Locks and Security

Devices to be installed

A landlord must install the following security devices:

* a window latch on each exterior window;
* a doorknob lock or keyed deadbolt on each exterior door;
* a sliding door pin lock on each exterior sliding glass door,
* a sliding door handle latch, or sliding door security bar on each exterior sliding glass door, and
* a keyless bolting device (that only can be locked and unlocked from the inside) and a door viewer on each exterior door.

For french doors, one of the doors must meet the criteria above, and the other door must have bolts which insert into the doorjamb above and below the door. Keyless deadbolts are not required for units reserved for the elderly or disabled if it is part of the landlord's responsibility to check on the well-being of the tenants, or the tenant requests that the landlord not install or deactivate the device. Also, keyed deadbolts or doorknob locks are not required on all exterior doors as long as one door has both keyed and keyless deadbolts and the rest of the doors have keyless deadbolts.

Broken locks

A landlord may not require a tenant to pay for repair or replacement of a lock or other security device if it breaks because of normal wear and tear. A landlord may require a tenant to pay for repair or replacement of a lock that was damaged by misuse of the tenant (or the tenant's family or guest), but only if authorized by an underlined provision in a written lease. Unless a landlord fails to timely install, change or re-key a lock after giving the appropriate notices and paying any required fee as described below, a tenant should not install, change or re-key a lock without the landlord's permission.

Landlord must re-key between tenancies

A landlord must re-key or change all the key-operated locks (or other combination locks) on the exterior doors between each tenancy at his expense. The landlord must re-key not later than the seventh day after you move in. You can also ask the landlord to re-key or change the locks repeatedly during the tenancy, but these changes will be at your expense.
Procedure and remedies for lock problems

The landlord must install, repair, or re-key devices within a reasonable period of time, usually within seven days of the request. In cases of violence occurring in the complex in the preceding two months, a break-in, or attempted break-in of your place, or a break-in or attempted break-in of another unit in your complex within the preceding two months, the reasonable period is shortened to three days. You must notify the landlord of the violence, break-in or attempted break-in for the shorter time period to apply. Give your notice and request for installation or repair in writing, and be sure to keep a copy of the notice. If you are responsible for paying the landlord for the installation, repair or modification of the locks, the landlord may require the charges to be paid in advance but only in very limited circumstances.

If the landlord fails to install, repair, or re-key locks by the deadlines described above, you should give a written notice to the landlord requesting compliance (in some circumstances, a landlord can be liable without this written notice but the tenant has fewer remedies).

If the landlord fails to comply within seven days of the compliance notice (or three days if there has been foul play of the sort described above, or if the lease fails to disclose various tenant rights concerning security devices as described in this section), the tenant is allowed to do any one of the following: unilaterally terminate the lease; install/repair the security device and deduct the cost from the rent; or file suit for a court order requiring the landlord to bring all of his dwellings into compliance, and for actual damages, punitive damages, civil penalty of $500 and one month's rent, court costs, and attorney's fees.

(But, be aware that the landlord will likely not let you out of your lease or return you deposit without a fight. In fact, the landlord might put something on your credit report until you sue it and win. So, suing is often the best solution, rather than trying to terminate you lease.)

Other Methods

Security guards, lighting, fencing and ways to get them

There is nothing in the law that specifically requires landlords to hire security guards, or as some call them "courtesy patrol officers." If you do not see these folks patroling when they should be, notify the landlord because the landlord typically hires these services independently. These services are very expensive say the landlords, so they are not usually provided.

There are other ways to deter crime in your complex:
1. Better brighter lighting;
2. Fencing around the perimeter (rod iron, something criminals cannot hide behind);
3. Controlled access to the complex;
4. Better screening of tenant applicants;
5. Curfew on children under 18;
6. Security cameras with video taping.

Your local police department can probably provide other suggestions to help deter crime that are specific to your complex.

If an apartment complex has significant problems with crime you should notify the landlord in writing. You also should contact the local police department and your city council person. You might be able to get a crime watch started in your neighborhood. Typically, the neighborhood around a problem apartment complex will want to help you too (of course, most neighborhoods want to get rid of apartment complexes all together). But you should be able to obtain some assistance from these folks to try to get a handle on the crime. Neighborhood groups can help put pressure on city officials and the police to patrol your complex more often. You should also consider contact other government officials and the media.

If you can gain enough interest in your complex you could form a tenant association. A tenant association does not have to be formal; it can be just a group of residents that is interested in cleaning up a problem with their apartment complex. If all else fails, you could try suing the landlord because the crime. If a judge finds that the crime is so bad that the complex is a nuisance, the judge could specifically order the landlord to hire security guards, and install lighting, fencing and other devices to address the crime.

Getting out of the lease because of crime

The Texas Apartment Association (TAA) says: If a crime occurs at a property, it's unfortunate for all concerned: the victim, the other residents at the property and the owner. Most owners don't give any guarantees about the security of the property, or promise you that crimes will not occur on the property. So the owner is not likely to be in default of the lease if a crime does occur on the property. You can certainly discuss the specific situation with the owner or management to see if they are willing to accommodate your request. A landlord might be responsible if the landlord knew or should have known that that kind of crime was likely to occur and there was something it could have done to prevent or deter it. But, if they will not agree to let you out of your lease you will likely be responsible for any penalties outlined in your lease for moving out early. See Terminating the Lease.

Who pays for losses

If you have renters insurance, your insurance should cover your losses, minus any deductible. If you don't have insurance, you'll be responsible for replacing or repairing your property. The property owner's insurance does not cover property belonging to residents; it only covers the property owner's property.

If you suffered losses and can show that the landlord did not do something they should have, then you could try to get something from the landlord. Talk to your landlord first, and then consider filing suit if the landlord will not be reasonable. Keep in mind that crime does occur everywhere, but it occurs some places more than others. If the landlord knew or should have known how to prevent or deter the crime that harmed you, then you may have a case. (Of course, if they violated any of the laws concerning security devices discussed here, and this caused you harm, then you definitely have a case.)


Letter Demanding Locks Be Provided or Repaired

Lawsuit for Failure to Provide or Repair Locks

Letter Demanding Locks and other Devices be Rekeyed

Lawsuit for Failing to Rekey the Locks