Resources for Finding Housing and Current Tenant Questions/Concerns

Whether you’re seeking housing or are a current student tenant with questions about your lease, here are resources to keep you informed tenant.

Off-Campus Student Services

The University is planning for face-to-face instruction to resume this fall, unless evidence or directives suggest otherwise. For current or incoming students looking for off-campus housing, your resource is AggieSearch. AggieSearch is Texas A&M University’s official, searchable off-campus housing website. Even if you already know where you will live next year, the site offers a variety of resources:

  1. Listing Service - AggieSearch is a fully searchable database that allows students, parents, faculty/staff and guests to find off-campus housing to meets their needs. You can even take virtual tours of the properties to learn about various floorplans and property amenities. All prospective tenants are encouraged to exercise their own good judgment when evaluating a prospective rental unit or landlord.
  1. Roommate Finder - AggieSearch allows you to create a profile and search for roommates in the Bryan/College Station community. Students should use their university email account for immediate access to the site. Guest accounts will take 2 business days to approve and are only valid for 30 days.
  1. Educational Resource Center – On the AggieSearch site you can browse sample documents, including checklists, budgets, roommate considerations, suggested questions for property owners and more.

Questions regarding AggieSearch or any issue related to off-campus housing should be sent to ocss@tamu.edu. https://aggiesearch.tamu.edu/


Legal Issues for Student Tenants

I have left my dwelling or no longer use it as a result of COVID-19. Am I still required to pay my rent?
Yes, you are generally still bound by the terms of your rental agreement until your lease terminates. Always review your lease to determine what you and your landlord agreed to before making a decision about how to proceed.
 
My apartment complex is located near campus in College Station. Does that mean they are considered university or student housing?
Not necessarily. You may contact the Resident Life Office to confirm. Things like proximity to A&M campus, decorations reflecting the Aggie spirit (e.g., A&M flags, maroon/white color schemes, A&M logos) do not indicate a relationship between the university and the apartment complex. If you are off-campus, your relationship with the landlord exists through your lease, and you should direct all concerns to your apartment complex’s property management office or landlord if you can.
 
I have left my dwelling, or no longer use it as a result of COVID-19. I am unable to continue paying rent. What are my options?
Keeping in touch with your landlord or property manager because of your inability to pay rent is the best option. The best way to communicate with your landlord is to do so in writing. A writing can be a letter or an email. Even if you talk with your landlord in person or by phone, it is important to follow up in an email to document your understanding of any agreements or representations made during the conversation. The University has an emergency fund for students in need. Also, there are a few non-profits in Brazos county that may be able to provide help with rent or other monthly expenses.[1]

I am unable to continue paying rent, but my lease is over soon. Can I use my security deposit to offset some of my balance owed?
Texas law forbids a tenant from withholding the last month’s rent on the grounds that the security deposit will cover the balance owed.[2] Texas considers this a “bad faith” move. However, your landlord may work with you to accept the security deposit if you return the property in good condition with no need to offset any part of the existing security deposit for repairs.
 
I want to vacate my apartment and I don’t know how to go about it. What steps should I take?
Letting your landlord know that you would like to terminate your lease is the best possible route to take. Your landlord has every right to continue expecting rental payments for the entire lease term, but the landlord can also choose to reach an agreement with you and permit early termination. Your landlord has the right to accelerate all expected rental payments if you default on your lease, so take care in approaching the situation. If your lease does not expire for a few months but your landlord still requires you to pay your rent, paying it in monthly installments may be a more feasible option than being demanded to pay it up front. Review your lease carefully to understand your landlord’s expectations and rights.
 
I know there is a moratorium on evictions until April 30, 2020. What does that mean for me?
The Texas Supreme Court has directed all courts in the state to halt eviction proceedings until after April 30, 2020. Individual courts may extend the moratorium on evictions, but they are not required to. Courts are expected to begin eviction proceedings in May but contact your county courthouse for more information.
 
I know that evictions will be “frozen” until April 30, 2020, but I am late on my rent and my landlord has indicated that she wants to evict me. What does that mean, and how can she do that?
The moratorium on eviction proceedings does not mean that evictions cases can no longer be filed.[3] The Texas Supreme Court has allowed some proceedings to go ahead if they involve cases of violence or severe property destruction. However, eviction proceedings are merely halted. Landlords are able to continue posting notices to vacate if you are delinquent in paying rent or are in default for violating another portion of your lease. The actual eviction proceeding in court must wait until after the moratorium is over, however. Your landlord is prohibited by state law to take matters into her own hands without a court order.
 
I read somewhere that landlords are not supposed to charge late fees during COVID-19, but my landlord is still charging me for my balance due. Why is that?
One of the provisions in the federal CARES Act has directed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) to place a moratorium on eviction proceedings and charging late fees until July 24, 2020. This moratorium only applies to properties that either “(1) participate in a covered housing program or the rural housing voucher program, or, (2) has received a federally backed mortgage loan or a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan.”[4] Check with your local housing authority or regional HUD office for more information to see if your apartment complex has participated in any one of these programs.
 
If your apartment complex does participate in one of the housing programs mentioned above, then you can still be charged for late fees if you are late once the moratorium has been lifted. One option you could recommend your landlord take is to fill out a COVID-19 Payment Plan Agreement,[5] which would allow you to set up a payment plan for things such as rent, utilities, and trash. Late fees cannot be charged under a Payment Plan Agreement, but again, if you are still late once the payment plan has terminated, then your landlord can charge you late fees on anything owed.
 
The Texas Apartment Association has advised rental property owners to waive late fees until further notice but does not have the ability to make it mandatory.[6] Ask your property manager or landlord if they have any plans to waive late fees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
My landlord is asking me if I received a COVID-19 stimulus check from the government and if so, if I am willing to use that to pay any rent owed. What does that mean?
Unless authorized by the Internal Revenue Service, your landlord is not allowed to use the Stimulus Check Portal to determine eligibility or payment status for a stimulus check. If you believe your landlord has accessed this information without your consent, you may want to seek advice from an attorney.
 
My landlord/property manager has recommended that I take out a loan to pay off the rent that I owe. Is that legal, and if so, what are my options?
The Texas Property Code does not mention this type of suggestion as being illegal, but if your apartment complex explicitly directs you to take out a loan from a specific vendor, bank, or mortgagor, you may want to file a consumer complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The consumer portal is located here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/file-consumer-complaint/consumer-rights.    
 
I moved out of my apartment as a result of the quarantine, and my landlord/property manager is willing to work with me on paying off my rent owed in installments. What steps should I take to protect myself from liability?
You should make sure the agreement for installment payments is in writing. Most residential leases (such as Texas Apartment Association leases) require that all substantive communications regarding your lease be in writing. Sending correspondence by certified
mail is a safe way to communicate with your landlord or property manager, while texting is less preferable.
 
I have moved out of my apartment as a result of the quarantine, but I found someone who is willing to take over my lease. Is that allowed given the circumstances, and if so, what steps should I take?
Texas law states that it is illegal to sublet your dwelling without prior consent from your landlord, typically done so in writing. Even if a lease says something to the effect of you waiving your ability to sublet (even with landlord consent), you can still negotiate with your landlord.
 
A sublease and an assignment are two different things that create different relationships between yourself, your landlord, and your ‘replacement.’ A true lease assignment is established between three parties anyway, so there is no way for you to assign your lease without your landlord knowing. A lease assignment is an option for you if you do not want to, or are unable to, continue paying your rent. However, assignments put you at risk as you may have to guarantee your replacement resident. Some landlords will be willing to release you (called “novation”) from liability once a suitable tenant has been found. As always, maintaining an open and honest dialog with your landlord is key.
 
My complex wants to charge me a ‘reletting fee’ for leaving my apartment before my lease ended. What is that, and what are my options?
A reletting fee is not a way for you to ‘buy out’ of your lease. A subletting fee is usually calculated as an estimate of what your apartment complex will have to expend in order to find a ‘replacement’ resident. Standard Texas Apartment Association Agreements mention a subletting fee that usually ranges between 70%-85% of the highest rent charge for the term of your lease (although many leases charge you the same amount of rent per month). Your landlord may still accelerate the rest of your future rent charges in addition to the reletting fee. It is always good to talk to your landlord about options in scenarios like this and see if she is willing to negotiate with you.
 
If I have moved out of my apartment as a result of the quarantine and do not plan to pay my apartment complex any more rent, past or present. Does my landlord still have any obligations to me?
Your landlord has a legal duty to mitigate damages if you are no longer paying rent and have moved out of your apartment. Any lease provision that waives this duty is void under Texas law.[7] If your landlord is able to lease your dwelling after you vacate and is receiving the same or more rent than you paid, then amount you have due to the landlord should be reduced. Essentially, your landlord is not allowed to “unjustly enrich” herself by still charging you for rent on your lease while also collecting rent from the resident who ‘replaced’ you in your old apartment or residence.
 
I did not pay rent and my landlord locked me out. Is this legal?
Yes. A landlord can lock you out for not paying rent or abandoning the property. Abandonment is not clearly defined[8] but if you have vacated your premises for more than 5 days and took your belongings, a landlord can make a strong argument that you abandoned the dwelling. Your landlord has the legal obligation to notify you of the intent to lock you out, and must provide the name, number, address, and times that someone can provide you a key to enter the dwelling and remove your belongings.
 
I do not have any assets, so should I care if my landlord proceeds with an eviction?
An eviction is usually reported to credit agencies and appears on your record indefinitely. A history of evictions, even if it is just one, can often count against you when a prospective landlord is screening you as a new tenant. Also, you should consider whether a family member, friend, or significant other, is a guarantor on your lease. If they are, they will also be liable for any outstanding debt.
 
Since I am not working, I will not be able to make my rental payment next month. I intend to stay in my dwelling but don’t know if my roommates will continue to pay rent. How do I deal with this situation?
Review your lease and determine what you are obligated to pay. Most leases make all tenants liable for the entire rental amount. Your landlord may not only have the right to evict you if full rental payment is not made, but she may also charge late fees or penalties if there is a provision in the lease that allows for it.
 
My landlord notified me that they will proceed with an eviction as soon as the court permits it as a result of not paying my rent. What should I expect from the court process?
The landlord must give you at least 3 days’ notice that he intends to proceed to file a lawsuit to recover possession of your dwelling. Weekends and holidays are included from the three days’ notice.
Once the landlord files an eviction (called a “forcible detainer” suit) in the County Justice of the Peace Court, tenants typically have 10-21 days before they have to appear before the court to determine possession and rent. It is possible that it will take courts longer to schedule these trials as a result of a backlog, particularly in cases that require juries.
 
If the landlord gets a court order for possession, as a result of proving that rent is owed or because the tenant did not show up to court, the tenant usually has about 5 days to appeal the order with the County Court.
 
What happens if I lose the forcible detainer suit (a.k.a. the eviction)?
If the tenant does not appeal or loses the appeal, landlord can obtain an order for possession after 6 days of the court order. A sheriff or constable will post a notice outside
of the dwelling indicating the date and time they will return to remove tenants and their possession from the unit. The notice is placed not less than 24 hours before execution.
 
Where can I get more legal information or advice?
LegalLine is a free legal advice hotline that operates on Tuesday between 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM to answer basic legal questions. Call 512-472-8303 during that time period for more information. Here are some additional resources:

• Texas Law Help: https://texaslawhelp.org/house-apartment/eviction-other-landlord-issues  
• Texas State Law Library: https://guides.sll.texas.gov/disaster-emergency/landlord-tenant  
• Attorney General of Texas: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/home-real-estate-and-travel/renters-rights  
• Texas Young Lawyers’ Association: https://www.housing.af.mil/portals/79/documents/AFD-160628-021.pdf  


[1] See, e.g., Brazos County Assistance Programs, NEED HELP PAYING BILLS https://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/brazos_county_assistance_progr.html (last visited Apr. 19, 2020). 
[2] Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 92.108 (West 2019). 
[3] Ninth Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster, SUP. CT. TEX (Misc. Docket No. 20-9052) (Apr. 6, 2020) (“A writ of possession may issue, but the posting of the written warning required by § 24.0061(d)(1) of the Property Code and the execution of the writ of possession may not occur until after May 7, 2020, and the deadlines in Rules 510.8(d)(1)- (d)(2) are tolled while this Order remains in effect.”). 
[4] COVID-19 Late Fees and the CARES Act, TEX. REALTORS, https://www.texasrealestate.com/wp-content/uploads/COVID-19LateFeesCARESAct.pdf (last visited Apr. 19, 2020). 
[5] COVID-19 Payment Plan Agreement, NAT’L APARTMENT ASS’N, https://www.naahq.org/sites/default/files/naa-documents/final_-_naa_payment_plan_agreement.pdf (last visited Apr. 19, 2020).
[6] Coronavirus Renter Resources, TEX. APARTMENT ASS’N, https://www.taa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/TAA-Cororavirus-Renter-Resources-1.pdf (last visited Apr. 19, 2020).
[7] Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 91.006 (West 2019). 
[8] Mere non-use of your apartment, such as leaving your apartment with only some of your belongings with the intent to return, is likely insufficient evidence to determine abandonment. The court, not your landlord, will determine if you had abandoned your dwelling.
 

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