Community Policies Cont’d

Rules on cars and other outdoor property cannot be changed without clear notice

The Texas Legislature recently enacted a law requiring landlords to give prior written notice to a tenant regarding a landlord rule or policy change that is not included in the lease agreement and that will affect any personal property owned by the tenant that is located outside the tenant’s dwelling, including any change in vehicle towing rules or policies. A landlord who fails to give notice as required by this section is liable to the tenant for any expense incurred by the tenant as a result of the landlord’s failure to give the notice. There are additional towing rule changes for multi-unit apartment complexes.

Of course, a landlord cannot change the rules in the middle of a lease term, just like tenants cannot shorten the length of a lease without consequences. And clearly the landlord should notify a tenant of any change in the rules before the tenant renews the lease, otherwise the rule would not be enforceable against the tenant.

Limits on occupants who live in the premise

The landlord can limit the number of occupants who live in the house or apartment. The maximum number should depend on the number of bedrooms and the age of the occupants. Texas law generally gives a landlord the ability to set occupancy to three adults (persons over 18) for each bedroom of the dwelling. The landlord can set lower standards, as long as he does not illegally discriminate. For example, if a couple living in a one bedroom apartment have a baby in the middle of their lease, the landlord probably cannot require the couple to move to a two-bedroom apartment because this may unfairly penalize them merely because they had a child.

Limits on visitors

A landlord generally cannot limit visitors as long as they do not disturb other residents or violate some other provision of the lease. However, a tenant should be careful not to have the same visitor spend the night too many times in a row without the landlord’s permission, otherwise, the landlord may consider the visitor as an unauthorized occupant. Certainly, a visitor should not get mail or other deliveries at the premises, as this will surely arouse suspicion. Too many visitors (even as few as three an hour) might be incorrectly perceived as illegal drug activity. Although the landlord has the burden to prove that a tenant has violated the lease in an eviction case, a tenant may be wise to avoid these disputes from arising in the first place. (And, the landlord can always refuse to renew the lease based upon a suspicion so long as it is not illegally retaliating or discriminating. The landlord does not need any proof, just a desire not to rent to the tenant any more.) Therefore, a tenant should consider explaining the situation to a landlord to remove suspicion.

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