Category Archives: Business

Reviewing Property Code 92 Can Save Money for Both Landlords and Tenants

Know Your Legal Rights

Keryl Burgess Douglas

The Houston Sun

Legal Journalist
Prior articles have briefly covered basic rules and laws regarding landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities. The contentious issue of the security deposit and possibly requiring a landlord to return up to three times the deposit amount plus $100 catches the attention of many. In this economy, a 3-fold return on a security deposit can be a boon for the tenant and a bust for the landlord.

Tenants can be liable to landlords for improper application of the deposit in lieu of rent, etc. Both should be well aware of the Texas Property Code(TPC) in this regard.

The TPC also provides advantageous information on rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants in several other important areas.

Several subsections include civil penalties where non-compliance by parties to a leasing contract can be shown.

Proven non-compliance in legal actions can be another area of financial bust or boon for either landlord or tenant if they are either unaware or willfully rebellious toward the stipulations altogether. Many landlords may feel that renters will either be woefully unaware of their legal remedies, or too cash- or time-limited to pursue legal remedy.

For those having issues with the landlord-tenant relationship and/or thinking of pursuing legal remedy, either party should be aware of prerequisite actions and/or required steps to prevail in such disputes; especially where monetary damages are being sought. Prevailing parties needn’t worry about legal or court costs in some instances because the losing party can be ordered by the Court to pay those expenses.

Some subsections should be particularly reviewed by both landlords and tenants before a problem arises and most often before renting a property or signing a rental lease agreement/contract altogether. This is especially important for subsections that provide for civil penalties and other financial awards or damage claims by either party; as well as those that stipulate certain acts/steps must be followed to pursue remedy.

Key subsections pertain to landlord’s liability and duty to repair or remedy; failure to rekey, change or install locks; installation or repair of proper security devices; material affect to physical health and safety; bad faith litigation or harassment; landlord retaliation against tenant for pursuing legal rights pertaining to the lease; non-compliance with Texas Smoke Detector Statute; etc. Penalties in these areas can equal cost of one month’s rent plus $500. Landlords and tenants beware: “Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse!” Awareness can either avoid unnecessary costs or result in financial damages award windfalls.

Landlords and property owners should review the Texas Smoke Detector Statute, especially installation and maintenance of smoke detectors. Duties/responsibilities for rental property differ from that for personal residential property. Landlords/owners are required to install, and test in a certain manner, smoke detectors at the time of initial occupancy of tenant. People who decide to lease their home may not be aware that legal problems could arise in this area at some point if they don’t know of duties to renters.

Failure to comply with the duties and responsibilities in Chapter 92 of the Property Code could result in penalties, money damages, court and/or attorney costs that neither landlord or tenant can afford to pay in this economy. A quick review of the Code can avoid unnecessary financial hardship, liabilities or penalties related to the renting experience. Copies of the code for review are available in some libraries, via the internet, and through several advocacy agencies. Consulting an attorney or advocacy agency is very often a helpful option.

We welcome your comments and questions. Please e-mail keryldouglas@houstonsun.com or write us at the Houston Sun at 1520 Isabella St.; Houston, TX 77004. This information is provided for general purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice nor considered a solicitation to provide legal advice. For legal advice, see the lawyer of your choice.

Keryl Burgess Douglas finished Law School summa cum laude with a ranking of #5 out of her class of 202. She has one son, James Matthew Douglas II, has a private law practice, and serves as President of NAACP-Fort Bend/Missouri City.

Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

Increasing economic and unemployment challenges nationwide may be causing a parallel increase of workplace discrimination concerns, complaints, and experiences, especially among historically disenfranchised groups.

More individuals are feeling that workforce reductions and layoffs imposed by the tough economy provide employers convenient excuses to get rid of workers they’d already considered to be less desirable than the rest of their workforce.

Many individuals with weight challenges or considered obese feel they are the victims of workplace discrimination based on their weight.

The traditionally disenfranchised worker groups have included females, ethnic minorities, older persons, etc.

However, long discriminated against, but not talked about as frequently, are those considered to be overweight, less attractive, etc.

Overweight individuals are increasingly concerned that they are among the last hired and first to be dismissed in layoffs or workforce reductions primarily because of their weight even though their work product or performance is better than their thinner counterparts.

Current federal discrimination laws do not specifically provide protections against weight discrimination per se—-tieuseAseseesuesheseasensetsecsewesesre. But those who feel they have been the victim of such discrimination do not necessarily have to lose hope. While not a protected status under current federal, state or local law, workers with weight discrimination complaints may still be able to pursue legal advocacy under existing law.

As usual, it is generally best to consult an advocate that can evaluate individual circumstances on a case by case basis.
Current federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on race, age, sex/gender, religion, national origin or disability. In general, as with weight/obesity, sexual orientation may not currently be considered a protected status either.

However, there are times that the harassment and otherwise improper or unfair treatment of individuals belonging to these groups is so apparent and/or egregious that it can be shown that weight or orientation standards are discriminately applied to the different legally protected classes resulting in adverse impact that can be the basis of a lawsuit.

In addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (disability claims), other laws to consider for pursuit of employment rights may be The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (for claims of discrimination based on handicaps). Local ordinances should also be reviewed as some may specifically name weight, sexual orientation, marital status, physical and other characteristics as protected classes.

There have been cases where EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) have asserted obesity as a protected disability. Other cases prevailed by showing weight as a physical handicap or medical condition. Michigan may be the only state currently that provides anti-discrimination protections based on height and weight. While more than 90% of disability cases may be decided in favor of the employer, there is always a chance for extensions of case law, increased lobbying for changes, improvements, and additions to current laws, etc., as well as analyzing the facts of your case for opportunities to determine how advocacy can be pursued under current existing laws.

As with any other legal advocacy needed or considered, comprehensively document all treatment considered biased, discriminatory, bullying, or otherwise improper. Compile a file of any and all information that will assist in determining which anti-discrimination or advocacy laws may be helpful, as well as what additional legal causes of action or allegations can be made against the employer.

We welcome your comments and questions. Please e-mail or write us at the Houston Sun. This information is provided for general purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice nor considered a solicitation to provide legal advice. For legal advice, see the lawyer of your choice.

Keryl—-BerylMerylBeryl Burgess Douglas finished Law School Summa—-Sum ma cum laude—-ClaudelauderlaudedladelaudMaudelaudslaud e as #5 out of her class of 202. She has one son, James Matthew Douglas II, and practices law in Houston, Texas.