Third Ward landlord says his tenants are to blame for lack of water after winter freeze

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two months after Texas was plunged into a deep winter freeze, a corner of Houston's historic Third Ward is still dealing with its life-altering aftermath.

"We can take a shower, but it's not pleasant," said Jared Sublett, a renter living in a house at the corner of Delano and Francis.

Yes, the water is finally running at the house, but there are still gaping holes on the siding, and water still leaks from pipes underneath the row house.

"We have running water in the house, but the pipes are not fixed properly," he said. "There's still leaking water under this house, there's leaking water next door ... the pressure is wrong."

The problem for Sublett, his nextdoor neighbor Freddie Alexander, as well as other neighbors in the surrounding few blocks is that their landlord, J. Brad Batteau, is placing the blame on his tenants.

"I'm not going to bash him, or say anything bad about him, but his job as a landlord is to take care of his tenants," said Alexander, who, like many in the neighborhood, has known Batteau for years.

"You can't go anywhere in this world, and live for free," said Batteau when ABC13 spoke with him on Monday.

READ ALSO: Houston residents still without water weeks after winter storm

The long time Third Ward resident and landlord has lived on Delano Street for many years until his house burned down a few weeks ago. A check of the Harris County Appraisal records show Batteau owns at least 15 houses in the area. He told Eyewitness News the count was 20.

"They are out to get me because they burned my house down," said Batteau, who is convinced that the water issues with some of his rental homes stem from tenants trying to attack him.

In a rambling interview on Monday, Batteau, who has run for city council several times, not only accused unnamed tenants of burning down his house, but also said the people trying to help are covertly trying to take away his homes.

"I'm never selling," he said, admitting he's reluctant to accept outside help.

"I would hope Mr. Batteau stop the name slander," said Humi Jackson, a member of the Black United Fund of Texas.

Jackson has been on the ground almost daily delivering water to homebound seniors renting from Batteau. She and Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz have even found a local nonprofit willing to make plumbing repairs for free.

READ ALSO: How the 2021 winter storm happened

"Just sit down with us and know we're not trying to hurt him," said Jackson. "We just want to help his tenants. We understand it's a lot for one person."

"I mean I have really shed tears about this to the point that I did have to reach out to the Mayor," said Evans-Shabazz. "It was bigger than me."

Both women are also trying to work with some of the tenants to get them relocated to homes or extended stay motels where basic hygiene needs can be met.

However, many residents are already low income, while others want to stay close to the Third Ward community they love.

"Third Ward is a wonderful community," said Evans-Shabazz. "This is not the Third World."

Batteau though, remains leery of outside help and insists he is a good businessman.

"I'm never going to be a bad businessman. I've been in business for over 30 years," he said.

However, when we pointed out he has been sued by Harris County multiple times for delinquent taxes, he admitted, "Right, that's true." Still, after speaking to Batteau at length, it is clear that he does not believe he is in over his head.

His burned house remains charred, with no evidence of cleanup. His old campaign signs are strewn about the front yard.

Batteau is currently couch surfing himself, uncertain when he can return to Third Ward to live. Still, Batteau believes the only solution is to evict his current residents, who he says are against him, and rent to new tenants.

"Everybody is on eviction right now... Everyone," he said.

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