HOA bans homeowners renting to sex offenders, but is it legal?

HOUSTON – A Fort Bend County neighborhood's homeowners association has put a ban on any homeowner renting to a registered sex offender.

Lots of families with young children live in the Kingdom Heights neighborhood. The deed restrictions established by the HOA for the quiet suburban Houston community are crystal clear -- no homeowner may lease to a residence to a registered sex offender.

"Personally, I don't want to have my neighbor being a sex offender," William DeVillier, a father of three, said.

DeVillier recently found out that a registered sex offender moved in right across the street about a month ago. KPRC 2 did some digging and discovered that, legally, there's nothing the HOA can do to stop it.

The state's property code calls into question the HOA's deed restrictions. It was revised last year and states that HOAs can no longer be involved in the approval process of a lease agreement for prospective tenants. Essentially it says an HOA has to mind its own business.

"This may be a technical loophole in this law," Mitchell Katine, a real estate attorney who has worked closely with HOAs for the past 30 years, said.

Katine said neighbors could arguably enforce it by taking legal action.

"The neighbor finds out about it, they could file for an injunction in court to force that owner to remove that registered sex offender from that home," Katine said.

But criminal attorney John Nechman said restrictions are already in place that regulate where they can and can't live.

"If somebody is following the guidelines, it's very likely going to be very tough. It will be extremely expensive to try to go forward on enforcement matter trying to force someone to move," Nechman said.

While he doesn't like the idea, DeVillier said he is not about to make waves.

"I can't tell my ex-neighbor. I can't make you rent to whoever you want to. It's their house and they can rent to who they want to," DeVillier said.

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