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Renters have limited options when waiting on landlords to make repairs following a natural disaster

Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 20:00:23-05

Major water damage brought on by a pipe burst at an apartment complex in Waco is forcing tenants to get creative.

The ordeal is shedding light on the limited options renters have while waiting for their landlords to make repairs after a natural disaster.

For Leigh Cole, this is how his day starts, filling up pots and pans with snow. He's not building a snowman.

"We've been having to shuffle snow in order to flush our toilets," said Cole.

That's because he's been living without running water for most of the week at the Circle at 1800 Apartments in Waco.

"It was like boom and I was like what happened?" he recalled.

Cole says while his wife was melting snow on the stove, the hood fell down, nearly hitting her. This is the same apartment complex where a frozen pipe burst, causing Lucretia Williams' ceiling to cave-in.

"I've lost everything in here," she said.

A landlord is not liable for a renter's property damage, like Williams' bed, crushed by the ceiling. Renter's insurance will cover that.

But when it comes a renters' options, A&M Central Texas Professor of Law, Lucas Loafman says there's not much they can do.

"They don't have great short-term options, the biggest being moving," Loafman said.

He explains renters have the right to move out, with notice, receive a prorated reduction of rent from that point forward, and get back their security deposit.

"But is another place available, currently is an issue," Loafman points out. "They have a reasonable time to make repairs."

Generally, he says landlords have up to seven days to fix it, but that can vary depending on the availability of a plumber or other contractor, leaving many like Cole with no other option than to stick it out.

"Here's what we had to do, just to have toilet water," Cole points to the pot full of snow on his stove. "We haven't been able to wash dishes in days."

An inconvenient but common sight for now.

Some renters may qualify for tax reductions for property damage caused by a natural disaster.

Management from Circle at 1800 Apartments declined our request for an interview but sent us this response.

"Our staff has been on the scene of the water leak... We have offered alternate accommodations to the resident... The record cold temperatures and dangerous road conditions make it difficult to bring in additional resources quickly, but we are doing all we can during this record setting weather event."

For more on Texas renter's rights, click here.