First proactive measures to protect Austin renters


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 21 at 7:42 AM

AUSTIN -- The Austin City Council is preparing to vote on two new ordinances to protect tenants from unsafe and unhealthy living conditions.

It would be Austin’s first proactive measure to stop neglectful landlords before bigger problems arise, like the May 2012 balcony collapses at the Wood Ridge Apartments.

As the city’s code compliance department works out the final details of the ordinance, new problems have sprung up for dozens of college students moving into the University Estates complex off East Riverside.

Several renters have shared stories of walking into apartments with bugs, mold, leftover trash, broken appliances and dirty carpets.

The students were shown model units before signing leases, but were not shown their actual units until move-in day this past weekend.

"The lease said we're entitled to a clean apartment,” said renter Nick Morin, who will be a freshman at Austin Community College.

Morin waited in line for hours to speak to a manager. Several days after moving into his apartment he says it's still in what he refers to as an 'unsanitary state.'

“The kitchen counter was completely dirty. I tried to clean it, but there are yellow stains all over that I can't get out.”

Last August KVUE reported on a similar problem at the Edge Apartments off East Riverside. It was just a few months after a balcony collapse at Wood Ridge Apartments in Southeast Austin.

“When we have to react there's already a problem and Wood Ridge is a good example of that,” said Matthew Christianson with Austin's code compliance.

That is why Christianson and the code compliance department are working on proactive ordinances to prevent these things from happening before apartments become unsafe and unsanitary.

“We want to get an idea of what's out there and how being proactive will help in getting ahead of the issues we have with substandard housing and aging housing,” said Christianson.

The one-year pilot program would require all apartments in select areas of North Austin, Central Austin and East Riverside/Oltorf to register with the City for random inspections.

City Council is expected to vote on the ordinances to protect renters on Thursday, Aug. 29.



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