Positive Outcomes: Emergency Health & Safety Repairs Mediated Successfully

Many tenants in Austin are experiencing an all-too-common experience: they find themselves in a market in which property values continue to rise along with their rent, while their housing conditions are not diligently attended. In such an environment, it is not uncommon for tenants to finds themselves dealing with emergency repairs that affect their health and safety.

Mr. Kutach on the front porch of his Austin home where he tends to a myriad of lush plants from different regions of the US and also spends time relaxing in the mornings and evenings.

Mr. Kutach on the front porch of his Austin home where he tends to a myriad of lush plants from different regions of the US and also spends time relaxing in the mornings and evenings.

When a tenant experiences a problem that may be reasonably considered an emergency, they may turn to Austin Tenants Council (ATC) for help. ATC receives funding to assist tenants with emergency situations through its Crisis Intervention Program.

On May 30, 2018, Mr. David Kutach, a retired Air Force veteran and state employee, called our o ce describing such a situation. Mr. Kutach called and spoke to Daniel Armendariz, a landlord/tenant housing advocate, to explain that a portion of his living room ceiling had collapsed and fallen upon him while he relaxed on his couch. Additionally, he explained that the ceiling was actively leaking water.

Mr. Kutach, who suffers from certain medical issues, explained that he simply could not continue to live in his apartment under the current conditions. He expressed deep consternation that he had no alternative place to live and extremely limited financial resources.

Texas Law Regarding Repairs

Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code provides for a specific process by which a tenant must request repairs that affect the tenant’s health and safety and the landlord must make those repairs. When repairs must be made in a tenants dwelling and those repairs require that the tenant move out for a short period of time, ATC’s Crisis Intervention program may work with the landlord to accommodate the tenant so that temporary housing may be secured. In such cases, ATC works to request that the landlord pay for a hotel room for the few days that it will take to make the repairs. Alternatively, ATC may negotiate for pro-rated rent sufficient to allow the tenant to nd alternative housing. Sometimes a landlord simply moves the tenant into an existing uninhabited unit within the same housing complex for the duration of the repairs.

After Mr. Kutach’s May 30th call to ATC, it was clear that he would need alternative housing secured swiftly. At the time that Daniel called the landlord, negotiations were underway to secure a motel room for Mr. Kutach. On June 1, Daniel spoke directly with the property manager and confirmed (1) the repairs to Mr. Kutach’s apartment were presently underway, (2) Mr. Kutach was staying in a motel room that was being paid for by the property company, (3) Mr. Kutach would be allowed to remain in that motel until the repairs to his apartment were completed and (4) once repairs were completed, Mr. Kutach would be allowed to return to his apartment.

Unfortunately, despite the landlord’s verbal promise to Daniel, after about two nights, Mr. Kutach was informed that he would no longer be allowed to stay in the motel and must and alternative accommodation on his own. There is no statutory requirements that a landlord provide alternative accommodations to a tenant during repairs.

The repairs however, were completed shortly after Mr. Kutach was asked to leave the motel and he was able to return to the apartment. After this extremely strenuous ordeal, Daniel visit- ed Mr. Kutach at his apartment to view the completed repairs and recount the event. Mr. Kutach expressed his thanks to ATC for assisting him during the diffcult time and explained that he is now represented by an attorney to review how these events unfolded and to consider all available options.

Crisis Intervention Program

If you are experiencing a crisis such as a lock out, loss of electricity, hot water or similar event, please call our telephone counseling line at 512-474- 1961 immediately. A housing advocate will listen to your situation and determine if we can help you under our Crisis Intervention Program.