HPD Apartment Enforcement Unit aims to help renters with more than just crime, officials say

Courtney Carpenter Image
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
HPD aims to help renters with more than just crime, officials say
The Houston Police Department's Apartment Enforcement Unit aims to help renters with sewage, mold, and ongoing issues with landlords, officials say.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- From mold to mice and security gates that get left open, ABC13 hears from a lot of viewers about problems with where they rent.

This week in ABC13 Renters' Rights, Eyewitness News is taking a look at what the city, specifically the Houston Police Department, is doing to try to address some of the issues.

Day in and day out, Sgt. James Roque and six other officers who make up the HPD Apartment Enforcement unit spend time at the city's worst complexes, and their focus is wider than just crime.

"Slowly but surely, we've addressed a lot of issues here, and it's gotten better. We noticed that the sewage was backing up, so in these cases, when we see these sorts of things, we get with our health department and habitability division and have them come out and address these issues," Roque explained.

Since last fall, the unit has spent time working with management at the La Serena Apartments in Spring Branch.

Roque said some improvements had been made, such as cameras and more lighting added to the parking lot. But residents told ABC13 that problems persist, including major sewage issues.

"It's just kind of a slum. I guess you would say," a La Serena resident told us last month.

Though citations have been issued and though they've had conversations with management, the owners, so far, have not agreed to meet with them.

"It's very frustrating when we feel as if the owners are avoiding us or are not making an effort to come and just sit down with us and have a conversation on how we can make things better," Roque said.

So for complexes like La Serena and others, ones you would consider "bad actors," what could speed up the process of making these healthy and safe places for people to live?

Roque said more teeth in city ordinances would help.

"They would have to go back to city council and address the ordinance, and I think hold a lot of these owners' feet to the fire a little more than what we are," Roque said.

Unfortunately for tenants, when problems are widespread, there's not always a quick fix.

In the meantime, if you are dealing with ongoing issues at your apartment, reporting the problems through 311 is the best way to get the city's attention.

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Do you have questions about your rent? Are you struggling to get help from a landlord? Send your questions, and ABC13 will look into it.