On Your Side: Tenant Rental Rights

Rodents in the walls, air conditioner on the fritz, and floors falling in.

Despite enacting what Dallas city leaders call the toughest rental housing regulations in the country, some Dallas renters say conditions are barely livable and don't understand their rights.

Tenants at the Gaston Uptown Apartments in East Dallas are afraid to complain and on the offensive in the fight against rodents.

One man sits in an open doorway because the air conditioning is out on one of the hottest days of the year. He says he served in Vietnam.

Last year, the city enacted what leaders call the toughest housing regulations in the country to crack down on slumlords.

But those who live at the Gaston Uptown Apartments say they do not know their rights. The building sits in the district of Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston.

“I promise you you're not even in the bottom 20% of housing quality in Dallas if you went over there,” the councilman said. “I don’t know what you’re suggesting. That we go door-to-door in East Dallas?  I don't think we are going to do that.”

Kingston says while it's key to educate renters like Ernestine Coleman, who reports fixes are few, it's also incredibly challenging. 

“Public education is really hard to do,” he said. “We can say it's our responsibility, but how do we do it? How many people do you reach?”

“Right now, about 110,000 on Facebook to start,” said Reporter Steve Noviello. “That doesn't include TV, Instagram and Twitter.”

“Nobody on Facebook is confused about what rights they have as a tenant,” Kingston said.

But LaGeorgia Hood says that’s not true. She sent a video on Facebook that was taken in the apartment of her upstairs neighbor and shows a condition so bad that it litters her living space with rodents, mildew and an unbearable smell. She says her repeated complaints to management left the issue unresolved.

“I was mortified. I didn’t really know what step to do,” Hood said. “But I know Facebook can make things go viral and make things happen.”

FOX 4 tried calling her landlord, The Collins Company, for weeks. Not one call was returned. Instead, FOX 4 called housing inspectors and helped Hood get out of her lease.

“Everyone has been diligent now that you have shined a light on this,” Hood said.

Kingston says to just call him and the city will be on it.

“We don't intend to sit around and let violations of our law persist for a long time,” he said.

On the day FOX 4 showed up, so did Dallas city code enforcement. There to visit another unit, the office found no one home so he left. He was standing directly under a code violation and took no action.

Hood says she's glad she took action and hopes the city of Dallas will do the same to educate those who are in desperate need to know their rights as renters.

Kingston says if the city is too punitive with code enforcement, landlords will simply pull housing stock off the market and displace residents. He says working one on one with landlords to get each property up to par is the best plan.




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