As humans, we sometimes make contract agreements that don’t seem to be a big deal or like they’ll become intrusive in our lives down the road—like this Dallas apartment complex’s “fix your car or get towed” policy, no matter how minor the damage. Then, like being backed into out of nowhere, reality hits.
Dallas-Forth Worth news station CBS 11 reports that Sontlux Sukhavachana, who has what looks to be a previous-generation Chevrolet Traverse with a dent in it, said he got a notice on his car recently saying the company that owns the apartment complex he lives in, Fath Properties, planned to tow it. The dent is moderate; it’s not particularly small, but it’s also not something the average passerby would likely care much about.
But at Sukhavachana’s complex, the “fix your car or get towed” rule isn’t about the severity of the car damage—it’s about whether there’s damage at all. Here’s the wording on the agreement, via the Fath Properties website:
One of our unique policies is the Vehicle Condition Agreement that is part of our Rental Criteria and an Addendum to the Lease Agreement. Amazingly it came from our applicants consistently telling us the first thing they looked at were the cars in the parking lot. If the cars were disabled, heavily dented, rusted, unsightly, they assumed the property was poorly operated and their neighbors would be unacceptable. We understand that your automobile is a personal item and as such is your right to drive whatever you want, however from our research, this is something most good customers requested and we do have the right to provide.
If you truly want a clean, quiet, well-maintained place to live and will abide by the rules, I believe we are your best option. If you do not care and do not wish to follow the rules, then you will not be happy living with us.
The specific section on the vehicle agreement ends with the statement that Fath believes “a car that is not well maintained detracts from the overall appearance of [its] customer’s home.”
That agreement, which CBS 11 reports is part of the lease paperwork, could cost Sukhavachana’s one-income family a lot more than a repair payment. He told the outlet fixing the car would mean not being able to make next month’s rent.
Sukhavachana, who has three children and whose family relies on one car, said Fath Properties is “expecting tenants who barely have enough money to make ends meet to invest money in cosmetic damages.” He also claimed the company is “not very motivated to repair things or make the apartment look good,” but wants residents to keep their cars free of damage. Certain Yelp reviews found by CBS 11 supported that statement.
Here’s more on his situation and others, from CBS 11:
“They’re discriminating against people who don’t have very much income,” Sukhavachana said.
Renters sign paperwork agreeing to upkeep their cars as part of their lease agreement.
But renters, including Sukhavachana, claim the rubric is subjective.
One renter said he got his car towed over chipped paint. Another resident said his car was towed because his car was painted two different colors.
CBS 11 reports that Fath Properties owns 30 apartment complexes across the U.S., and that all of them have the same “vehicle condition agreement.” When the outlet reached out to the company for an interview, a spokesperson declined but pointed the outlet toward the website section quoted above.
Here’s part of the statement, via CBS 11:
I don’t feel it is necessary to speak with you directly as this policy has been around for close to forty years and has been abided by and appreciated by the vast majority of our residents. Our policy is clearly communicated to all residents prior to move-in, and the reasoning behind our policy can be found at our website, in the section titled “A Word From Our Owner.”
CBS 11 reports that Sukhavachana got an extension on the tow in December, and that he now has until Friday to get the dent fixed—a deadline CBS 11 reports he “can’t afford to face.”