RENTERS RIGHTS Against the SLUMLORDS In Pelican Bay!
Posted in the Pelican Bay Forum
#1 May 22, 2010
Rental-property tenants often have more rights than they think!
By DAVE LIEBER
Some tenants who live in substandard housing don't know their rights under Texas law. But Tia Anderson, a school bus driver and the mother of four small children, is more fortunate than most. She hired a lawyer who does.
Marty Leewright took her case because, he says, "it's just one of those cases that cried out for justice."
In January, Anderson, her husband and their children moved into a 1,400-square-foot home in a quiet Fort Worth neighborhood near Everman Parkway. Monthly rent was $875.
The house had serious problems, but the landlord, Wali Harris, and his wife, Denise Webb, of Grand Prairie promised they would fix things.
The yard fence was down. The ceiling and walls had holes, and water leaked in. The back yard had a 54-inch hole from an old water well.
Then it got worse.
After a leaking pipe was discovered, Fort Worth turned off the water. Anderson says she lived for four weeks in the house without running water. Her husband often works out of town on road construction projects, so every day, she carried jugs of water she got from a neighbor.
Her 3-month-old daughter got bacterial pneumonia and was in the intensive care unit. A second child also ended up ill in the hospital. The source of the illnesses is unknown, but mildew and mold that city inspectors found inside the house certainly didn't help.
City inspectors also found other violations: holes in exterior walls, a leaking roof, an outside water leak, exposed wiring, missing electrical-outlet covers and that hole in the yard.
Anderson asked the landlords to make repairs. But she said they told her it was her problem. Texas law is clear, though: Landlords are responsible for making sure housing meets minimum health and safety standards.
When Fort Worth officials saw Anderson's lease, they told her it was no good because the tenant's name wasn't listed. Anderson asked for a second lease. She later learned that Denise Webb had signed Anderson's name on it.
Anderson contacted Leewright, a lawyer who usually represents landlords who belong to the Apartment Association of Tarrant County. Since this landlord is not a member, he can represent her.
He told Anderson how to send the landlord a certified letter requesting the repairs. When that didn't work, he sued on the family's behalf in landlord-tenant court, which is held in Justice of the Peace court.
The next day, Anderson found an eviction notice on her door. Among the reasons cited in the eviction notice: "for falsely accusing us of forgery" and "for the lawsuit."
That didn't matter to Anderson because she had already moved out. But Leewright believed that the landlord had violated the state law that says "a landlord may not retaliate against a tenant" for suing.
At a one-hour trial this month in Justice of the Peace Sidney Thompson's Precinct 8 courtroom, the landlords defended themselves without a lawyer.
They said the problem with the water happened because Anderson never moved the water account to her name. She said she thought she had.
When the judge learned that Webb had signed Anderson's name on the lease, he said: "Hold on! Every grown person knows you don't sign another person's name."
"It was an honest mistake," Webb testified.
Harris testified that he didn't have the money to make the repairs because he had been hospitalized for a while and had been unable to work.
The judge asked the landlords whether they worried that children could have fallen into the hole in the yard.
Wali Harris said he didn't see it as a problem because he had always mowed around it and a tree was growing out of the hole.
"We are not slumlords," Denise Webb told the judge. She also said she and her husband planned to make the repairs.
The verdict? The landlords were ordered to pay the tenant $6,800, court costs and $3,000 in lawyer fees.
#3 May 23, 2010
Wow! Renters of Pelican Bay, get those certified letters written and start making the slumlords in this area take care of their property. What happened to the city council saying that all homes must pas an inspection before they are rented? If they followed through on that idea then they have some damn low standards. Some of the "homes" out here are trashed on the outside so I can't imagine what they must be like on the inside. So, any city council members or others in the know, do we have inspections before renters move in or not? If so, who does the inspections? I just thought this would be a faster way to an answer than to file an Open Records Act request for that information and for the number of inspections that person/office had done. Anyone know?
#4 May 25, 2010
(continued from part 1)
The next day, the eviction hearing was held in the same courtroom. The landlords didn't show up. The eviction was dismissed, and Anderson was awarded $4,325 more. The landlords now owe about $14,000 to their former tenant.
They told me they will appeal to county court.
State law changed this year to allow Texas tenants, who can go to landlord-tenant court without a lawyer, to ask for repairs that cost up to $10,000.
Sometimes judgments aren't paid, but Leewright told me about a way around that.
Texas law allows for repossessing property when outstanding judgments aren't paid.
Leewright told me about one case he had in which a landlord didn't pay a $6,500 judgment. The house was worth $149,000.
"I seized the house, and it was sold on the courthouse steps for $1,000," Leewright said.
That landlord later filed for bankruptcy so the lawyer couldn't seize a second house to pay the rest of the judgment.
Texas tenants often have far more rights than they know of.
(This post was previously continued due to length and then for some unknown reason part 2 disappeared. The link was to the original article, which follows in a separate post for contact info and source./editor)
#8 Jun 8, 2010
Who is responsible for inspecting these run down "houses" before they are up for rent?
Does the CITY of PELICAN BAY have any ordinances making shure they are up to code?
And how do i get in contact with Code Enforcement?
#9 Jun 13, 2010
Well, yes to some answers and No to some. there's no more code enforcement, yes theres laws for rental home inspections, but whose to enforce them? calvin Hunter??? He can't even get city hall to pass an inspection LOL HAHA
#10 Jun 1, 2011
If the current city council goon squad is any indication of special interests and personal agendas to come, this city is on a track to be dis-incorporated and ruined just like the slumlords did to what's left of Briar. How did they do it to Briar? All the trashy renters voted to destroy the city and help the slumlords out, in return for a free months rent, that's how. The slumlords then had lowered property taxes and no code enforcement to worry about, so it was win-win in Briar for the white trailer trash slumlords.
This is the EXACT same thing they are trying to do to Pelican Bay RIGHT NOW and they have been trying to do this for the last 10-15 years, at least. Lowered property taxes and no code enforcement is a big incentive when they can't afford to either rehab, tear down or replace multiple trashed out trailers they have now and rent them out to people with criminal backgrounds for your neighbors.
Which is why renters with cheap and lazy slumlords need to personally sue them to make repairs they will otherwise refuse to make. And since the city now has no code enforcement since the slumlords buds on the city council don't like it, your only option now is to sue them or move out.
#11 Jun 2, 2011
YEA>>>finally someone speaks UP!!! make the Reeds, Nightingales, and all the other slum lords pay to keep THEIR property up to code...what they gonna do, wait til a fire or something else happens and an innocent person gets killed???
#12 May 15, 2013
This is how renters in substandard trailers bring lazy slumlords and their council pals who want no code enforcement under control in the city.
Just SUE them.
"State law changed this year to allow Texas tenants, who can go to landlord-tenant court without a lawyer, to ask for repairs that cost up to $10,000.
Sometimes judgments aren't paid, but Leewright told me about a way around that.
Texas law allows for repossessing property when outstanding judgments aren't paid."
#13 May 16, 2013
Get ready to help those folks out, they are going to need it; But that is the only way home owners are going to get their town back.
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