House Rules

What are House Rules?

House Rules, Apartment Regulations, and Community Policies are all the same thing — rules of the landlord. Even though these are not usually in the lease documents you signed, they are often referenced in the lease and the landlord should give you a copy of them. If the rules are not referenced and you are not given a copy when you sign the lease, then the landlord will have a difficult time legally enforcing the rules against you.

Before you sign the lease, ask for a copy of the rules. In general, the landlord can enforce the rules as long as the landlord does not illegally discriminate. Example of discrimination: the landlord requires families with children to live in certain units or a certain part of the complex. For more information about housing discrimination, see Discrimination.

If you feel your landlord’s rules are unreasonable, you should follow them until you can find an attorney or tenant organization who can advise you whether they are illegal and support you because the landlord might evict you for breaking the rule. Note: even if you win an eviction case, court records will show that a case was filed against you, which can make it harder to find a place to rent in the future.

Almost all rules clearly made a part of the lease will be upheld by the courts. If you violate a house rule, the landlord could try to kick you out and evict you.  A small violation of the rules may be overlooked by a landlord, but be aware that you take risks when you ignore the rules. A landlord can decide not to renew a lease or terminate a month-to-month lease by giving a 30-day notice for no reason. There are some exceptions: Retaliation and Discrimination.

Exception: Tenants who live in manufactured home (mobile home) communities, have a special protection from unreasonable rules. Section 94.008(a) of the Texas The Property Code prohibits such landlords from adopting rules that are arbitrary or capricious.  But there is no comparable law for tenants who do not live in manufactured home communities.

The landlord can change the rules in month-to-month leases, but not in the middle of a lease term. 

The landlord can change the roles in month-to-month leases on thirty days’ notice.  For other leases, the landlord cannot change the rules during the lease term  unless the lease says the landlord can change the rules.  For example, the Texas Apartment Association lease gives the landlord permission to change certain rules during the tenancy.

Vehicle towing or parking rules

These rules must comply with section 92.0131 of the Property Code. The rules must be signed by the tenant. The tenant must be given a copy. The landlord may require a tenant to provide only the make, model, color, year, license number, and state of registration of the vehicle in order to use a specific parking space or common parking area.

Rules on cars and other outdoor property cannot be changed without clear written notice. Landlords are required to give you a written notice explaining any landlord rule or policy change that is not included in the lease agreement if it will affect any of your personal property located outside of your dwelling, including any change in vehicle towing rules or policies.  A landlord who doesn’t give notice as required by this law is liable to the tenant for any expense the tenant has to pay as a result of the landlord’s failure to give the notice. Section 92.013, Property Code.

Limits on people who live with you

The landlord can limit the number of occupants who live in the house or apartment. The maximum number should depend on the number of bedrooms and the age of the occupants. Texas law generally lets landlords set occupancy to three adults (persons over 18) for each bedroom of the dwelling. See Section 92.010, Property Code.  The landlord can set lower standards, as long as the policy does not illegally discriminate against tenants with children. For example, if a couple living in a one bedroom apartment have a baby in the middle of their lease term, the landlord  cannot require the couple to move to a two-bedroom apartment because this may unfairly penalize them because they had a child (familial status discrimination). See Discrimination.

Limits on visitors

Tenants can have visitors unless limited by the lease. Most leases will say how many days a visitor can stay overnight.

Example: paragraph 2 of the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) lease allows the landlord to write in the number of days a visitor may stay in any week.  If the landlord does not fill in the space for the number of days, the limit under the TAA lease is a total of two days per week.

If a visitor begins staying in the unit for more days than the lease allows, the tenant could be evicted for having “an unauthorized occupant.” A visitor should not get mail or other deliveries at your place. If a visitor has to stay for more days than the number of days allowed in the lease, you should ask the landlord for permission to avoid the threat of eviction.

It’s best to avoid disagreements with your landlord if you can. So you should try to explain what is going on to your landlord if they have an issue with your visitors. They can only evict you if they can prove that you broke your lease agreement, but they could decide not to renew your lease as long as they’re not retaliating or discriminating.