Court Grants En Banc Rehearing on Farmers Branch Occupancy License

By Robyn Hagan Cain on August 02, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will once again consider an ordinance requiring an "occupancy license" for prospective renters in a Dallas suburb.

The New Orleans-based court agreed to en banc rehearing of Villas at Parkside Partners v. City of Farmers Branch this week.

Farmers Branch adopted the occupancy license law, Ordinance 2952, in January 2008. The ordinance required every adult trying to rent or lease any single family residence or apartment within Farmers Branch to apply for a residential occupancy license from the city's Building Inspector. A non-citizen prospective occupant had to provide an identification number establishing his or her lawful presence in the U.S. in order to get an occupancy license. The Building Inspector was required to verify each non-citizen's lawful presence with the federal government.

The housing ordinance also criminalized making false statements on an occupancy license application, occupying rental housing with a license, and knowingly permitting a person to occupy a rental unit without a valid license.

In February, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ordinance, concluding that its sole purpose was to exclude undocumented aliens -- specifically Latinos -- from the city, which is an impermissible regulation of immigration. In April, the City of Farmers Branch asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for en banc rehearing.

That wish was granted this week. The Fifth Circuit announced on Tuesday that a majority of the court had voted in favor of rehearing. The oral argument date and briefing schedule have not yet been assigned.

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