'We see you': Harris County attorney pushes for apartment complexes to be held liable for neglect

Courtney Carpenter Image
Tuesday, June 11, 2024
Harris Co. pushes for law to hold negligent complexes accountable
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee says he is looking to hold negligent apartment complexes accountable for their lax treatment of tenants.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been nearly four months since we told you about Harris County suing an apartment complex's owners after residents continued to deal with standing raw sewage

ABC13 wanted to find out if the lawsuit would finally make them fix the problems.

During an interview in February of this year, a Palms on Rolling Creek resident explained that he had to hop around items to walk his daughter to school.

"Toilet paper, tampons, feces," he said. At the time, ABC13 cameras captured raw sewage covering the walkways.

In January, after years of complaints about sewage issues, Harris County sued the owners of this complex. Officials want a judge to make them comply with the law, which would mean cleaning the mess up and fixing it for good.

"We are hoping to be able to get an order here sometime in the next couple of months, but what's most important to me is that there is sustained compliance," explained Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee.

RELATED: Homeowner frustrated as raw sewage spills into Clute cemetery, still waiting for a fix

And so far, progress has been made.

"There was some on the ground, but now it's not there anymore," Lina, a current resident, said.

The area filled with items that made the path un-walkable earlier this year is now dry, and residents say they last dealt with the standing sewage a few months ago, not to say there are still other issues.

"I'm glad that's better- that's way better. It's just the water issues now," explained Lina.

This is also the same complex that left residents in the dark for several days back in April before finally repairing a power pole they were responsible for.

Even when issues are well-documented, it's rare for a county to sue an apartment complex. Why? Texas laws notoriously protect landlords, not renters, which Menefee is passionate about changing.

"To the extent that Texas law is expanded that allows us to go get money to go back to tenants or to force bad acting landlords to move on from the property, 'Oh, I would explore every single legal remedy that was out there,' but right now, we are dealing with a very constrained legal environment that only allows us to force the landlord to do the right thing today and try to force them to do the right thing tomorrow," Menefee said.

And his message for the people who have been through hardships at this complex:

"We see you. We hear you, and we are going to do everything in our power to get the issue fixed. Even after the issue is fixed in this instance, we are going to go to Austin to try to make it so that no tenant in Harris County has had to live through the things that you've had to live through," he said.

He says he plans to head to the state capital to push for laws that enable local governments to hold negligent complexes accountable.

"The next legislative session, I plan to go out to Austin to ask our state legislature to change the laws to allow local governments, whether it be cities or counties, to be able to stand up and represent those folks in court to ensure that these complexes do the right thing," Menefee said.

RELATED: 'A slap in the face': Raw sewage continues to be problem at Spring Branch apartments, renters say

Management of The Palms on Rolling Creek did not respond to Eyewitness News for a comment.

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