Apartment Lawsuit Is Dismissed

Carol Christian. The Galveston Daily News. February 12, 1998

Texas City-After 18 months of litigation and one mediation session, a lawsuit against the Sundance Apartments in Texas City has been dismissed.

The suit, filed by a tenant in August 1996, claimed that some of the rules in the 240-unit federally subsidized apartments at 3404 Ninth Ave. N violated federal laws.

Stephen McIntyre, staff attorney at the Gulf Coast Legal Foundation in Galveston, said it was wrong for the apartments to have rules that, for example:

  • Permitted the landlord to enter a tenant’s apartment without notice.
  • Denied the tenant the right to have an attorney or tenant’s union representative at a discussion of a proposed eviction.
  • Prohibited tenants from having overnight guests.
  • Gave eviction notices that did not advise tenants they had a right to meet with management within 10 days to discuss the threatened eviction and the right to defend themselves in court.
  • Implemented new rules with only 24 hours’ notice instead of 30 days’ notice.

As a result of the mediation in September and subsequent discussions among the attorneys, the apartment has distributed new rules to the tenants, McIntyre said.

Among the changes, the new rules:

  • Eliminate unannounced inspections.
  • Allow tenants to have guests for three days without notifying the landlord.
  • Comply with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations concerning evictions and adoption of new rules.

In the past two years, four other cases involving federally subsidized apartment complexes have been filed and settled.

The cases were filed against:

  • Sandpiper Cove Apartments, Galveston, April 1995. Mary Wingate filed the suit after she was given an eviction notice for being gone 22 days at Christmas, violating a rule that residents had to occupy their apartments except for illness or “very short vacations.”
  • Colonial Park Apartment, Texas City, May 1995. The legal foundation sued over a rule prohibiting tenants from hanging anything inside or outside their apartments except decorations for Christmas, Easter and Halloween.
  • Independent Missionary Village Apartments, Hitchcock, January 1996. Tenant Lisa Hanks claimed various rules were unreasonable, including one forbidding tenants to gather outside in small groups or large groups or to stand around alone.
  • Wood Hollow Place Apartments, Texas City, September 1996. A coalition of tenants sued the apartment complex over what they contended were unreasonable rules and maintenance problems.

McIntyre said the settlement of these cases “will help protect the dignity and privacy of the 380 indigent HUD families residing in these five apartment complexes in Galveston County and help ensure that poor families will not be threatened with eviction for violating a frivolous or unreasonable rule.”