Owner Retaliated Against Resident for Maintenance Complaints
Facts: A Section 8 resident suspected that new site management was responsible for a decline in the maintenance of the units. He openly complained about the condition of the units to the management, other residents, and eventually the local PHA. On March 29, 2013, the PHA notified the owner that the resident’s unit didn’t meet HUD Housing Quality Standards (HQS) because the resident’s bathroom toilet “runs continuously.” The notice went on to advise the site that if the deficiency wasn’t corrected, housing assistance payments would be abated for the owner and/or assistance would be terminated for the tenant.
During this period, the PHA advised the resident that it would not renew his housing voucher because (1) he had failed to execute a renewal of his lease; and (2) there was still a non-working toilet at the premises. The PHA later dropped the noncompliant property condition issue and notified the resident that it would reinstate his voucher as soon as he executed a new lease.
On May 6, 2013, the resident received notice that his lease wouldn’t be renewed and that he would have to move out of the unit by July 6, 2013. On May 10 and May 17, the resident sent letters to the owner and the PHA, respectively, complaining about ongoing issues with respect to maintenance and management of the units. On May 15, 2013, the owner gave the resident a written Notice of Lease Violation, alleging that the terms of his lease had been violated on May 8, 2013, when he “behave[d] in a loud, threatening & hostile manner towards management. Disrupting the residents [sic] comfort with your loud behavior. Disrupting our business operations regarding completing work orders, requested by the housing authority, due to not allowing access to your apartment.” The notice advised the resident to “[t]ake the action necessary to correct the foregoing problem immediately.”
When the resident didn’t execute a new lease, the PHA stopped supplementing his rent. Despite the fact that the PHA didn’t renew his housing voucher, the resident continued to try to pay his portion of the rent. The site refused to accept a partial payment of the rent and initiated eviction proceedings.
A trial court awarded the resident possession of his unit based on wrongful eviction and retaliation by the owner. The court found that the resident wasn’t given proper notice to vacate and that good cause didn’t exist for the nonrenewal of his lease.
The owner appealed the trial court’s ruling, contending that the resident’s complaints came after the owner’s notice to vacate and because the resident admitted that he failed to pay rent as required by his lease agreement.
Ruling: A Texas appeals court agreed with the lower court’s decision.
Reasoning: According to the court, evidence was presented that there were several areas where the site was deficient in maintaining the apartment complex, including the swimming pool, light poles, gates, and the resident’s toilet, and that the resident made those deficiencies known to the managers prior to any notice of eviction. When the resident was unable to get any response from the managers, he contacted the local PHA. The PHA gave notice that the resident’s unit didn’t meet HQS and a re-inspection of the site was scheduled. When the unit again didn’t meet inspection standards, the PHA notified the site that its subsidies wouldn’t continue until the deficiencies were corrected and the unit passed an inspection. Again, after an inspection, the site was given notice that the resident’s unit didn’t meet government standards.
The site’s May 6, 2013, notice of lease termination wasn’t provided until well after the PHA was aware of the resident’s attempt to exercise a right or remedy granted by his lease agreement. Based on this record, the court was convinced that a reasonable and fair-minded finder of fact could determine that the owner did retaliate against the resident by filing the eviction proceedings at issue.
- College Stations Terrace Pines Apartments v. Laird, February 2016