Houston inspectors want man to clean up house he doesn't own

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A yellow notice of violation is staked in front of a home in Houston. (KTRK)

Turn to Ted
The city of Houston is always trying to force homeowners to clean up dangerous buildings.

But in their push to clean up, inspectors ticketed the wrong guy. Maybe a simple mistake, but not an easy fix which is why he turned to our investigative reporter Ted Oberg and Ted got to work.

After the taxes on this small home on Houston's southeast side went unpaid for years, the county put it up for auction at a tax sale.

Rony Rodriguez bought it.

"That's what I do," Rodriguez said. "I'm an investor so I buy properties."

He had plans to renovate or rebuild, but the dreams outpaced his cash and he sold it on December 14, 2017.

"We went to a title company and it was all clear," Rodriguez said.

Or at least it should have been. On February 8, 2018, nearly two months after he sold it, a city inspector slapped him with a ticket for a dangerous building.

Rodriguez agrees the building isn't in great shape. He also agrees that it's not his problem anymore.

He tried to prove that to Houston's department of neighborhoods. He said he's called them at least five times, trying to show them the mistake.

"They were like, you have to go to court and you have to show the judge that you have all the documentation and prove yourself wrong and whatever."

Rony says and HCAD records show he wasn't the owner. We met the new owner who agreed the place was hers. But when Rodriguez couldn't make his case without taking a day off for court, he called us.

"They're acting like they're trying to justify their action instead of saying, you know, we apologize for the inconvenience or maybe try to correct the problem."

The department of neighborhoods wasn't much friendlier with us. We couldn't get much information out of them, despite repeat calls to their spokesperson, but amazingly a few days after our calls, movement: an order that the case be dismissed.

City prosecutors told us the department of neighborhoods asked that the ticket be dismissed saving Rodriguez $357 and a day in court.

Two takeaways: there really isn't a way to correct a city mistake like this without going to court and maybe there should be. Also HCAD, the people who keep the property records, say it is always a good idea to check records shortly after buying or selling property.

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