PHA Didn't Comply with State's Notice Requirements
Facts: The lease agreement between a resident and a PHA included provisions requiring management approval before anyone else would be allowed to live in the unit and specifically mandating that no one besides the resident herself could stay in the unit for more than 14 consecutive days without management’s written consent.
In early June 2012, the manager questioned the resident about reports that her son was staying in her unit. The PHA representatives obtained from the resident what they perceived to be a confession that she had allowed her son to stay in the unit for more than 14 straight days, a violation of the lease agreement.
On June 11, 2012, the resident received a combined notice of termination of her lease and notice to vacate the premises. The stated reason for termination was “unauthorized occupant” and its cover letter alleged that the resident had admitted that her son stays with her over the 14-day limit. The document purported to terminate her right of occupancy and directed her to vacate by July 11, 2012. It further informed her that she had a right to request a hearing within 10 days of the date of the notice.
No other notices were given to the resident, and she didn’t request a grievance hearing. The PHA filed for eviction before July 11, 2012, and the court eventually ruled in the PHA’s favor. The resident appealed on the basis that: (1) the PHA hadn’t provided her with a second notice to vacate after her time to respond had expired, as required by state law; and (2) the eviction lawsuit was filed prior to the expiration of the 30 days given to vacate.
Ruling: A Texas appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision, and ruled in favor of the resident.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the PHA didn’t lawfully terminate her tenancy, because it failed to comply with the state’s two notice requirements. According to state law, an owner must give a tenant “at least three days’ written notice to vacate the premises before the landlord files an eviction lawsuit, unless the parties have contracted for a shorter or longer notice period in a written lease or agreement.”
Here, the lease agreement required 30-days’ notice of termination and provided that notice to vacate could run concurrently with notice of termination. The PHA’s combined notice to terminate and notice to vacate expressly gave the resident 30 days to vacate the premises. She received those notices on June 11, 2012, and therefore had until July 11, 2012, to vacate under their terms. But the PHA filed its lawsuit earlier, on June 28, 2012. This was a clear violation of state law.
Also, state law requires the owner to give a tenant an opportunity to respond to a notice of proposed eviction. A notice to vacate may not be given until the period provided for the tenant to respond to the eviction notice has expired. Thus, an owner must provide a separate, later notice to vacate. Here, the PHA didn’t do so.
- Geters v. Baytown Housing Authority, April 2014