New proposal aims to curb absentee landlords

December 30, 2009 3:04:48 PM PST
City Council Member Jarvis Johnson is setting his sights on what he calls 'absentee landlords.' Johnson says he has heard multiple complaints from renters that property owners are not keeping up with their buildings, and that is putting the health of some people at risk. The proposal is meant to make landlords fix problems in single-family rental homes. It's something the council member behind it says is lacking in Houston.

Sharon Kendrick looked through the rubble of her Fifth Ward home, scorched in a fire two days after Christmas. The flames were started by her oven which she was using for heat. Kendrick says she had no heat and the landlord had not fixed the problem.

"I kept it pretty warm. I did what I had to do. That was the reason my oven was open," said Kendrick.

On Wednesday, Council Member Johnson announced his proposed ordinance, one that would make the owners of single family rental homes like Kendrick's keep up on repairs.

"If they're going to have rental properties, we should have a standard by which they rent. The house should have adequate lighting, adequate water, heat or air conditioning," said Council Member Johnson.

A few blocks away at another property owned by Kendrick's landlord, resident Tyrone Duncan told us a similar story about the $350 per month house he lives in.

"Two bedrooms, eight people. We got eight people living in the house. It's cold. We don't have heat. Our window is busted, he don't fix the window, nothing," said Duncan.

The new ordinance if it passes would require landlords to register with the city. It would also mean exterior inspections of rental homes and interior ones if the inspectors suspect critical problems or the tenants ask. If big problems exist, the landlords would have to isolate the tenants from the problem, perhaps finding them another place to live, within 72 hours and make repairs quickly.

Duncan has lived in this home all of his 18 years, and he told us he's behind the proposal all the way.

"I would tell them they're good," said Duncan.

We went by the Spring address we had for the landlord of both properties, but that house was vacant and the phone number listed was out of service.


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