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Nowlin v. Keaton

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

May 7, 2019

LINDA S. NOWLIN, Appellant
v.
LORI KEATON, Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Travis County, Texas [1] Trial Court Case No. C-1-CV-15-005936

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Goodman and Countiss.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Julie Countiss Justice

         Appellant, Linda S. Nowlin, challenges the trial court's judgment, rendered after a jury trial, in favor of appellee, Lori Keaton, in Nowlin's suit against Keaton for breach of lease agreement and Keaton's countersuit against Nowlin for failure to refund security deposit, [2] retaliation, [3] and other violations of the Texas Property Code.[4] In seven issues, Nowlin contends that the trial court erred in entering judgment in favor of Keaton on Nowlin's breach-of-lease-agreement claim, entering judgment in favor of Keaton on Keaton's counterclaims, and awarding Keaton attorney's fees.

         We affirm.

         Background

         In her amended petition, Nowlin alleged that on May 6, 2014, she purchased a house in Austin, Texas (the "property"). Prior to Nowlin's purchase, Keaton lived at the property pursuant to a lease agreement with the property's previous owner. Nowlin and Keaton executed a new lease agreement (the "lease agreement") when Nowlin purchased the property.

         Nowlin further alleged that the lease agreement provided a lease term from May 6, 2014 until April 30, 2015 and required Keaton to pay $2, 100 in rent each month. Keaton was to make her rent payments by direct deposit on the first day of each month, with the exception of her May 2014 rent payment. Keaton was not required to pay a security deposit directly to Nowlin, but the $2, 000 security deposit that Keaton had paid to the property's previous owner was transferred to Nowlin when she purchased the property. The lease agreement also required Keaton to pay a $1, 785 reletting fee if she vacated the property under certain conditions before the end of the lease term.

         Additionally, under the terms of the lease agreement, Keaton was to provide Nowlin with an inventory and condition form at the beginning of the lease term, and Keaton was liable and required to reimburse Nowlin for any expenses incurred in remedying damage to the property resulting from any cause other than Nowlin's own negligence or fault. The lease agreement also stated that Keaton was to promptly notify Nowlin, in writing, of any water leaks, mold, electrical problems, malfunctioning lights, broken or missing locks or latches, and other conditions that posed a hazard. Further, Keaton was responsible for cleaning the interior of the property and could be liable for reasonable cleaning charges.

         In regard to termination of the lease agreement, Keaton was required to give thirty-days written notice before moving out of the property. Upon vacating the property, Keaton was liable for certain charges, including unpaid rent, certain repairs and damages, replacement of unreturned keys, and the reletting fee, all which could be deducted from Keaton's $2, 000 security deposit. Nowlin was required to return, within thirty days of move out, Keaton's security deposit, less any lawful deductions.

         Nowlin further alleged that on June 3, 2014, Keaton paid Nowlin rent, but failed to make any other rent payments thereafter. And Nowlin alleged that on September 5, 2014, without written notice and prior to the end of the lease term, Keaton moved out of the property without paying rent for the entire lease term, responding to a notice of abandonment, making her September rent payment, paying the $1, 785 reletting fee, and cleaning the property.

         After Keaton vacated the property, Nowlin discovered that the property had been damaged. Between September 18, 2014 and November 5, 2014, Nowlin made repairs to the property, which cost her $13, 738. Nowlin also hired a professional cleaning service to clean the property. Nowlin did not return any portion of Keaton's security deposit.

         According to Nowlin, after Keaton vacated the property, Nowlin "exercised reasonable diligence to mitigate [her] damages by repairing the damage to the property caused by [Keaton] in as prompt a manner as possible and then [by] seeking another tenant to" rent the property. Nowlin, however, did not find another tenant for the remaining portion of the lease term, and she received "no actual rent from any other tenant during that time period." Nowlin asserted a claim against Keaton for breach of lease agreement and sought $19, 000 for unpaid rent, $13, 738 for repairs to the property, $1, 785 for the reletting fee, and attorney's fees.

         In her third amended answer and counterclaims, Keaton generally denied the allegations in Nowlin's amended petition, asserting, inter alia, that Nowlin had breached the lease agreement first and waived Keaton's compliance with the lease agreement. Keaton also brought counterclaims against Nowlin, alleging that she began living at the property in 2011 under a lease agreement with the property's previous owner. Subsequently, she and Nowlin executed the lease agreement, which required Keaton to pay $2, 100 in rent each month.

         After Nowlin purchased the property in May 2014, she and/or her agents, repeatedly came to the property, oftentimes without proper notice and on holidays, to make repairs that were purportedly "to protect [Nowlin's] investment." Nowlin told Keaton that "she could enter [the property] whenever she wanted," and Nowlin told her contractors that they could leave their tools and materials in the property's garage. (Internal quotations omitted.) Nowlin also gave her contractors permission to use Keaton's tools to complete their work.

         On May 14, 2014, Keaton "expressed to [Nowlin] that she was unaccustomed to and overwhelmed by" Nowlin's presence at the property and the presence of Nowlin's contractors at the property on an almost daily basis. On May 19, 2014, Keaton sent Nowlin a letter expressing her frustrations with the frequent intrusions. At that time, Keaton also requested that Nowlin install a keyless dead bolt lock on the property's front door. On May 24, 2014, Nowlin installed a "keyed" dead bolt lock on the property's front door, stating that it was "keyless" because no key existed for the lock, despite there being "a clear keyhole on the exterior of the lock." (Internal quotations omitted.)

         On June 11, 2014, Keaton notified Nowlin, by letter, that she had failed to provide her address as required by the Texas Property Code, she was continuing to access the property without providing proper notice, she had failed to install pin locks on the exterior sliding glass doors at the property, and she had failed to provide working handle latches for the exterior sliding glass doors. In her letter, Keaton requested the installation of pin locks, working handle latches, and security bars on the exterior sliding glass doors. On July 28, 2014, Keaton notified Nowlin by email that a keyless dead bolt lock still had not been installed on the property's front door and "there were no locks on the [property's exterior] sliding glass doors," and Keaton requested the installation of pin locks. According to Keaton, Nowlin did not provide pin locks or proper security bars for any of the exterior sliding glass doors, did not fix the inoperable handle latches that did not properly latch to secure the exterior sliding glass doors, and did not disclose her address as requested.

         Keaton further alleged that after Nowlin purchased the property in May 2014, Nowlin served Keaton with three notices to vacate. The first notice to vacate, served on June 4, 2014 (the "June 4, 2014 notice to vacate"), stated that Keaton "had disturbed or threatened the rights, comfort, health, safety or convenience of others and disrupted [Nowlin]'s business operations." The second notice to vacate, served on July 2, 2014 (the "July 2, 2104 notice to vacate"), stated that Keaton had failed to pay rent. Contrary to the July 2, 2014 notice to vacate, however, Keaton alleged that she had attempted to make her July rent payment by direct deposit, as required by the lease agreement, but Nowlin had instructed her bank not to accept Keaton's deposit. On September 4, 2014, Nowlin served Keaton with a third notice to vacate (the "September 4, 2014 notice to vacate"). The next day, Keaton told Nowlin that she was moving out of the property. Keaton asserted counterclaims against Nowlin for failure to refund security deposit, retaliation, and violations of Texas Property Code sections 92.153(a)(3), (a)(5), 92.157(a)(2), and 92.158.

         In regard to her counterclaim for failure to refund security deposit, Keaton alleged that Nowlin refused, in bad faith, to return Keaton's $2, 000 security deposit or provide Keaton with a proper itemized accounting after Keaton had vacated the property and provided written notice of her forwarding address.[5] Keaton sought $6, 100 in damages, "which represent[ed] the statutory penalty of $100 plus three times the portion of the security deposit withheld by" Nowlin, and attorney's fees.[6]

         With respect to her counterclaim for retaliation, Keaton alleged that Nowlin was prohibited from retaliating against her when Keaton, in good faith, had exercised or attempted to exercise her rights and had made requests for repairs.[7] According to Keaton, a landlord acts in retaliation when she commits any of the following acts within six months of a tenant exercising her rights or making a repair request: (1) the landlord files an eviction proceeding against the tenant, (2) the landlord deprives the tenant of use of the premises, (3) the landlord decreases services to the tenant, and (4) the landlord increases the tenant's rent or terminates the tenant's lease agreement, or engages in a bad faith course of conduct that materially interferes with the tenant's rights under the lease agreement.[8]

         Keaton alleged that she had exercised her right to the peaceful use and enjoyment of the property by repeatedly requesting that Nowlin reduce the number of intrusions at the property. In retaliation, Nowlin served Keaton with the June 4, 2014 notice to vacate, attempting to terminate the lease agreement. Further, when Keaton requested that Nowlin install pin locks on the exterior sliding glass doors, "repair inoperable handle latches" on the exterior sliding glass doors, and provide her address as required by the Texas Property Code, Nowlin served Keaton with the July 2, 2014 notice to vacate. And after Keaton prevailed in Nowlin's forcible-detainer action against her, Nowlin, in retaliation, served Keaton with the September 4, 2014 notice to vacate. Keaton sought $2, 600 in damages, "which represent[ed] the statutory penalty of one month's rent plus $500," and attorney's fees.[9]

         Keaton further alleged, in regard to her counterclaims for other violations of Texas Property Code, that Nowlin violated Texas Property Code section 92.153(a)(3) by refusing to comply with Keaton's written request for the installation of pin locks on the exterior sliding glass doors at the property;[10] Nowlin violated Texas Property Code section 92.153(a)(5) by refusing to comply with Keaton's written request for the installation of a keyless dead bolt lock on the front door of the property;[11] Nowlin violated Texas Property Code section 92.157(a)(2) by refusing to comply with Keaton's written request for the installation of working handle latches or security bars on the exterior sliding glass doors;[12] and Nowlin violated Texas Property Code section 92.158 by "refusing to repair or replace [certain] broken security devices, specifically the inoperable [handle] latches [on the exterior] sliding glass doors."[13]

         Related to her counterclaims for violations of Texas Property Code sections 92.153(a)(3) and (a)(5), Keaton sought $13, 000 in damages, "which represent[ed] the statutory penalty of one month's rent ($2, 100) plus $500, multiplied by five violations," and attorney's fees.[14] Related to her counterclaim for a violation of Texas Property Code section 92.157(a)(2), Keaton sought $7, 800 in damages, "which represent[ed] the statutory penalty of one month's rent ($2, 100) plus $500[, ] multiplied by four doors," and attorney's fees.[15] Finally, related to her counterclaim for a violation of Texas Property Code section 92.158, Keaton sought $7, 800 in damages, "which represent[ed] the statutory penalty of one month's rent ($2, 100) plus $500[, ] multiplied by three devices," and attorney's fees.[16]

         At trial, the trial court admitted into evidence a copy of the lease agreement signed by Nowlin and Keaton. The lease term under the agreement began in May 2014 and ended on April 30, 2015. Pursuant to the lease agreement, Keaton was required to pay $2, 100 every month directly into Nowlin's bank account (the "deposit account"). Keaton's rent payment was due on the first of the month, but no late fees were to be imposed on Keaton until after the third day of the month. Under the lease agreement, the $2, 000 security deposit that Keaton had paid to the property's previous owner was to be transferred to Nowlin at the time she purchased the property. Additionally, the lease agreement provided that Keaton would receive an inventory and condition form on which she was to note any defects or damage to the property that existed at the beginning of the lease term.

         In order to move out of the property, the lease agreement required Keaton to provide written move-out notice. Keaton was also liable for a $1, 758 reletting fee if she failed to give written move-out notice as required under the lease agreement, moved out without paying rent in full for the entire lease term, moved out at Nowlin's demand because of default, or was judicially evicted. The lease agreement further provided that Nowlin was required to refund Keaton's security deposit, less any lawful deductions, and provide an itemized accounting of any deductions within thirty days of Keaton vacating the property. Nowlin could deduct any unpaid rent from Keaton's security deposit.

         In regard to security devices for the property, the lease agreement stated that Nowlin was required by Texas law to provide pin locks on the exterior sliding glass doors, either handle latches or security bars on the exterior sliding glass doors, and "a keyless bolting device (deadbolt) on each exterior door." And Nowlin was required to pay for any missing security devices that were required by statute.

         The trial court also admitted into evidence a copy of Keaton's inventory and condition form, which she completed at the beginning of the lease term and which Nowlin signed. The form states that the property contained no "[k]eyless bolting devices," keyless dead bolt locks, or pin locks for the exterior sliding glass doors. Further, the handle latches on the upstairs exterior sliding glass doors did not function. In regard to security bars, the form states that only two of the upstairs exterior sliding glass doors had bars.

         Nowlin testified that she and Keaton signed the lease agreement, which had a lease term from May 6, 2014 to April 30, 2015. Under the lease agreement, Keaton was required to pay $2, 100 each month by direct deposit into Nowlin's deposit account.

         Keaton made her rent payments in May and June 2014. However, on June 4, 2014, Nowlin served Keaton with a notice to vacate, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence. That notice states, in part:

You have violated your lease contract as noted below:
Lease Paragraph: 20 Prohibited Conduct.
See also Paragraph 28 When We May Enter.
Name of resident or occupant or guest in violation: Lori Keaton[.]
Nature of violations: Disturbing or threatening the rights, comfort, health, safety or convenience of others including our agents; disrupting our business operations.
These were substantial breaches of your TAA Lease Contract.
Your residency is terminated effective immediately. You are hereby given notice to vacate the premises on or before midnight, June 5, 2014, which is at least one day from the delivery of this notice in accordance with your lease contract. Failure to move out by then will result in an eviction suit being filed before the Justice of the Peace. Delay or postponement of such action does not waive our rights. You are liable for all rent due under the full term of your contract, damages to the premises, legal fees and any other charges due under the terms of your agreement.

         On June 4, 2014, Nowlin also filed a forcible-detainer action against Keaton, alleging that Keaton had breached the lease agreement by unreasonably refusing to allow Nowlin or her agents to enter the property to make repairs or perform maintenance and by failing to pay her rent in a timely manner.

         According to Nowlin, Keaton did not make any rent payments after June 2014. Thus, in Nowlin's opinion, Keaton had failed to pay $21, 000 in rent that was due under the lease agreement. In regard to Keaton's July rent payment, although Keaton told Nowlin that she had tried to make the rent payment for that month, Nowlin explained that Keaton did not make the rent payment on July 1, 2014. And because of this, Nowlin immediately placed "a hold on [any] deposits" into her deposit account, which prevented Keaton from making any rent payments by the method provided for in the lease agreement. In other words, Nowlin "blocked" deposits to the deposit account. On July 2, 2014, Nowlin served Keaton with a second notice to vacate, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence. That notice states, in part:

Re: TAA Lease Contract dated 4/12/14 between [Keaton] and Linda Nowlin (owner)[.]
Because of non-payment of rent, your residency is terminated effective immediately. You are hereby given notice to vacate the premises on or before midnight, July 3, 2014, which is at least one day from the delivery of this notice in accordance with your lease contract. Failure to move out by then will result in an eviction suit being filed before the Justice of the Peace. Delay or postponement of such action does not waive our rights. You are liable for all rent due under the full term of your contract, damages to the premises, legal fees and any other charges due under the terms of your agreement.

         Nowlin noted that at the time she served Keaton with the July 2, 2014 notice to vacate, her forcible-detainer action was still pending.

         Nowlin further testified, related to her forcible-detainer action, that she had admitted in that suit that she was "aware that under . . . Texas Property Code, [s]ection 92.153," she, as a landlord, was required to install certain items at the property without a request from her tenant. And she conceded in that suit that Keaton had complained about the exterior sliding glass doors at the property because "the locks would not work." Although in Nowlin's opinion, the exterior sliding glass doors were secure, she did admit, in her forcible-detainer action, that her contractors did not think that the doors' locks could be repaired or replaced because "they were so old." Thus, Nowlin's contractors told her that security bars would be required to ensure that the exterior sliding glass doors could not be opened from the outside, and Nowlin testified at that time that she was "ready to buy new bars."

         Ultimately, in August 2014, the jury in Nowlin's forcible-detainer action found that Keaton had not unreasonably refused to allow Nowlin or her agents to enter the property and that Keaton had not failed to make her rent payments under the lease agreement in a timely manner. And the trial court entered judgment in favor of Keaton in that case, which the Austin Court of Appeals affirmed.[17] A copy of the trial court's charge to the jury in Nowlin's forcible-detainer action, dated August 27, 2014, was admitted into evidence in the instant case, and Nowlin acknowledged that the jury in her forcible-detainer action determined that Keaton did not violate the lease agreement by making her July rent payment "late." And when asked whether the judgment in the forcible-detainer action stated that "Keaton did not violate the lease [agreement by] paying late or not paying [rent] through August 2014," Nowlin responded, "I believe that's correct." Nowlin further admitted that there was no longer any controversy concerning the amount of rent at issue in her forcible-detainer action, i.e., Keaton's July and August rent payments.

         Turning back to the instant case, in regard to the property's front door, Nowlin testified that in a May 19, 2014 letter, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence, Keaton requested that a keyless dead bolt lock be installed on the front door. According to Nowlin, her contractors installed a "keyless bolting device" on the door on May 23, 2014. Nowlin explained that in the process of installing the dead bolt lock, her contractors mistakenly "drilled all the way through [the door] thinking that there was supposed to be a key on the outside and a bolting device on the inside." When they realized the mistake, instead of replacing the door, they "took the pin out so that any key put in from the outside would just spin"; it was not connected to any "bolting device." When asked whether the "keyless bolting device" that her contractors installed on the property's front door actually had "a key hole that [someone] could key on the outside of th[e] door," Nowlin responded: "I don't know." On July 28, 2014, Keaton sent Nowlin an email, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence, notifying her that the property still required certain "services and repairs," including the installation of a keyless dead bolt lock on the front door.

         With respect to the exterior sliding glass doors on the property, Nowlin noted that the only devices securing the exterior sliding glass doors were pieces of wood or PVC pipe that were laid at the bottom of the doors. The trial court admitted into evidence photographs of the pieces of wood and the PVC pipe found at the bottom of the exterior sliding glass doors at the property. Nowlin stated that she never purchased security bars, such as those available at home improvement stores, for the exterior sliding glass doors because she considered the pieces of wood or the PVC pipe to constitute security bars. Nowlin conceded that she was "not sure [whether] placing a PVC pipe in at an angle or a piece of wood" actually secured the exterior sliding glass doors, and she noted that the type of security bars that would "go across the middle of [a] door" would provide additional security for the property. In fact, Nowlin had installed such security bars at other properties that she owned.

         Further, Nowlin acknowledged that the exterior sliding glass doors did not have pin locks when she purchased the property and Keaton had told her that the handle latches on the exterior sliding glass doors did not work. Additionally, Nowlin affirmed that the inspector, who inspected the property prior to Nowlin's purchase, also notified her that the handle latches on the upstairs exterior sliding glass doors needed to be adjusted and did not latch. A copy of the inspector's report, which the trial court admitted into evidence, states, in part: "The handle locks for all three sliding glass doors along the [west] side of the house need to be adjusted" because the locks do not latch.

         Nowlin also explained that on her inventory and condition form, which Nowlin conceded listed items at the property that were damaged or in need of repair, Keaton noted that the upstairs living room exterior sliding glass door did not lock. And Nowlin confirmed that Keaton referred to the lack of security bars on the exterior sliding glass doors in the June 11, 2014 letter to Nowlin. Moreover, in a July 28, 2014 email to Nowlin, Keaton notified her that the "locks on the [exterior] sliding glass doors" were in need of "services and repairs." At some point while Keaton still lived at the property, Nowlin's contractors readjusted the handle latches on the exterior sliding glass doors to "ma[k]e them easier to lock." In Nowlin's opinion, the handle latches on the exterior sliding glass doors always functioned while Keaton lived at the property.

         On September 4, 2014, Nowlin served Keaton with her third notice to vacate. Nowlin testified that this notice to vacate was served after the jury in Nowlin's forcible-detainer action had found in favor of Keaton. The September 4, 2014 notice to vacate, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence, states, in part:

Re: TAA Lease Contract dated 4/12/14 between [Keaton] and Linda Nowlin (owner)[.]
You are in arrears on your rental payments in the amount of $6, 300.00.
Because of your continued violations of the Lease Agreement, including your refusal to provide entry for maintenance upon demand and your non-payment of rent, your residency is terminated effective immediately. You are hereby given notice to vacate the premises before 11:59, p.m., [September] 5, 2014, [18] which is at least one day from the delivery of this notice in accordance with your lease contract. Failure to move out by then will result in an eviction suit being filed against you. Delay or postponement of such action does not waive our rights. You are liable for all rent due under the full term of your contract, damages to the premises, legal fees and any other charges due under the terms of your agreement.

         According to Nowlin, the September 4, 2014 notice to vacate, asserted that Keaton had failed to pay $6, 300 in rent, which included Keaton's rent for the months of July and August. Nowlin made that assertion even though she knew that the jury, in her forcible-detainer action, did not find that she was entitled to unpaid rent for the months of July and August and even though she knew that she had actually prevented Keaton from paying rent pursuant to the lease agreement.

         In accordance with the September 4, 2014 notice to vacate, Keaton moved out of the property on September 5, 2014, which Nowlin opined was before the end of the lease term. Keaton failed to give Nowlin written notice of her move-out, did not pay all of the rent that Nowlin believed she was owed, and did not pay the $1, 785 reletting fee. Nowlin stated that she did not consent to Keaton moving out on or before September 5, 2014, although she wanted Keaton to leave and had tried to evict her.

         After Keaton vacated the property, Nowlin discovered that the property had been damaged, and Nowlin spent $13, 738 repairing damages she believed that Keaton had caused. We note that Nowlin testified extensively as to the purported damage that Keaton caused to the property, and the trial court admitted into evidence numerous photographs of the property taken by Nowlin. The trial court also admitted into evidence a spreadsheet, dated June 15, 2015, which purported to account for the property's "repairs or damages caused by negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse." Nowlin testified that she did not include amounts for normal "wear and tear" in her accounting, did not charge Keaton for items that were listed on the inventory and condition form, and did not cause any of the damages to the property herself. Nowlin stated that she could not recall ever sending Keaton a copy of the spreadsheet. According to Nowlin, Keaton did not pay or reimburse her for the $13, 738 that she had spent repairing the damage to the property.

         Nowlin further testified that after Keaton vacated the property, she did not return Keaton's $2, 000 security deposit because Keaton "owed more in rent than the amount of the security deposit," including rent for the month of September 2014. On October 4, 2014, Nowlin sent Keaton an email, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence, with a subject line stating: "Security Deposit Accounting." That email states, in part:

I am sending this to the last known email address I have for you because you did not designate a physical forwarding address after you moved out, as required by the lease agreement. The lease requires that I send you an accounting of your security deposit within thirty days of your leaving the property. That accounting is as follows:
Because you have unpaid rent that exceeds your $2, 000.00 security deposit, you are not entitled to a refund of any portion thereof.

         Nowlin testified that her October 4, 2014 email did not "provide an itemized list of all rent and damages due."

         In response to Nowlin's email, Keaton's attorney sent an email, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence, requesting that Keaton's $2, 000 security deposit be returned in full, providing Keaton's forwarding address, and stating that the trial court in Nowlin's forcible-detainer action had "stated unequivocally in open court that . . . Keaton d[id] not owe rent to . . . Nowlin." Nowlin acknowledged that under the Texas Property Code she had an obligation to refund Keaton's security deposit or "provide an accounting within 30 days" of Keaton's moving out of the property.

         Keaton testified that she moved into the property in 2011 after signing a lease agreement with the property's previous owner. When Keaton moved into the property, the locks on the exterior sliding glass doors did not function.

         After Nowlin purchased the property, in May 2014, she, or her contractors, began coming to the property approximately every other day. Keaton characterized Nowlin's intrusions as excessive and stated that Nowlin demanded "24/7" access to the property. For instance, on May 6, 2014, the first day that the lease agreement was in effect, Nowlin sent Keaton multiple "urgent" text messages demanding entry to the property. And when Nowlin arrived at the property, she started opening drawers, "taking things out," and "putting things in" without Keaton's permission. On May 19, 2014, Keaton sent Nowlin a letter, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence. That letter states, in part:

It is my understanding that you have four projects in the works right now: the kitchen (which has already displaced me for a week to a shady extended stay), the front door, the porch light, and the garage door. It is my perception that your plans extend past those projects.
While I am quite aware of our lease regarding repairs and entry into my home while I am your tenant, I am feeling the effect of having my privacy, peace, and quiet disrupted. I feel that the frequency of the visits and intrusions are becoming excessive and I fear that if I don't speak up, I will be allowing the precedence of unlimited intrusions into my home and my life.
My research into the regulations and case law have educated me about my rights to peace and quiet and my rights to privacy as your tenant. . . . What I have found is that repairs that do not compromise the integrity of the property nor compromise my safety or security, are not necessary to attend while I hold present possessory interest. (Tex. Prop. Code section 92.052a)[.] In fact, I believe that they intrude on my right to privacy and my right to peace and quiet. (HYM Restaurants, Inc. v Goldman Sachs &Co., 797 S.W.2d 326, 1990)[.]
It is my request that only repairs that may compromise the integrity of the property or compromise my family's safety and/or security, be addressed and remedied while I am leasing from you.
I also request that you install a keyless deadbolt on the front door and the downstairs entry door to ensure my privacy and security when I am home. (Tex. Prop. Code section 92.153)[.]

(Emphasis omitted.)

         After Keaton's May 19, 2014 letter, Nowlin's visits to the property continued, and Nowlin became more abrasive in her demands to enter the property. On one occasion, Keaton discovered that Nowlin's contractors had used her personal tools to mix concrete and that someone had entered the property while she was not there and without providing proper notice. Keaton realized that either Nowlin or her agents had entered the property on that particular day because "lights had been left on in the loft, furniture had been moved away from the wall as though [Nowlin] or her agents were inspecting outlets, . . . [a]nd an entire light fixture in the loft had been removed." On another occasion, Nowlin came to the property in the morning while Keaton was still asleep. Because Nowlin failed to bring her key with her, she knocked on the front door. When Keaton did not answer, Nowlin repeatedly called her on her telephone until Keaton answered. After Nowlin requested that Keaton let her into the property, Keaton informed her that she was not clothed, but she would answer the door anyways. Keaton opined that this incident led to Nowlin serving her with the June 4, 2014 notice to vacate.

         On June 11, 2014, Keaton sent Nowlin another letter "point[ing] out a lot of the violations that [Nowlin] had committed according to the [Texas] Property Code." The letter, a copy of which the trial court admitted into evidence, states, in part:

I received your Notice to Vacate for Breach of Lease dated June 4, 2014 and was served with an Eviction Citation on June 10, 2014. . . .
What You Want Has Changed[.]
I want to understand what you want so that I may try to accommodate you as best as I can without unreasonably compromising my standard of living. Prior to the closing, I believe we both wanted the same thing: in effect, for me to pay your mortgage, taxes, and insurance for the next year on the [property].
However, since the closing date May 6th but prior to June 1st, and as evidenced by your correspondence (see attached) my perception is that your desires changed to:
1) 24 hour access to the house to make inspections, repairs, and upgrades, no matter the effect it has on the lives of me and my family; and
2) $2100/month in rent for the next eleven months.
Since June 1st, based on your correspondence, your lack of compliance with our lease and state statute, and the aforementioned Notice to Vacate and Eviction suit, I believe you now want:
1) to not fulfill your lease obligations and instead, have me move out, thereby displacing me and my family;
2) to keep my security deposit of $2000; and
3) to charge me a reletting fee of $1785.
I Am in Compliance with All Lease Provisions and State Statutes and Demand an Explanation[.]
I am not in violation of Paragraph 20 - Prohibited Conducted. I have not disturbed or threatened the rights of you or any of your agents, and I have not disrupted your business operation. Although I asked that you confine your entry to the [property] to the hours of 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., preferably weekdays, and only for repairs that threaten my family's safety or the integrity of the [property], I have never refused you entry into the [property] when I'm present. I provided you all the keys and access codes when you asked for them. . . .
You, as Landlord, Are in Violation of Our Lease and State Statutes[.]
1) You are in violation of Texas Property Code Sec. 92.201.
You have omitted your physical address from all correspondence and contracts between us.
2) You are in violation of Lease Paragraph 28 - When We (Landlord) May Enter.
You did not leave a written notice why you or your contractors were in the loft while I was not home. This event is documented in a May 24th email (see attached) from me to you.
3) You are in violation of Lease Paragraph 9 - Security Devices;
Lease Paragraph 25 - Condition of the Premises and Alterations;
Lease Paragraph 31 - Responsibilities of Owner;
Texas Property Code Sec. 92.153(a)(3) and (a)(4); ...

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