Cook v. Missionary Village Apartments (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 19, 2008)(Nuchia)
(eviction appeal, federally subsidized housing)
REVERSE TC JUDGMENT AND RENDER JUDGMENT: Opinion by Justice Nuchia
Before Justices Nuchia, Alcala and Hanks
01-07-00279-CV Damini Cook v. Missionary Village Apartments
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 1 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jack Cagle
This is an appeal of a residential eviction suit. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.007 (Vernon 2000). The
justice court rendered a default judgment awarding possession to the landlord, appellee Missionary
Village Apartments, which is a federally subsidized, multifamily housing complex. See generally Tex.
Prop. Code Ann. §§ 24.001-.0061 (Vernon 2000 & Supp. 2008) (forcible detainer actions). Appellant
Damini Cook appealed de novo to the county civil court at law. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 749. After a bench
trial, the county court rendered judgment awarding possession to Missionary Village.
Cook's sole issue is that the county court improperly awarded possession to Missionary Village because
federal regulations prevent the termination of a tenancy unless proper written notice is given. Missionary
Village has not filed an appellee's brief.
To terminate a tenancy in federally subsidized housing, federal regulations and due process both require
adequate notice detailing the grounds for termination. Nealy v. Southlawn Apartments, 196 S.W.3d 386,
389-90 (Tex. App.-- Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, no pet.). The regulations set forth by the United States
Department of Housing and Urban Development require that a landlord's determination to terminate the
tenancy shall be in writing and "state the reasons for the landlord's action with enough specificity so as to
enable the tenant to prepare a defense." 24 C.F.R. § 247.4(a)(2) (2007).
Missionary Village's notice of termination stated:
You are hereby notified of our intention to terminate your tenancy at the above-referenced property
addresses. This notice is provided based on serious and material violations of your Lease Agreement
with Missionary Village Apartments (the "Landlord"), and violations of the Community Policies and
House Rules. Specifically, the grounds for termination of you tenancy are as follow:
Paragraph #23: TERMINATION OF TENANCY: c. the Landlord may terminate this Agreement for the
following reasons: 6. criminal activity by a Tenant, any member of the household, a guest or another
person under the Tenant's control: (a) that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of
the premises by other residents (including property management staff residing on the premises or (b)
that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of their residents by person residing in the
immediate vicinity of the premises. d. Material noncompliance of the lease (2) repeated minor violations
of the lease that (a) disrupt the livability of the project; (c) interfere with the management of the property.
[Sic]. This termination notice contains only vague and broad allegations that Cook engaged in some type
of undesirable behavior. The notice lacks the specificity required by both 24 C.F.R. § 247.4(a)(2) and the
case law interpreting the federal regulation. See Nealy, 196 S.W.3d at 390-91 (discussing cases
interpreting federal termination notice requirements). Accordingly, we agree that Missionary Village's
notice of termination was inadequate.
Cook asks this Court to reconsider our decision in Nealy in which we held that a harm analysis applies to
a termination notice under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's regulations. See Nealy,
196 S.W.3d at 389-93; see also 24 C.F.R. § 247.3(a) ("No termination shall be valid unless it is in
accordance with the provisions of § 247.4."). We need not reconsider Nealy, however, because a harm
analysis cannot be conducted in this case because there is nothing in the record, including the county
court's findings of fact, to indicate that Cook had any notice of the termination other than the notice of
termination quoted above.
Because the county court should not have terminated Cook's tenancy, we hold the county court erred in
awarding possession to Missionary Village based on a forcible detainer. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. §
24.002 (Vernon 2000) (person commits forcible detainer if person wilfully and without force holds over
after termination of tenant's right to possession). Accordingly, we sustain Cook's sole issue. We reverse
the county court's judgment and render a take-nothing judgment.
Panel consists of Justices Nuchia, Alcala, and Hanks.