Residents stunned by short notice to move out

February 8, 2012 4:08:09 PM PST
Some Houston renters have been given 30 days to get out of their apartment complex, even if they have long-term leases.

The complex has been sold and is going to be demolished, but tenants say they are not being given enough time to find a new place to live. People still have leases into October and they, along with everyone else, have been told to leave by the first week of March.

It's moving day for Robert and Rebecca Pillow, even though their lease is not up until May.

Robert said, "We got a nice little letter in the mail saying we had to vacate March 8th."

The couple says the letter caught them and everyone in the Greenbriar Chateau apartment complex off guard.

"It was pretty shocking when we first got the letter," Rebecca said. "I can't believe that we managed to get out in a week."

The apartments that stand here now will be demolished and new apartments rebuilt on the location. Residents with long-term leases say they are being forced out before the lease expires.

Megan Flora said, "It's terrible that they only gave us that short of a time."

There is a statute in Texas law that allows apartment complex owners to end leases early if the complex is being demolished, as is the case at the Greenbriar Chateau. However, University of Houston law professor Richard Alderman says the statute typically deals with complexes in disrepair.

He said, "There will be disagreements about what the law says, but the way I read it, those people have the legal right to stay through the end of the lease."

Alderman adds those on a month-to-month lease have no choice but to leave, however long-term lease holders may be able to convince a court they should not be evicted if it comes to that.

The complex is offering residents full February rent refunds if they are out by February 20 and half refunds if they leave after that date. The complex is also giving residents $250 toward moving, and the security deposit back.

The complex management said in a written statement, "We want to, and will do, more than Texas law requires in assisting our residents."

Still, some residents may try to hang on longer. Those who say they want to stay could be evicted, but if that happens, Alderman says the lease terms will likely be honored. In the meantime, the management company says it will do everything it can to help those having trouble finding new apartments.

Statement from Greenbriar Chateau Management:

    "The ownership of Greenbriar Chateau has been, and remains, dedicated to serving the residents of this community. We are taking an active role in assisting our residents with their transition into a new community as this property has been sold and will be redeveloped.

    We want to, and will do, more than Texas law requires in assisting our residents. We are offering relocation services; providing money to help offset moving costs; assisting with moving companies; waving rent and maintaining a full staff on-site to aid in locating and securing other apartment options.

    For residents that vacate their apartments by February 20, we will refund their February rent in full. If a resident vacates their apartment between February 21 and 27, we will refund half their February rent. This Saturday, we will provide shuttle service to multiple properties in line with our rental rates, as well as have representatives here on site to make the transition to a new apartment as easy as possible. We have also partnered with several other management companies to provide Greenbriar Chateau residents with suitable choices we hope will meet their housing needs.

    We offer apologies to our residents for the inconvenience the sale of this property creates. We remain firmly dedicated to serving them during this transition."

Section 92.055 - TEXAS PROPERTY CODE:

a. A landlord may close a rental unit at any time by giving written notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the tenant and to the local health officer and local building inspector, if any, stating that:

1. the landlord is terminating the tenancy as soon as legally possible; and
2. after the tenant moves out the landlord will either immediately demolish the rental unit or no longer use the unit for residential purposes.
b. After a tenant receives the notice and moves out:
1. the local health officer or building inspector may not allow occupancy of or utility service by separate meter to the rental unit until the officer certifies that he knows of no condition that materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant; and
2. the landlord may not allow re-occupancy or reconnection of utilities by separate meter within six months after the date the tenant moves out.
c. If the landlord gives the tenant the notice closing the rental unit:
1. before the tenant gives a repair notice to the landlord, the remedies of this subchapter do not apply;
2. after the tenant gives a repair notice to the landlord but before the landlord has had a reasonable time to make repairs, the tenant is entitled only to the remedies under Subsection (d) of this section and Subdivisions (3), (4), and (5) of Subsection of Section 92.0563; or
3. after the tenant gives a repair notice to the landlord and after the landlord has had a reasonable time to make repairs, the tenant is entitled only to the remedies under Subsection (d) of this section and Subdivisions (3), (4), and (5) of Subsection of Section 92.0563.
d. If the landlord closes the rental unit after the tenant gives the landlord a notice to repair and the tenant moves out on or before the end of the rental term, the landlord must pay the tenant's actual and reasonable moving expenses, refund a pro rata portion of the tenant's rent from the date the tenant moves out, and, if otherwise required by law, return the tenant's security deposit.
e. A landlord who violates Subsection (b) or (d) is liable to the tenant for an amount equal to the total of one month's rent plus $100 and attorney's fees. f. The closing of a rental unit does not prohibit the occupancy of other apartments, nor does this subchapter prohibit occupancy of or utility service by master or individual meter to other rental units in an apartment community that have not been closed under this section. If another provision of this subchapter conflicts with this section, this section controls.