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Sued by the Tenant

What can a tenant do if you refuse their security device request?

If a landlord does not comply with the duty to install or rekey a security device, the tenant has several remedies. First, the tenant may install or  rekey the security device, in compliance with statutory standards, and deduct the reasonable cost of material, labor, taxes, and extra keys from  the tenant’s next rent payment. To exercise this right, the tenant must notify the landlord of the rent deduction after the landlord’s failure to comply with the statutory obligations. The notice must be given at the time of the reduced rent payment. Unless otherwise provided in a written lease, a tenant must provide one duplicate of the key to any key-operated security device to a landlord who requests a key in writing.

Second, the tenant may serve a written request for compliance on the landlord. Unless the landlord complies on or before the third day after  the date the notice is received, the tenant may unilaterally terminate the lease without court proceedings. However, the period in which a landlord must comply to avoid unilateral termination is extended to seven days after the request if the lease includes certain notices, in language which is underlined or in boldface print. Regardless of whether the lease contains language complying with the foregoing requirements, the additional time for landlord compliance allowed by Section 92.161(b) does not apply if, at the  time the tenant served the request, the tenant informed the landlord of specified urgent circumstances relating to unauthorized entries, or crimes in the tenant’s dwelling or apartment complex.

A tenant also is entitled to file suit against the landlord without serving a request for compliance. In this case, the tenant may obtain  a  judgment granting the following relief: (1) a court order directing the landlord to comply, if the tenant is in possession of the dwelling; (2) the tenant’s actual damages; (3) court costs; and (4) attorney’s fees, except in suits for recovery of property damages, personal injuries, or wrongful death

Alternatively, the tenant may choose to serve a written request for compliance on the landlord before bringing suit. If the landlord  does not  comply on or before the third day after the date the notice is received, and the tenant files suit, additional remedies, which may include punitive  damages and a civil penalty, will be available. The tenant may obtain a judgment granting (1) a court order directing the landlord to comply and  bring all dwellings owned by the landlord into compliance, if the tenant serving the written request is in possession of the dwelling; (2) the tenant’s actual damages; (3) punitive damages if the tenant suffers actual damages; (4) a civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $500; (4) court costs; and (6) attorney’s fees, except in suits for recovery of property damages, personal  injuries, or wrongful death. This set of remedies is available if the landlord deactivates or fails to install a keyless bolting device, on the basis of a claimed exemption that the landlord knows or  has reason to know is not available.

If a landlord does not comply with a tenant’s request regarding rekeying, changing, adding, repairing, or replacing a security  device under  Sections 92.156(b), 92.157, or 92.158 in accordance with the time  limits and  other requirements of this subchapter, the tenant may install, repair, change, replace, or rekey the security devices and deduct the  reasonable cost of material, labor, taxes, and extra keys from the tenant’s next rent. In  exercising this  remedy, the tenant must comply with the obligation to give notice of the rent deduction at the time of the reduced rent payment, and to  provide a duplicate key on request. The tenant also may unilaterally terminate the lease without court proceedings. Additionally, he or she may file suit against the landlord. In such a suit, the tenant may obtain (1) a court order directing the landlord to  comply, if the tenant is in possession of the dwelling; (2) the tenant’s  actual damages; (3) punitive  damages if the tenant suffers actual damages and the landlord’s failure to  comply is intentional, malicious, or grossly negligent; (4) a civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $500; (5) court costs; and (6) attorney’s fees, except in suits for recovery of property damages, personal injuries, or wrongful death.

The tenant may unilaterally terminate the lease or exercise  other  remedies under Sections 92.164 and 92.165 after receiving written notice  from  a management company that the owner of the dwelling has not provided or will not provide funds to repair, install, change, replace, or rekey a security device as required by law.

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