Abstract: Shared Meter Setups: A Harmful Gap in Texas Landlord-Tenant Law that Needs to Be Filled

Jennifer Wallace, Volume 50 Articles Editor

Volume 50, Book 2

When it comes to landlord-tenant law, some states are more landlord-friendly, while other states tend to favor the tenant’s rights.  The State of Texas falls under the former type.  In some situations, the law governing the landlord-tenant relationship in Texas is clear, but in other instances, such as shared meter setups, the Property Code is silent.  Texas leaves tenants with no legal recourse regarding shared utility setups, and consequently, tenants are left at the mercy of their landlords to willingly disclose certain information, such as a shared water heater or shared electric meter.  Even when the shared meter setup is disclosed to a tenant, the tenant has no legal recourse to remedy the situation.  Shared meter setups are not addressed under the Property Code, let alone prohibited, and as a result, the Property Code is insufficient to protect tenants against landlords who may use this glaring gap in the law to the detriment of their tenants.  Amendments and reforms are needed in order to put tenants in a better bargaining position to be more equal with the landlord and to protect tenant rights.  This insufficiency in the law should be addressed by the Texas legislature in order to protect vulnerable tenants from dishonest landlords.  Other states, such as New York, California, and Minnesota, have already handled this shared utility setup issue in their landlord-tenant law, and these states can serve as inspiration for Texas to draw on when drafting its own shared meter law.