AUSTIN (KXAN) — David Martin, a disabled Army veteran, has been living at Heritage Pointe, a senior living community apartment complex in east Austin, for nearly two years.
“I moved here with help from the VA (Veterans Affairs). I was basically homeless,” Martin said.
But now Martin said the VA is trying to help him move out.
Martin told KXAN he had enough after December last year when he spent the holiday weekend helping carry disabled residents up and down stairs because the elevators at the apartment were broken.
“The elevators are always broken in one or more areas at any given time,” Martin said.
In addition to the multiple handwritten complaints provided to KXAN alleging elevator issues, KXAN found at least one City of Austin Code violation as well as several code complaints and 311 calls for service directly related to the elevators at the complex.
KXAN reached out to NuRock, the property’s management company, and asked about the elevator issues. In response NuRock told KXAN the property has four elevators and while there have been maintenance or repair issues, it said there has never been a time when all four elevators weren’t operating.
“Because of this, there would never have been a reason for any resident who has difficulty in climbing stairs to have used the staircases,” NuRock said.
According to Martin, the elevator problems are one of the many maintenance, condition and safety issues he continues to have with the complex, such as general cleanliness as well as homeless individuals sleeping in the stairways of the apartment.
In response to these claims, NuRock stated it is aware that homeless individuals occasionally attempt to take refuge in the hallways.
“As part of the daily management operations, staff is assigned to walk the property to identify physical issues and non-physical issues, such as homeless individuals that trespass onto the property and work to remove them,” NuRock stated.
Additionally, NuRock said the property is maintained daily, which includes cleaning any trash and debris.
“I don’t feel safe here,” Martin said, so he contacted his VA counselor and was able to obtain a mutual rescission agreement letter from the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, or HACA, which required the property management’s signature.
According to HACA, Martin currently receives partial rent assistance through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which helps homeless veterans transition into permanent housing.
HACA said the mutual rescission agreement would provide Martin the ability to apply his voucher towards a different apartment without penalty.
However, Martin said when he submitted the letter to property management, he was told the property owner refused to sign the mutual agreement and was instead provided a request to move out form that would mean losing his $500 deposit.
Its an option he said he can’t afford.
KXAN reached out to the property management company of Heritage Pointe as well as HACA to learn more about the mutual rescission agreement.
In response, the property management company stated, “the Housing Authority of the City of Austin does not own Heritage Pointe. A resident must abide by the terms of their lease agreement with Heritage Pointe, which does not extend to a different property.”
HACA confirmed that Heritage Pointe is not one of the properties it owns, therefore its ultimately at the property managements discretion on whether or not to honor the mutual recession agreement.
HACA told KXAN mutual rescission agreements are typically met between both parties and said they reached out to Heritage Pointe on Martin’s behalf with the hope that they could come to a resolution.
According to HACA, they have been communicating with Martin about his options and have recommended he reach out the Austin Tenants Council for information and resources regarding his tenant legal rights.
“I expected them to honor my request and come to a mutual agreement, but they are refusing to sign my rescission letter,” Martin said. He added he was never told why it wouldn’t be signed.
The formation of the Heritage Pointe Tenants Association
KXAN visited Martin at Heritage Pointe and also met Clifford Lee, who said he has been a tenant at the senior living community for almost seven years.
Lee told KXAN he felt the conditions and overall safety at the apartment has progressively worsened over the years, which is why he and multiple others formed the Heritage Pointe Tenants Association nearly six months ago.
Lee said the purpose of the independent, tenant-formed association is to bring the residents together to enhance safety and provide the community a central place to go to submit complaints about the apartment’s maintenance and condition concerns.
Lee said he took a complaints box with the tenants’ issues to property management but the box was promptly returned to him with all the complaints inside.
Since forming the tenant association, Lee has been issued a notice of lease violation. Lee provided KXAN a copy of the notice, which states: “We have received multiple complaints about (Clifford Lee) going to residents & staff members to slander the company, community and the staff.”
According to Lee’s lease agreement, “making bad-faith or false allegations against us or our agents to others” is considered prohibited conduct. As a result, property management banned Lee from being in the apartments common area with the exception of getting his mail.
Lee told KXAN this is the first time he’s had any lease violations or issues with management.
Regardless, Lee said he will continue to do everything he can to improve the community and has been joined by dozens of residents who are in support of the association and have attended their meetings.
Lee told KXAN as part of the group, he has already had members of the Austin Police Department and a Travis County judge come to speak to the residents of Heritage Pointe about safety measures and protocols they should take in the event they see or are victims of a crime.
Code complaints, violations and crime reports
KXAN pulled City of Austin data related to Heritage Pointe’s address and found a combined total of more than 800 crime reports, 311 calls for service and Austin code complaints.
Code complaints & 311 calls for service
- 146 code complaints submitted since 2020
- 121 were complaints associated with structure condition violations and 117 were related to repeat offender code violations
- 398 calls to 311 requesting a code officer
Additionally, KXAN found Heritage Point is currently required to be registered with the Austin Code Repeat Offender Program, or ROP, as a result of 20 repeat code violations since 2014.
According to the City of Austin Code Department website, ROP was created in 2013 “to ensure Austin renters are living in properties that meet minimum health and safety standards.”
The ROP states it requires rental properties that have been issued multiple notices of violations for conditions that are “dangerous or impair habitability” to pay a $489 registration fee and further requires the property to post this sign in the common area(s) of multi-family properties.
According to Austin Code, properties registered to the ROP receive periodic inspections and if further violations occur, the properties’ registrations could be suspended or revoked, meaning they wouldn’t be allowed to lease vacant units until they’re found to be code compliant.
When KXAN asked NuRock about Heritage Pointe’s history of repeat code violations, it provided a copy of the most recent findings from a periodic inspection conducted by the Austin Code Department on March 9, 2023, which found no new violations.
The most recent code violation was found on March 1, 2023, which NuRock says was resolved immediately.
“Heritage Point is proud of its property, and its services to the residents. The staff is available to take work orders or other complaints from residents on a regular basis and if for some reason the complaint is issued after hours, if there is an emergency, staff is directed to resolve those items at that time,” NuRock said.