How Quick To Kick ’Em Out and Tear It Down?

HOW QUICK TO KICK ’EM OUT AND TEAR IT DOWN? “Can a developer who buys an apartment building (or duplex, four-plex, etc.) simply ignore an existing lease’s terms and give 30 days notice before knocking it down to build something new? Half the real estate developer/lawyer types I know have told me ‘no way.’ They say a contract is a contract and the new owner has to abide by that and let you live out the lease or offer a buyout. But the other half say there’s a loophole in Houston permitting that says if the new owner plans to tear down the building, once they have their variance granted, they can ignore the lease terms and just give 30 days notice to move out. Help! Do you have the definitive answer?” [Swamplot inbox]

16 Comment

  • Someone would need to determine this, but I guess it’ll be based on the validity of the lease. If you signed a lease that doesn’t follow acceptable practice under Texas, the lease really isn’t valid. It really depend on the validity of the lease signed.

  • My understanding is that most landlords of property that they expect to sell to a purchaser that would want to tear down that property will include a provision in the lease that allows for a 30-day lease termination.

    It is also my understanding, however, that tenants can be evicted within 30 days regardless of the lease. It may have to do with provisions regarding the total closure of housing units.

  • I would talk to a lawyer. And I would not take the advice of strangers online.

  • The Niche is correct in that owners that have any inclination to selling for redevelopment include a clause whereby they can terminate the lease upon 30 days notice. The landlord can not evict with no cause, the lease is binding on both parties so without a termination clause, the landlord must resort to an amicable termination.

  • Mel is right, talk to an attorney. “My understanding” should not be construed as legal advice.

  • If you have a lease that doesn’t allow for early termination by the landlord in case of a sale, and your lease has not expired (i.e. you are not month to month), the lease should survive / be valid / be enforceable after the sale. That doesn’t mean the new owner can’t TRY to give you 30 days notice and TRY to get you to move out before the end of your lease… but you could simply give him the finger and say “make me”… in which case, he’d have to file for eviction with the local court, you’d have to be served, a court date set, you’d go in front of the judge, provide them with a copy of your lease, you’d both make your case to the judge–and the judge would decide based on all the facts and evidence.
    In the short term, that would at least forestall your move out…. because all of that takes time. The new owner / landlord can’t simple come in and move your stuff out onto the street if you refuse to move out.

  • Section 92.055 of the Texas Property Code governs the closing of a residential leasehold by the landlord to demolish the property. It is not an obscure permit that you can get from the City.
    This section of the property code is supposed to make it easier for landlords to close down and demolish properties that are in poor condition (landlord has to also notify the health department under the statute). But it gets used regardless of the condition of the property. The folks at Greenbriar Chateau got a 30 day notice pursuant to section 92.055 even though many had time left on their lease.
    I do not know whether a landlord with a lease for a term would be liable for breaching the lease and wrongful eviction if they tried to get rid of tenants with a term left on their lease. There are good arguments to be made that the landlord is in breach. But the landlord can get attorney’s fees in a forcible detainer action (eviction).
    If you are in this situation and are itching to fight your landlord, definitely follow Mel’s advice and talk to a lawyer. There are a number of places you can go for free advice on landlord tenant law in Houston. If you own a property and want to demolish, you should definitely talk to a lawyer because there are lots of lawyers giving free legal advise to your soon to be former tenants.

  • You’re screwed. We live in Houston.

  • This is why we didn’t rent our property while it was on the market and being shown.

  • Look at Sec. 92.055(a)(1). What does it mean that the landlord’s letter must state, “the landlord is terminating the tenancy as soon as legally possible”? That’s the only thing that made me second-guess the applicability of that statute.

    **DISCLAIMER: The above should not be construed as legal advice.**

  • Reading these comments makes me sad that the laws written by lawyers in the legislature are so hard to interpret that they require the advice of a lawyer to figure out what they mean. In a more perfect world, the code would spell out the tenant’s and landlord’s rights so simply that a 5th grader could figure out what each side can do. But it’s job security for lawyers I guess!

  • Being Houston, I think that it all comes down to how big of a gun the landlord has and whether or not the lessee has a bigger one.

  • @shadyheightster – The problem with a law or contract that is drafted simply is that it is ambiguous. A law/contract might read that if something is the color red, then X will apply. That sounds simple enough. Except, when the color red appears, the upset party might claim that it is not “red” but is actually “crimson #762” which is a seperate and distinct color from “red” and, as such, X does not apply. A well written law or contract will minimize the chances of that happening, but will, unfortunately, have to be very wordy to define and address every conceivable technicality.

  • This is Texas, even my cat has a concealed weapon permit. She can stay as long as she likes.

  • @niche: The statute is set up to give landlords an incentive to shut down and demolish apartments that are run down sooner than later. If you throw people out before they send a notice requesting repairs, you escape the statutory penalties and remedies available to tenants. Thus, landlords would argue that the language in the required notice is saying to the tenant that the landlord is getting everyone out as fast as they can. Attorneys for landlords think the language is just about the amount of notice required by law.
    Of course, the tenants would argue that their lease controls and they can stay until it runs out. But landlords will usually offer people moving expenses and other assistance to get people out. Staying and fighting just means living in a creepy old empty complex with the possibility of having a judgment for the landlord’s attorney’s fees in a FD action. So, people generally just get out and move on.

  • Everyone who is a renter or is a landlord should know and read this: