Renting a place at the Cambridge Apartment Homes in Dallas won't put too big of a dent in your bank account--the complex, on Northwest Highway just off of Greenville Avenue, advertises studios for as little as $515 a month. But you might not know it from the parking lot. That's because the apartment's parent company, Fath Properties, has an unusual policy: No beat-up or otherwise unsightly cars allowed.
The management company, which owns 10 properties across Texas, explains right on its website:
One of our unique policies is our Vehicle Condition Agreement that is part of our Lease Agreement. Amazingly it came from our residents consistently telling us that the first thing they looked at were the cars in the parking lot. If there were rusted, heavily dented, disabled or unsightly cars, they assumed the property was poorly operated and they would have neighbors that were unacceptable. We understand that your automobile is a personal item; however, we believe that a car that is not well maintained detracts from the overall appearance of our customer's home.
One tipster tells Unfair Park that she tried to rent from Fath's Cambridge Court apartments but was rejected after the agent said her car didn't meet the property's standards. According to a Fath Properties form she showed Unfair Park, all cars must be listed on the rental application and "must adhere to Fath Properties Vehicle Policy."
"I've never heard of his type of rule being implemented by a landlord," says Frances Espinoza, the Executive Director of the North Texas Fair Housing Center. So is it discrimination? Not under housing laws. In fact, we have bad news for all of you loyal, trashy readers who collect piles of the Dallas Observer each week so that you can shield your car windows from bird shit: It's perfectly legal to exclude renters with ugly cars.
"Unfortunately, income level and poverty are not protected classes under the Fair Housing Law," Espinoza explains.
Reached by telephone, a Cambridge manager named Kris pointed out that Fath Properties is transparent about the policy, with information on the website. But what's a tenant to do who moves in and then gets into a fender bender? "We ask them to repair it," Kris says.
And if they refuse?
"We will tow if they don't repair it, but we give them a hang tag, and they are given plenty of warning," Kris adds.
Becky Alejandrino, the COO of Fath Properties, did not return an email message seeking comment.