AUSTIN, Texas - Ann Marie Romero had been living with mold for weeks in her apartment after the winter storm, and management has been no help. She shared her story with FOX 7 Austin on Tuesday, she says later she got a call from management.
She says the property manager told her that they needed to get into her current unit to fully gut it, so she needed to be moved to a different one. "They had another apartment for me of similar size, but it had these extra features like he was trying to sell me on it," Romero said.
Romero then went on to ask the manager what the steps would be, where she would place her furniture that is still covered in mold - as she is still in the middle of insurance claims, and a few more questions. That's when he told her that the first step would be to sign a new 12-month lease, on top of the one she is currently in.
"I was like 'Why would I ever sign another lease with you?' and you're telling me this is my only option," Romero said. Romero adds that she has no intention of resigning her current lease after the way she has been treated by the management on site.
She says that she has received little to no contact when it comes to her living situation, when she sees leasing agents or the property manager on-site, she says they run from her. Adding she doesn't know what more she can do.
"It's really sometimes hard to believe that this is how their practices are, how they are treating all of us, and it makes you feel like you are crazy and that you don't have any rights," she said.
However, you do have rights.
According to the Texas Property Code, in section 92.062 it states that if a rental premise, such as an apartment is unusable as a result of a natural disaster, an owner that allows a resident to move to another rental unit may not require the resident to execute a lease for a term longer than the term remaining on the resident’s lease.
"Basically, if you have 3 to 4 months left on your lease it's not allowable for them to force you to sign another 12-month lease," said Emily Barr, Executive Vice President of the Austin Apartment Association. "You should be able, if your unit is totally unusable, it is your right to get to another unit for the same lease term and not extend beyond that same lease term."
FOX 7 Austin reached out to property management at the Mueller Flats complex via email and by phone for comment and we did not hear back. We also reached out to their corporate office.
According to Austin Code Compliance, they are currently working with 14 apartment complexes throughout the city. Since Monday, they have received 33 weather-related complaints, some still pending verification.
And as for the Mueller Flats complex, they said 27 cases have been filed, 66 new cases have been opened since door-to-door inspections Tuesday, and they are continuing to monitor the property.
Blair said property managers and complexes are under a lot of pressure right now trying to get supplies and fix damages. "They're really trying to do everything that they can to take care of residents, keep them safe, return and restore those homes back to where they were before if they can," she said.
But added communication should always be key with residents. "Communication will really help everybody get through this and make everything better in the process," said Blair.
Something Romero says she never got. "Whether or not these items were damaged and unsalvageable, it's still my home, these are still my belongings, and to just have no compassion from them and they can't even put themselves in my shoes at all," she said.
If you are experiencing a situation similar to this, below are some resources that may be able to help:
- The Austin Apartment Association has listed these resources on their website for renters.
- The Texas Apartment Association has some FAQ'S on their website for renters after a disaster.