Landlord must change the locks, but tenant must pay

Q. I let a friend borrow the extra key to my apartment and he lost it. Can I require my landlord to change my locks?

A. Under the law, a landlord has an obligation to change the locks at his expense when a new tenant moves in. After that time, the landlord must change the locks whenever the tenant requests, as often as the tenant wants. The tenant, however, must pay the costs of installing the new locks. In other words, you can require your landlord to change your locks; however, you must pay the costs.


Q. I am the custodial parent of my two children. I was recently awarded an increase in child support by the court. Now my ex, the non-custodial parent, is now threatening to sign over his legal rights so he does not have to pay. Can he do this and just walk away from paying support?

A. The non-custodial parent cannot avoid child support by just “signing away” his rights. It is possible for a court to terminate parental rights and end support payments, but this is very rare and usually is only done when someone else adopts the child and becomes liable for the child’s support.


Q. My friend took out a loan from a small loan company. She is behind and now a debt collector is calling, threating to have her arrested. Can she be arrested? How long would she spend in jail?

A. Not paying your debts is a civil matter – not criminal – and you cannot be arrested. We no longer have debtor’s prison. In fact, in my opinion, threatening to have her arrested violates both state and federal debt collection laws. I suggest she let them know she knows her legal rights and that she expects them to work with her to come up with a payment plan. She also may want to speak with a consumer attorney or file a complaint with the Texas Consumer Complaint Center to see if it can help. Visit


Q. Does a landlord have to disclose anything to a possible tenant? I just rented an apartment and discovered that the tenant above me practices the drums at night. I also learned that this was the reason the former tenant moved out. Do I have any legal rights?

A. First, under the law, the landlord owes you a duty to allow you to reasonably enjoy your apartment. If the upstairs tenant practices drums at unreasonable hours and disturbs your use of the apartment, my opinion is that the landlord has an obligation to quiet the drummer or remove him. Also, under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), a landlord has a duty to disclose known facts that would matter to an ordinary tenant. As far as I am concerned, not disclosing the reason the former tenant moved out and the fact that the upstairs tenant practiced drums is a violation of this law. Under the DTPA, you are entitled to up to three times your damages, and may be allowed you to get out of your lease. I suggest you let the landlord know you know your rights and hopefully you can work things out.