The Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to be aware of their rights and responsibilities before signing an apartment lease. Apartment complexes are consistently on the BBB’s top 25 list of industries that are complained about the most.

Nationally, the BBB received 1.7 million inquiries and nearly 15,000 complaints about apartments and property management companies in 2018. According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, tenants have a number of rights under Texas law, including peace, quiet, health, safety and security.

While landlords have, under the law, certain obligations to their tenants, it’s also important to remember that tenants have certain responsibilities under the law as well, including paying rent in full and on time, proper upkeep of the property, giving notice before moving out and supplying a forwarding address after a move.

As a tenant, you have a right to:

Health and safety: Renters have the right to live in safe and livable conditions. This includes safe conditions for all common areas, working hot water, working smoke detectors, resolving pest issues, adequate plumbing, etc. If you, a member of your household, guest or other lawful occupant causes damage to the property, the landlord does not have an obligation to make those repairs unless it is considered normal wear and tear.

Quiet enjoyment: Renters have a right to live in peace and quiet and not to be disturbed by other tenants. Likewise, tenants must not be a disturbance to other tenants. This rule also means that landlords may not evict tenants without cause.

Security: Renters have a right to live in a dwelling furnished with security devices such as window latches, sliding door security bars and keyed dead bolts on exterior doors, which must be installed at the landlord’s expense.

To learn more details about renter’s rights, go to the Texas Attorney Generals’ Office website.

Should you have issues, the BBB advises:

Ask for repairs in writing. If you have trouble with maintenance requests, send the landlord a dated letter via certified mail. Keep a copy for your records. If the landlord does not address the issue in a reasonable amount of time (usually seven days), consult with an attorney to determine whether you are entitled to terminate the lease, repair the problem and deduct the cost from your rent, or get a court to order that the repairs be made.

Continue paying rent. If you believe your rights have been violated, you may be entitled to terminate your lease or seek other course of action, but do not stop paying your rent in an attempt to force your landlord to make repairs. You could face eviction, or your landlord may be able to file suit against you.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practice, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB Scam Tracker.

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