Legal loophole allowing motels to not provide services

Hotels and motels not accountable to tenants

AUSTIN - The Austin Tenants' Council is seeing a lot of low-income residents signing leases with motels for long-term stay. The Council said the only problem is that some motels don't deliver on services they are supposed to.

Nori and Phillip Sheffield are the latest example. They were kicked out of Mehl's Motel on North Lamar Boulevard on August 23 after staying there for four months. Their only notice was a verbal warning, which was caught on camera.

The exchange started off cordial, then changed in a matter of seconds.

"You either going to pay for the room or get out right now or I'm going to arrest you for theft of service," a motel employee told Phillip Sheffield.

The Sheffields said they went to the bank to get money. When they got back, they no longer had a room. And all their belongings were locked in a closet.

"My clothes, they got a couple of furniture items, our silverware, our dishes," said Phillip.

Phillip claimed trouble started when they complained about their room.

The mid-August rain flooded their room. Nori documented the condition of the room with her cell phone. In it, you can hear her walking through water on the ground.

They also shared pictures of all the water damage. One picture showed a big section of the ceiling hanging in the bathroom, revealing a huge hole. There was also the black mold in cabinets and bed bugs and insects in the room. Phillip said the motel didn't address a single issue.

"I'm just fed up. I'm fed up with it. I don't want to deal with it anymore. All I want to do is retrieve my things and go on with my life," said Phillip.

The Austin Tenant's Council said management at Mehl's Motel did not follow the law and proper eviction guidelines.

"They don't receive any services, they don't get maid services, they don't get toilet paper, they don't get towels."

When they have a problem like bed bugs or rodents or a leaky roof, they request a repair and the property management refuses them on the basis that they're not tenants," said Daniel Armendariz, a Housing Specialist with the Council.

Under the Texas Property Code, tenants have rights and are protected. There's nothing in the law governing hotels and motels and long term residents.

"This is a glaring problem," said Armendariz.

Armendariz said it's a legal loophole that's allowing motels, like Mehl's, to disregard the rights of people staying there. He also said the motel didn't go through the proper steps when evicting the Sheffields. That's why the next step is referring the Sheffields to an attorney, because sending three certified letters to Mehl's hasn't helped at all.

Now, all the Sheffields have is enough clothes to last a few days.

KVUE went to Mehl's to try to get some answers. So far, we haven’t received a call back, but we will stay on top of this and report any updates we get.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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