Categories: General
      Date: Jan  6, 2010
     Title: Ask The Lawyer

Question:  I rented a house without a written lease or deposit.  I paid month to month.  I gave 30 days notice that I was planning to move at the end of December.  All of my rent was on time and current when I moved.  Before I moved, the weather was really cold and a water faucet on the outside of the house froze and burst, making a hole in the wall.  I made an agreement with my landlord to pay for the repair, and I gave my landlord a check.  Now my landlord is demanding more money, saying that the repairs are actually going to cost about 10 times more than what we agreed upon.  Am I obligated to give her more money?



“Am I obligated to give her more money?”

Question:  I rented a house without a written lease or deposit.  I paid month to month.  I gave 30 days notice that I was planning to move at the end of December.  All of my rent was on time and current when I moved.  Before I moved, the weather was really cold and a water faucet on the outside of the house froze and burst, making a hole in the wall.  I made an agreement with my landlord to pay for the repair, and I gave my landlord a check.  Now my landlord is demanding more money, saying that the repairs are actually going to cost about 10 times more than what we agreed upon.  Am I obligated to give her more money?

    Answer:  No.  Landlord and tenant relationships are governed by the Title 8 of the Texas Property Code.  Residential property is found in Chapter 92.  Although a landlord and tenant may enter into an oral lease, provisions concerning who is responsible for the cost of repair to the property must be in writing.  Not only must those provisions be in writing, “the agreement for repairs by the tenant is either underlined or printed in boldface in the lease or in a separate written addendum, the agreement is specific and clear and the agreement is made knowingly, voluntarily, and for consideration.”

    Consideration is the “quid pro quo” of all contract relationships, the “this for that.”  In other words, the tenant must agree in writing to pay for certain repairs to the leased property because of something that the tenant receives in return.  Often provisions for the repair to leased property are seen in lease to own agreements, where in the end, the tenant becomes the owner.

    Several problems exist in the scenario.  No written lease agreement was executed between the landlord and the tenant.  The parties did not bargain for any repairs made to the leased property.  And, some repairs to property are almost always within the domain and obligation of the landowner, such as those for general wear and tear. 

    The reason for landlords and tenants to enter into a lease via a written and signed lease is to protect both parties.  A lease details much more than the monthly cost to use the premises and is the document each party looks to when something occurs such as fire, water or wind damage, or even if one of the parties wants to terminate the lease early.  Not having a written agreement means that neither party may state that something was agreed to, but must rely upon the provisions of the Texas Property Code that state what a lease may or may not contain.  When no written document exists to evidence the parties’ intentions, both must look to the law for what either of them has a right to do or claim.  In this scenario, the landlord may not demand money from the tenant for the repair caused by the frozen water faucet because no written lease evidences that remedy.

    It is important to note that not all desires of the parties may be formalized in the lease and not all rights or duties may be waived.  In the case of the frozen water faucet, the damage would likely have been the liability of the landlord even if the parties had taken the time to write out the lease.

    This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice.  Please direct questions to Ask the Lawyer to robinscottlaw@live.com or via the facebook page for the Dalhart Texan.