City Of Austin Starts Suspending Negligent Landlords' Right To Rent Vacant Apartments

Sep 23, 2020

Lee esta historia en español. 

The City of Austin’s Code Department has told eight landlords they no longer have the right to rent to new tenants after the city says they failed to comply with permitting requirements and rectify dozens of health and safety violations.

“Our goal is to make sure that Austin residents are living in safe conditions,” Code Department Interim Director José Roig said in a press release in June, when the city suspended the first licenses. “This is one measure that we can take, but ultimately what we want to achieve is compliance and to create safe living conditions.”

The city maintains a list of rental properties where landlords have been cited numerous times for things that might endanger the health of a renter. It’s part of the Repeat Offender Program, created by the City Council in 2013, and allows the Code Department to charge landlords an annual fee and do regular inspections of a property.

RELATED | Audit Calls Austin's 'Bad Landlord' Program Ineffective, Says It Doesn't Ensure Safe Housing

The city’s powers include suspending or revoking a landlord’s rental registration, which means they would no longer be able to rent to new tenants. But while the city has had the ability to do this for years, it wasn't until February that it said it would after pressure from renters and advocates. A city audit released this week found the Repeat Offender Program fails to protect tenants from unsafe or unsanitary apartment conditions.

License suspension, tenant advocates and auditors say, is a step toward the city ensuring renters have safe places to live.

On Wednesday, the city’s Code Department said it had mailed suspension letters to five rental properties: 715 Brownlee Circle, 1124 Rutland Drive, 2400 Wickersham Lane, 1118 Azie Morton Road and 1704 Nelms Drive. The city had previously suspended the rental licenses of three other landlords, beginning in June, at properties at 6711 Wentworth Drive, 6901 Wentworth Drive and 7929 Gault St. In total, this accounts for nearly 800 rental units in the city.

A review of code violation records shows owners were cited for garbage that had piled up outside buildings, rodents and feces outside a tenant’s apartment, and a roach infestation.

In cases where it was possible to find contact information, KUT reached out to landlords or their registered agents for comment but received no responses.

Landlords have 10 days to appeal a suspension and may have their rental license reinstated only when the city says they’ve rectified the problems.

Got a tip? Email Audrey McGlinchy at audrey@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it. Your gift pays for everything you find on KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.