Judge dismisses evictions at Austin apartments, finding owner did not give proper notice


AUSTIN (KXAN) – A judge dismissed more than a dozen eviction cases this week after finding the apartment owners failed to give tenants enough notice before forcing them to move out.

Mueller Flats Apartments in east Austin told tenants in May they had three days to leave their homes. The apartment owners said renters needed to leave so they could make repairs to units damaged in February’s winter freeze. The owners filed to evict them two weeks later.

Tuesday, Judge Nicholas Chu found the owners of the apartment not only failed to give 30 days notice required for federal CARES properties in at least 17 cases, but also falsely told the court that it had given the proper notice.

“The court found that Plaintiff verified that it had given Defendant a 30-day notice to vacate compliant with the CARES Act in a sworn affidavit despite evidence to the contrary,” wrote Judge Chu in his judgment.

According to Texas law, a landlord is only required to give a tenant a three-day notice to vacate before filing an eviction lawsuit. However, the Judge found because the complex is a CARES Act property it was obligated to provide 30-days’ notice to tenants.

The notices to vacate came just a day before the owner of Mueller Flats apartments was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines for violations the city’s code enforcement said were not being addressed in a timely manner.

On May 13, the City of Austin Building and Standards Commission unanimously voted to give the complex 45 more days to come into compliance. The commission said the complex would be fined $2,000 a week after the 46th day until violations were addressed.

“It has been almost 90 days since the storm, but we still have tenants at 1970 Clayton Lane living in substandard conditions,” said a code enforcement officer on May 13.

The Austin Code department told the commission it was monitoring 58 cases involving Mueller Flats following February’s winter freeze. As of July 20, a spokesperson for Austin Code said four of those cases are completed.

Court records show the owners of Mueller Flats, FBCC Citypoint LP, are suing the city’s building and standards commission over the fines. The lawsuit claims the city failed to issue the permits necessary for repairs because of a backlog of permit requests.

The company also says it was “forced to serve some residents with notices to vacate their apartments so that repairs demanded by the city could be completed” and that “many residents ignored those notices to vacate, requiring Mueller Flats to initiate eviction proceedings in order to complete the repairs demanded by the city.”

Requests for comment from the attorneys representing Mueller Flats were not returned before publication.

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