Landlords are required to do certain things when they agree to participate in the Texas Rent Relief program. This article only applies to Texas Rent Relief, no other rent assistance programs. Note that the these requirements have changed since the start of the program, and those listed below may not apply to landlords who entered the program early on.
The most current requirements can be found in the Landlord Certification form. What your landlord agreed to depends on which version of the certification form they signed, if any. If Texas Rent Relief paid rent funds directly to you instead of to your landlord, your landlord may not have agreed to any restrictions.
If your landlord violates their agreement with the Texas Rent Relief program, you may wish to file a complaint.
Cannot evict the tenant
The landlord cannot evict you based on something that occurred prior to when they accepted the rent relief funds. They also agree not to evict you so long as they receive Texas Rent Relief funds, except for criminal activity, property damage, or harm to others.
If they do evict you while receiving funds, they must return all post-eviction funds within 10 days.
If your landlord has already sued you for eviction and your case is in court, they agree to participate in the Texas Eviction Diversion Program. The Texas Eviction Diversion Program allows you to pause and eventually dismiss your eviction case. It also seals your eviction case record so that it will not make it harder for you to find housing in the future.
Cannot raise rent or fees while on rent assistance
The landlord cannot raise your rent while receiving funds from the Texas Rent Relief Program. They also cannot raise existing fees or add new fees.
Must allow you to renew your lease
The landlord cannot refuse to renew your lease while getting rent assistance. The landlord has to give you a new lease for at least the period of time for which they accepted funds. The new lease cannot increase rent or fees for months subject to rent assistance payments.
Cannot charge any fees not covered by Texas Rent Relief, including unreasonable late fees
The landlord cannot charge any fees that Texas Rent Relief does not cover. These include but are not limited to:
- Returned check fees
- Missed appointment fees
- Lease modification fees
- Any fees for applying for rent relief
- Unreasonable late fees
A late fee is unreasonable if it totals more than 12% of a month's rent for residences with fewer than five units, or 10% for residences with five or more units. For example, if rent on a single family home is $2,000, any late fees over $220 would be unreasonable. In a big apartment complex where rent is $2,000, any late fees over $200 would be unreasonable. This rule is base on the sum of all fees in a payment period, including initial late fees and daily late charges.
Cannot apply funds to more than three months' worth of future rent
Though it can pay for up to a year in past rent, Texas Rent Relief only pays for three months future rent. If you need more rent assistance in the future, you can apply again. (Texas Rent Relief is limited to 15 months rent assistance total, including both future and past rent.)
If your landlord said that they will apply Texas Rent Relief funds to more than three months' future rent at a time, they are breaking the program's rules. This raises the possibility of the state taking the money back in the future, which could potentially harm you.
Note that if you get rent assistance for a future month and then end up paying rent out of your own pocket for that month, the landlord should apply the rent assistance to the month you paid. The landlord can apply the money you paid out of your own funds to another future month that falls after the period for which you are getting assistance.
What if my landlord breaks these rules?
If your landlord breaks their agreement with the Texas Rent Relief program, you may file a complaint with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The TDHCA runs the Texas Rent Relief program, which includes the Texas Eviction Diversion Program. you can also call the TDHCA's fraud hotline if you think your landlord may be mishandling Texas Rent Relief or Texas Eviction Diversion Program funds: (833) 61-FRAUD or (833) 613-7283.
If your landlord is suing your for eviction even though Texas Rent Relief is paying your rent, you may be able to use the fact that your landlord is accepting rent assistance as a defense. You can tell the court during the hearing, but it may also be a good idea to include this information in your Answer. Be sure to bring any evidence you have to the hearing. You should also contact an attorney for help.
Even if the eviction court does not accept participation in the Texas Rent Relief program as a defense, you may be able to sue the landlord separately as someone intended to benefit (third-party beneficiary) of the agreement between the landlord and TDHCA. If that's the case, contact a private or legal aid attorney for help.
How does the landlord benefit from participating in the application process?
The landlord usually gets paid more quickly if they participate in the application. A landlord's failure to participate can delay payment.
Also, landlords who participate get paid directly. If a landlord does not participate, funds go directly to the tenant and the landlord must rely on the tenant for payment.