Teacher bought a house at Houston auction, but she showed up to find an empty lot

Courtney Fischer Image
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Woman finds Houston home demolished before moving in
"There is no house. Nothing is there," Laxmi Nagaraj said. "And no one is telling me who is accountable. No one informed me of anything. That's all I know."

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Laxmi Nagaraj moved to Houston from India six years ago, she dreamed of owning her home. After years of saving her Houston ISD substitute teaching paychecks, she finally had enough to make that dream a reality.

On Feb. 7, Nagaraj went to the monthly Harris County Tax Sale auction and bid $57,000 for a home on Wiggins Street in the Pleasantville area in northeast Houston. She had already been to see the house once, she said.

She was aware it needed repairs from the outside, but she says it was work she was willing to do.

"Before bidding on a property, we have to do research on the property," Nagaraj told Eyewitness News.

The day Nagaraj won, she paid $57,000 with a cashier's check and went to see her property the next day.

"To estimate the cost of repairs and all the things, to check the neighborhood," she said.

Nagaraj says she could only start work once the deed arrived, which, according to the tax-assessor website, can take four to six weeks.

The paperwork finally came on March 11, and on March 12, she went to her house with a locksmith to change the locks, but her home was gone.

"There is no house. Nothing is there," Nagaraj said. "And no one is telling me who is accountable. No one informed me of anything. That's all I know. Now I have a deed. I have a lot. But the home just disappeared."

The City of Houston sent ABC13 a statement confirming that city crews demolished the house on Feb. 22, just over two weeks after Nagaraj bought the house.

The city also says the Buildings and Standards Commission ordered it to do so on April 27, 2021.

The statement from the City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods sent to ABC13 reads:

"The City did not notify Ms. Nagaraj because she was not listed as the owner on HCAD in 2021 when the City began to take corrective action on this property. The commission found the building to be a dangerous building and presented a serious hazard to public safety.

The administrative order gave the owner up to 45 days from the order date to either repair or demolish the building. If the owner fails to comply with the order, the owner's time expires, and the city moves forward in the interest of public safety to satisfy the order and demolish the building without further notice. "

What needs to be clarified is why Nagaraj was able to purchase the house in February 2023 when an order to demolish it was put out nearly two years ago.

When ABC13 asked the city how this could have happened? We were told our questions "will require time to address."

In the meantime, Nagaraj has lost her home and savings and wants to know what the City of Houston plans to do to make it right.

"No one informed me. No one cared about me. It's as if I don't feel like I'm living in Houston," Nagaraj said. "I'm in a third-world country where there is no law and order."

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