AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is seeking an injunction against an apartment complex and its owner due to multiple code violations over the past year.
According to a suit filed in Travis County, in June 2015 the Austin Code Department received a complaint from tenants of the Cross Creek Apartment at 1124 Rutland Dr., that there was no hot water. Once the city verified the complaint, an inspector issued a ‘Notice of Violation’ for the lack of hot water. Despite the citation, the apartment complex failed to provide hot water to the residents, continued the court document. Over the next six months, an inspector came by a total of 13 times and discovered the same problem every time.
Tenant Terry Turner invited KXAN into his home so we could see the problem firsthand.
“You can run that shower all you want. You’re not gonna get nothing but lukewarm water. And it’s dead winter,” Turner said, who hasn’t had hot water since he moved into Cross Creek around two months ago.
Besides the lack of hot water, the city also issued numerous notices for other violations, including but not limited to: broken passageways, damage to exterior walls, missing gutters, deteriorated stairways and broken windows. The city says the owner “failed to make necessary repairs to bring its residential units up to City Code standards.” Even before the 2015 violations, in November 2014, the city required the complex to register in its “Repeat Offender Program.”
Cross Creek is one of 38 properties on the Repeat Offender list. The code department told KXAN on Tuesday that 46 more properties are about to be added to the list, and around 200 are under review. Just three code officers oversee properties on the repeat offender list.
“This covers the whole city, so we’re trying to use those three inspectors to address all the inspections that are required under that repeat offender program and address any complaints we’re receiving still under those properties,” Matthew Noriega, Assistant Division Manager with Austin Code’s Commercial/Multi-Family team said.
The city is asking for the injunction because they have deemed the situation at the apartment complex “dangerous” and a “threat to the public safety, health and welfare.” The injunction requires the owners to repair the structures at issue, and it will also allow a receiver to be appointed to take care of collecting rent and make the necessary repairs to bring the building into compliance. When a receiver is appointed, the owners of the apartment complex will have to surrender all rent paid by tenants and the money collected will be used to make the necessary repairs.
The lawsuit lists TMG-TX, TMG Management, Noelle Affordable Housing Corporation, The Mulholland Group and Royce A. Mulholland as owners or controlling members of the Cross Creek Apartments.
General contractor Frank Fuentes defended the complex’s owner.
“What people need to know is that this is a brand new owner, he’s been on site maybe a year and a half, with his intent always to produce a quality place for people to live,” Fuentes said. “We have been working since the day he started on obtaining architects, engineers, surveyors, everything that’s necessary to obtain building permits so that we can move forward with a major remodel.”
Fuentes explained the owner’s plan to spend around $12 million on renovations. As for the ongoing water issue, “The bottom line is, the entire water system, which is tied to the boilers, will be replaced. It’s just not that simple. We now have the permits to do it.”
If the owner of the complex fails to fix the violations, they will be fined $1,000 per day for each violation. The apartment complex has 18 buildings and has approximately 200 units. Austin’s Code Department told KXAN the owner currently faces around $24,000 in penalties.
KXAN asked the city to provide perspective on how often code violations rise to the level of a lawsuit. In a statement, the city’s law department responded: “State law authorizes the city to seek a court order to bring a property into compliance where an owner has repeatedly failed to comply with City Code, particularly where there are public health and safety or habitability issues like the lack of hot water for tenants. Whether to utilize this tool is handled on an individual case basis.”