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TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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Hi, We live in an apartment complex in North Austin. A new

Resolved Question:


We live in an apartment complex in North Austin. A new management has recently taken over the complex. They are trying to put washers and dryers in every empty unit right now and our water is shut off very often. On top of that, we have to listen to construction every day. They sometimes give notice in advance, but rarely follow their schedule. Most of the time they say there is an emergency and they shut it off without notice. Is there anything we can do about it? The washers and dryers are not going to be installed in our apartments, since we have been living here for a while now. And we were not informed about this before we signed the contract, so not given heads up.

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  TexLaw replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your question. I've actually been in your shoes before in Austin with a landlord that did whatever they wanted without concern for the tenants.

The short answer is that the landlord has a right to interrupt your utility service if it is for bona fide construction purposes. That being said, a continued interruption, that makes the apartment uninhabitable because you don't have water, can qualify as a constructive eviction. However, this would be a hard case. You could also assert that the continued interruption of your water service is a breach of the warranties in your lease. The lease most likely states that the landlord agrees to provide water service. Thus, the repeated interruption of your water service is a breach of the lease. You can file suit in the Justice of the Peace court to have the contract "rescinded" or to have damages (if you have any actual monetary loss resulting). Rescinded means that you are terminating the lease without penalty and allowed to move out.

The landlord would likely fight you very hard, so I wouldn't try simply moving out and telling the landlord that your lease is cancelled. I suggest filing the lawsuit in small claims and asking for a rescission of the lease agreement based on the noise and the lack of consistent water service.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks. You answer is very helpful.

1) What is considered as bonafide construction? Does this water/dryer connection installation count? These connections are not going to benefit me or my existing neighbors obviously. It is not for the apartment community either for sure.
2) Would it help to get neighbors together? We are not the only ones bothered about this in here. This is a huge apartment complex. We wanted to get discount on the water but the management does not want to do that.

3) Since this construction and water shut offs started, our water bill did not go down, surprisingly. I feel like we are being ripped off. I want to see the bill for the whole apartment complex (our bills are combined). Can I just go there and ask for it?
Expert:  TexLaw replied 3 years ago.
I'm going to answer one at a time:

1) Is this bona fide construction. Most likely. Installation of new appliances into unoccupied units in the complex will likely be counted as bona fide construction or repair. It is only situations where they simply turn it off and claim it was construction but there was no construction or repairs going on at all when it is considered "not bona fide".

2) Would it help to get the neighbors together? Absolutely, although this could be like herding cats. If you get everyone to agree, you could threaten a mass lawsuit against the apartment complex. Your best bet would be to get everyone to sign a petition stating that you require compensation for the lost water or you are going to all file a lawsuit to terminate your contracts and move out in mass. This might scare them into action.

3) Water bill - You can go ask to see what the water bill is, however, you don't have a right to demand it at this point. Apartment complexes without individual water meters often simply split the over all water bill amongst the units and it does not correspond to your individual usage. In the end it is a rip off because even if you never used water in the apartment, you would still have to pay the allocation to your unit from the overall complex usage. Another alternative would be to contact the water company and see if you could get the information from them. I wouldn't waste much time on the water bill issue though.
TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience: Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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