in in tenant´s unit or an actual or attempted break-in or a crime of personal violence in the apartment complex within the past two months, the tenant can request that the landlord change or re-key the locks and the landlord must do so within three days after receiving the request.
What Must the Landlord Do at the Tenant's Request?
A tenant may also ask for certain security devices that the landlord must install, but the tenant must pay for them. If a tenant requests, a landlord must install:
1. a keyed deadbolt on an exterior door if the door has:
a. a doorknob lock but not a keyed deadbolt or
b. a keyless bolting device but not a keyed deadbolt or doorknob lock (see NOTE above);
2. a security bar on each exterior sliding glass door if the door already has a pin lock and a handle latch;
3. additional rekeying or changing of a lock as many times as the tenant wants.
The landlord must pay for all locks required without tenant´s request and for changing or rekeying locks at the tenant turnover date. The tenant is only required to pay for the installation or rekeying of locks described in this section. The landlord may require advance payment if a written lease authorizes such advance payment and the tenant is either more than 30 days delinquent in reimbursing the landlord for previous lock changes or the same lock has been changed within the previous 30 days.
How Does the Tenant Request a Lock?
If the tenant has a written lease, the lease can require that the request be in writing. Because verbal requests are difficult to document, it is usually best to make requests in writing whether or not the lease requires it. Written requests should be sent certified mail, return receipt requested or hand delivered with a witness. The tenant should keep a copy of the letter.
Tenant Remedies if the Landlord Does Not Install or Repair a Lock Requested by the Tenant?
If the landlord fails to install or repair a lock requested by the tenant, the tenant may:
1. install or repair the lock and deduct the costs from the next month´s rent payment;
2. unilaterally terminate the lease without court proceedings; or
3. file suit against the landlord and get a judgment for:
a. a court order for landlord´s compliance;
b. actual damages;
c. punitive damages (if actual damages suffered);
d. civil penalties of one month´s rent plus $500;
e. court costs; and
f. attorney´s fees (except when the suit seeks damages for property, personal injuries, or wrongful death).
When Does the Landlord Not Have to Follow the Law?
If a tenant is obligated to pay for installing or rekeying a lock, the landlord has a defense for not following the law if the tenant is behind in rent or did not fully pay the costs in advance as requested by the landlord. The fact that a tenant is behind in rent or owes money is not defense for failing to install the security devices required by law described earlier. A lawyer or the Austin Tenants´ Council should be consulted if there are any questions about this section.
What Else Does the Law Say?
1. If either the tenant or the landlord files suit in court to harass the other person, they can be held liable for a civil penalty of one month´s rent plus $100 plus attorney fees.
2. The tenant cannot waive (give up) the right to have locks, even in a written lease. This means that any lease provision under which the tenant agrees that the landlord does not have to provide locks is unenforceable.
3. The landlord may not charge more than the total cost of labor, material, taxes, and extra keys when a tenant must pay for a security device.
4. The expenses of rekeying locks for purposes of the use of the landlord´s master key must be paid by the landlord.
Security Devices Defined
The Texas Property Code provides the following definitions of the security devices in Chapter 92, Subchapter D:
Sliding Door Pin lock’ means a lock, consisting of a pin or a nail inserted from the interior side of the door at the side opposite the door´s handle and that is designed to prevent the door from being opened or lifted.
Window latch’ means a device on a window that prevents the window from being opened and that is operated without a key and only from the interior.
Door viewer’ means a permanently installed device in an exterior door that allows a person inside the dwelling to view a person outside the door.
Re-key’ means to change or alter a security device that is operated by a key, card, or combination so that a different key, card, or combination is necessary to operate the security device.
Sliding door handle latch’ means a latch or lock:
1. located near the handle on a sliding glass door;
2. operated with or without a key; and
3. designed to prevent the door from being opened.
Sliding door security bar’ means a bar or rod that can be placed at the bottom of or across the interior side of the fixed panel of a sliding glass door and that is designed to prevent the door from being opened.
Tenant turnover date’ means the date a new tenant moves into a dwelling under a lease after all previous tenants have moved out.
Keyed dead bolt’ means either:
1. a door lock not in the doorknob that locks with a bolt into the doorjamb and is operated from the exterior by a key, card, or combination and from the interior without a key, card, or combination; or
2. a doorknob lock that contains a bolt with a least a one-inch throw.
Keyless bolting device’ means a door lock not in the doorknob that either locks:
1. a with a bolt into a strike plate and is operable only by knob or lever from the door´s interior and not in any manner from the door´s exterior, and that is commonly known as a keyless dead bolt;
2. by a drop bolt system operated by placing a central metal plate over a metal door jamb restraint that protrudes from the doorjamb and that is affixed to the doorjamb frame by means of three case-hardened screws at least three inches in length; or
3. by a metal bar or metal tube and secured in place at each end of the bar or tube by heavy-duty metal screw hooks.
A keyless bolting device does not include a chain latch, flip latch, surface-mounted barrel bolt, surface-mounted swing bar door guard, spring-loaded night latch, foot bolt, or other lock or latch.
The information in this article is a summary of the subject and other pertinent matters. It should not be considered conclusive or a substitute for legal advice. Unique facts can render broad statements inapplicable. Anyone needing legal assistance should contact an attorney.
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