It is applied in at least 1 videogame company that I know of.
can you name the company?
I also know an Art Director who confirmed me that's what they were told at the university actually.
It's not impossible that he is, or was, misinformed.
It's just there's no legal document that I can find or article on the internet confirming it.
Which is why it's more likely that it doesn't exist.
There are a few major problems with this supposed rule.
If you change it so much that it's a new design. Why not just make a character of your own?
If you were to change something to that degree, but still have it be recognizable as the original piece of art, it's still technically a breach of intellectual property rights.
Another interrogation I have: Can you use the image of a popular building freely in a game? Or do you need to ask the city in which it resides for permission? I'm going to do some research about that right now. :)
I don't think interrogation was the word you wanted to use...
As previously mentioned, it's better to go to an actual lwyer for these kinds of questions. But in general I think you're ok if the building is a public building, and the image/photo is public domain or under CC or some other similar license (note that I'm assuming you're talking about using photos. If you just want to have the likeness of a building that's a slightly different issue). If the house is a place of residence and/or if the building is private property I'd check with the owner. If it's a landmark, like the Statue of Liberty, check with the city/region it's located in.