Does this Mean Property Owners May Go to Jail?

City Hall
  • The Austin City Council is going to vote on major changes to the tenant organization and retaliation laws.
  • If passed, many unintended consequences will make it extremely difficult for landlords to navigate this without potential criminal liability.
  • Please call your city council member and ask them to vote no.

I don’t always love doing shock and awe headlines. It seems kind of cheap. But sometimes I need to get your attention. And this is one of those times. Its important.

The Austin City Council is proposing another ordinance that is going to drastically affect property owners in the city. I wrote a few weeks ago about how the City has proposed a 21 day Notice of Proposed Eviction on top of the state mandated eviction process.  This is still on the agenda for the Council to discuss. It has been moved to the October 27 meeting.

But that is not the only big ordinance that will be discussed at that meeting. The City Council is now also planning to discuss adopting another ordinance that will greatly change things for landlords. And that’s what we are talking about this week.

What is the New Proposed Ordinance?


The Austin City Council has proposed an ordinance that would instill penalties against any landlord that retaliates against a tenant who organizes with other tenants to secure more advantageous living conditions. At first glance, that seems reasonable, right? Nobody wants retaliation against tenants. But believe me – the devil is in the details.

First, this is already covered by the Texas Property Code. Under the Code, a landlord is not permitted to retaliate against a tenant who establishes, attempts to establish, or participates in a tenant organization. Tex. Prop. Code 92.331. If the landlord does retaliate against the tenant, the tenant may recover damages in the amount of one month’s rent plus $500, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Tex. Prop. Code 92.333.

So why does the City Council feel the need to enact another ordinance in addition to the State law? It’s a good question. For one, tenants rights groups are very vocal. They make a lot of noise and the City Council hears them. In contrast, landlords do not speak up very often. That’s one of the reasons I am writing this article. We need you to voice your opinion – to call your City Council member. Its really important.

Because this ordinance, as you will see below, goes far beyond what the Property Code does.

What are the Unintended Consequences of this Ordinance?


If this ordinance passes, a property owner can be found criminally liable if he or she retaliates against a tenant. Specifically, the City Council wants to make it a misdemeanor to do so.

And a huge part of the problem with that is – the way the ordinance is written provides a ton of unintended consequences. To the point where it will almost be impossible for a property owner NOT to violate it.

For example, under the proposed language of the bill, any tenant that talks to the landlord about rent, changes in services, maintenance requests, or unsafe or unsanitary conditions at the property is considered to have participated in a tenant organization. REGARDLESS of whether that tenant actually talked to any other tenant about the issue. That means every tenant will be considered to have participated in a tenant organization.

And then once they are considered a part of a tenant organization, so many landlord actions can be considered retaliation. This potentially trying to evict a holdover tenant that the landlord has chosen not to renew.

This is Important


I think this is the third or fourth time I this blog article I have written that this is important. But it is.  This – together with the 21 day Notice of Proposed Eviction – are major changes to the landlord/tenant relationship that go far beyond what the people of this state want done. And we cannot stand by and let this take shape without voicing our objections. So I am pleading with you – please call your City Council member asap. Tell them to vote no on both of these ordinances. Also, please come to the meeting on October 27 and voice your opposition in person. It’s the only chance we have to stop these.

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