Rent control in Austin, Texas, is an important issue to be knowledgeable about prior to moving to the city or changing apartments. Both landlords and tenants should research, understand and ask questions about the subject.
Rent Control Explained
A landlord of a rent controlled apartment is legally prohibited from raising rents beyond a prescribed amount. This means that there is a price ceiling for rent on that specific apartment. Rent control typically applies only to residential properties. Specific rent control guidelines are set by the state or county if the state legislature has provided the county with authority. Rent control is not available in every state.
Rent Control in Austin
The State of Texas has preempted rent control throughout the State, meaning that it is prohibited for rent control laws to be enacted by any authority. According to Texas law, the only time rent control may be employed is when it is approved by the governor during a disaster. Even under these circumstances, though, rent control is not permanent and only lasts as long as the governor allows.
Other Texas Rent Laws
Although there is no rent control in Austin, there are several other laws in place that are designed to protect tenants. The Austin Tenant’s Council is dedicated to assistant tenants in protecting their rights.
First, a landlord is required to provide applicants with written notice of eligibility criteria to avoid a prospective tenant from applying and writing a check to a landlord only to be denied. However, should the landlord fail to provide this information, the tenant is entitled by law to a return of all the information and funds given to the landlord within thirty days. Additionally, a landlord may not increase the rent for a residential property until the expiration of the initial lease term, and the law requires that a tenant receive no less than thirty-five days prior notice of any rent increase. Furthermore, a tenant that is the victim of sexual assault on the property may cancel a lease at any time with no notice to the landlord. Finally, a landlord may not disconnect utilities to an apartment due to nonpayment of bills or rent.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Travis County provides rental assistance for its low-income residents through what is known as the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. In this program, residents must pay at least 30% of their adjusted monthly income towards rent and utilities for any residence within Travis County boundaries as long as both parties agree to participate in the program. The County will pay the remainder of the rent due directly to the landlord. These vouchers can also be used to assist with security deposits. The waiting list for Section 8 is several years long.
The program does not fund individuals directly, but rather assists through a network of organizations. Because of this, the qualification and application procedures are different for each organization. Thoroughly research each program to determine whether you are qualified and, if so, how to apply for help.
The City of Austin also owns and manages three public housing sites through funding provided by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. These sites comprise over 1,500 units within Travis County that must be applied for by low-income residents living or working within the County.
Although rent control is prohibited in Texas, there are several other laws that protect a tenant’s rights. The City of Austin provides rental assistance to low-income tenants, but the waiting lists for such assistance is long. For any current or future Austin tenant, it is a good practice to thoroughly research all possible rental assistance programs prior to signing a commitment for a particular apartment.