ABC13 Renters' Rights: Heights-area tenant goes more than 6 weeks with water-damaged apartment

Courtney Carpenter Image
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Heights-area renter goes more than 6 weeks with water damage
One Houston renter in the Heights area told Action 13 that her landlord has neglected her apartment with water damage for weeks.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When it comes to renting a place to live, we get a lot of questions in our ABC13 newsroom about what the tenant is responsible for versus what the landlord is responsible for when damage occurs.

A Heights-area tenant reached out to Action 13's Renters' Rights after several weeks had passed with no repairs to their water-damaged unit.

"Basically, on the night that it happened, there was water coming through all of the light fixtures here," Lauren Vela, a renter, said.

Vela said up until Dec. 23, she enjoyed living at Heights West 11th, but that was the day a water pipe burst two floors above her, causing water to pour into her unit, and damaging the walls, ceilings, and carpet.

"They were saying, 'Y'all can still live in there. The machines are going to be a hindrance to you, but y'all can still live there.' Basically, we were on our own to pay for a hotel, and then we would have to go through our insurance to get it covered," Vela said.

Vela says within a week of the pipe bursting, drywall and carpet were ripped out, and huge fans and dehumidifiers were brought in. She says even with the place in that condition, apartment management told her it was livable.

"Basically, we would have been living in a construction zone with a dog and with mold," Vela said.

She said for about six weeks, no further repairs were made. That's when she got a notice to vacate, citing a natural disaster.

ABC13 spoke to two Houston-area attorneys about Lauren's situation. It's important for all renters to know if you find yourself in a similar situation, likely, your lease is not going to protect you. Even if the damage is not your fault, in most cases, there's no requirement by law for the landlord to discount your rent or to let you move into another unit while yours is repaired.

"The situation is beyond ridiculous, and a solution is far overdue. She didn't respond either to that," Vela read from an email she sent to management.

Vela says throughout the weekslong process, management was not very responsive. Heights West 11th is owned by IR Living. Action 13 reached out to management, the regional manager, and their corporate office in San Antonio several times and have gotten no response.

"I just don't understand how they can be so heartless," Vela said.

Though IR Living did not respond to any of our multiple requests for comment, Lauren said the day they realized Eyewitness News was doing a story about this situation, they sent her an email saying she would be reimbursed for January rent.

Do you have questions about your rent? Are you struggling to get help from landlord? Send us your questions and we will look into it.

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