Austin Council settles lawsuit with troubled apartment complex

Residents call them "the apartments from hell." Now, that Austin apartment complex is getting a new owner. That's because of a lawsuit filed by the City of Austin.

AUSTIN - The Austin City Council voted Thursday to approve a legal settlement with the owners of the Cross Creek Apartment Complex for outstanding fines and failure to make repairs to the complex. 

Tenants referred to the complex on Rutland Drive as the "apartments from hell." They were left without hot water for months and the property was cited by the code department several times for needing repairs.

The city sued the owners in December 2015 and a judge ordered owners to make repairs. Because the complex offered affordable housing, the city pitched in $2 million to help, but residents say the issues were never fixed.

Thursday the city council approved a settlement requiring the owners to sell the property, make repairs, give the city it's $2 million back plus interest, and the tenants will get some of their rent money back plus rent caps.

"It is the best that we could do in what was a really terrible situation," said Council Member Greg Casar. The complex is in his district.

"It can't make up for the problems that have occurred there in the past but the city legal department and the tenants really stepped up to hold this property owner accountable," he added. 

The City of Austin released the following statement about the settlement:

The City challenged a landlord who was subjecting tenants to sub-standard living conditions and we are satisfied that this settlement is in the best interests of both taxpayers and residents. We give notice to rogue landlords across the city that we will continue to take robust action against those who exploit vulnerable people and seek to profit from the provision of poor housing.

Council also could have approved a settlement with the owner of the Orchard Plaza complex which is located on East 52nd Street, but voted to turn down the deal.

Because of code violations, the owner's fines total more than $800,000. The settlement would have given the city a fraction of that, $150,000. 

The lawsuit is still pending, so the city and Casar, who was the first to say he wouldn't support the settlement during the council meeting, wouldn't comment on the lawsuit.

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