Property owner must be identified

Q. I would like to know if the property manager of an apartment project can refuse to give the tenant the owner’s name if the tenant requests it.

A. According to the Texas Property Code, the landlord or property manager must disclose the name and address of the holder of record title after you request it. If the information is not disclosed, you could be entitled to $100 plus one month’s rent in damages, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs. I suggest you send your request by certified mail.

Q. We hired a contractor to remodel two of our bathrooms. We paid him everything except the labor, which was to be paid at the time of completion for both bathrooms. After four months he stopped coming because he said he had lost money on the job. He also didn’t do the work very well; the shower leaked and he left holes in our family room ceiling and some of the grout in one bathroom is coming up. We finally fired him and asked for a refund on the second restroom, which he hasn’t touched. After several weeks of waiting for our refund, he continues to make excuses for not bringing our money to us. What recourse do we have?

A. You seem to understand the contractor’s failure to do the work breaches your contract and entitles you to damages. Your damages could be a refund of what you paid for the work not completed. But it also should include any costs you will incur to get what he has not done properly repaired, or any increase in costs to get the work completed. In my opinion, the contractor’s failure to properly perform also violates what is known as the “warranty of good and workmanlike performance.” A breach this warranty gives you a claim under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, our state’s consumer protection law. You could be entitled to up to three times your damages plus attorney’s fees if you have to hire an attorney.

Based on what you say, however, it seems like the contractor knows he owes you the money. As a first step to getting paid, I suggest a certified letter explaining that you know your rights under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and that you will file a claim in justice court or speak with an attorney if he does not promptly pay or make arrangements to pay what he owes you. Make it clear that you believe it is in everyone’s best interest to settle this matter amicably, and avoid any additional waste of time and money. Hopefully, he will pay. If he does not, contact the office of your local justice of the peace to find out how to file a claim in justice court, or, contact a local consumer law attorney.

Q. My apartment lease was up in November. Since that time we have had a month-to-month agreement. I am now moving out. I gave proper notice. I am afraid my landlord will not return my security deposit. Can I require the landlord to use my security deposit for the last month’s rent?

A. A security deposit is primarily designed to compensate the landlord for damage to the apartment. Under the Texas Security Deposit Law, assuming you gave proper notice and a forwarding address, a landlord must either return your security deposit, or give you written notice of why it is being withheld within 30 days of when you move out. A landlord who violates this law is considered to be acting in bad faith, and can owe the tenant three times the deposit plus $100.

You cannot, however, require the landlord to use the deposit to cover the last month’s rent. In fact, if you do, the landlord has the right to sue you for three times the deposit plus another $100.

Q. Am I entitled to a paid leave when I have a child? My employer has told me any leave will be without pay.

A. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks leave, depending on the size the company and how long you have worked there. The law, however, does not require that the leave be with pay. All you may be legally entitled to is an unpaid leave.

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