Stephen McIntyre. Alvin Sun-Advertiser. June 14, 1998. p.2A
In Texas all tenants have a right under the Texas Property Code to live peacefully in their homes. This means that if you and your landlord are having a disagreement, you get behind on your rent, you have a wild party and the property is damaged, or for any other reason the landlord wants you to move out and you do not want to move, the landlord must go through proper legal procedures by taking the case to court where the landlord must convince the judge to order you to move. The landlord can not force you out of your home by interrupting your utilities before the day you are ordered to leave by the judge. The basic rule concerning utilities, with very few exceptions, is:
- A landlord can not call up the utility company to have your water, gas, or electricity cut off-whether the bill is in your name and is paid directly by you or is paid by the landlord as part of the rent. Nor can he personally disconnect you by cutting wires, removing meters or faucets.
- A violation of the law may result in a court order against the landlord ordering the restoration of utility services, damages, penalty of one month’s rent or $500 whichever is greater, attorneys fees and costs, minus any money owed by the tenant.
On March 5th a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued by the 56th District Court in Galveston ordering a landlord by the name of James Perry to turn on his tenant’s electricity and to not interfere with it again. Two months later on May 7th a TRO was signed by the 239th District Court in Angleton ordering another landlord by the name of David Kelsey to not turn off his tenant’s electricity again. At the injunction hearing on May 21st, 149th District Judge May expanded the order against Mr. Kelsey to prohibit him from interfering with any utility services. Five days after the TRO in Angleton on May 12th a TRO was signed by 212th District Court in Galveston ordering another landlord by the name of George Homer to turn on his tenant’s electricity and to not interfere with it again.
The Galveston tenants were represented by Lisa Smith and Harold Desselle represented the Angleton tenants. Both tenants are staff attorneys with Gulf Coast Legal Foundation.
“We are very concerned about landlords who ignore the laws of Texas that were basically written by the wealthy landlord lobby,” said Stephen C. McIntyre, Regional Managing Attorney, Gulf Coast Legal Foundation. “Our offices in Galveston and Angleton will do our best to assist poor tenants against landlords violating the law.”
The Angleton office of Gulf Coast Legal Foundation serves Brazoria, Matagorda, and Wharton counties.
If you have questions about your rights as a tenant you can contact Gulf Coast Legal Foundation, Galveston office at (409)763-0381/(800)551-3712 or Angleton Office at (409)849-6464/(800)244-5492.