Councilor calls for new city policies against negligent landlords
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) wants the San Antonio City Council to more aggressively protect tenants by cracking down on negligent landlords.
She pledged to work towards that goal on Friday by addressing a group of renters gathered in a motel parking lot.
Tenants normally live in the Seven Oaks apartment complex northwest of San Antonio, but many units have been left there without air conditioning for weeks or even months amid a scorching summer with over 100 degrees qu ‘other. Friday marked the tenth day they lived in the nearby Motel 6, in rooms paid for by city, county and Sandoval campaign funds.
City inspectors at the complex, who visited it on Friday to check for violations they found earlier this month, also found units without hot water, as well as leaking pipes, like the one that s is spilled on the open sidewalk. Last month, the San Antonio Report visited a unit with uncontrolled mold and swollen ceilings. The complex’s tenants recently formed a tenants’ union and sought to get the mayor’s attention.
“I can’t promise I’ll fix everything, but I promise you we’ll try,” Sandoval told the Tenants. When council meets again in August, she said she will make a serious effort to explore ways to protect tenants across the city. “I wish we had signed up earlier. No one deserves to live in these conditions.
She said the problem extends beyond Seven Oaks, as her district office also receives calls from other resorts. Earlier this year, the San Antonio report covered conditions at apartments owned by the city’s fastest-growing landlord, whose tenants also recently formed a tenants’ union.
Sandoval suggested that the way the city currently conducts inspections and ensures livable living conditions isn’t enough to prevent similar episodes from happening. “Obviously, relying on the goodwill of property management or the company doesn’t always work,” she told the report.
Unlike other Texas cities like Dallas, San Antonio does not have a security system. inspections for large apartment complexes like Seven Oaks. Instead, inspectors are responding to 311 complaints unit by unit. Occasionally — perhaps twice a year, inspectors say — they’ll do a resort-wide inspection if enough 311 calls come in from different units.
Discovered violations do not mean instant sanctions. Owners have approximately two weeks to resolve the issues. If a re-inspection later finds the issues have not been resolved, the homeowner is referred to municipal court for citations, each carrying a maximum penalty of $300.
The Seven Oaks violations uncovered so far could total $6,600 when decided by a city court session later this year.
Inspectors visited the complex in early June and examined about a quarter of the occupied units in the 254-unit complex. More turned out to be in violation of city codes than not.
Michael Shannon, Director of San Antonio Developmental Services, visited the complex for unit re-inspection. He said the resort was slow to act, failed to repair many non-compliant units, and made inadequate repairs for others.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said.
The 254-unit complex was purchased for $27.3 million in December by Achieve Investment Group, whose owner, in a YouTube video, called it “high value” and said he wanted to “change demographics”. The company embarked on a publicly announced plan to improve the property and raise rents.
Data from City 311 shows that the number of calls reporting maintenance issues has risen sharply since new owners took over, having more than doubled in the past six months across all calls made in 2021 and 2020 combined.
Sandoval said the company put profits before people and that the “passive income” model adopted by its owner was at odds with the goal of providing livable housing. “When you look at the company’s website and the book that its owner wrote….it’s deplorable,” she says.
Achieve is one of many out-of-town investor groups that have rushed to capitalize on the growing class of tenants in the city. About 1 in 7 apartments changed ownership last year, as the pace at which investor groups buy and sell properties accelerates.
Since 2019, Achieve has purchased a number of resorts in town, including Rio Springs, Valencia and Morgan Manor.
The owners of the resort did not respond to requests for comment sent Friday afternoon.
Achieve said on its website, aimed at potential investors, that it was targeting 22.1% annual returns on the Seven Oaks property.
That’s more than double the average yield for apartment complexes over the past few decades, as CBRE reports. Other groups such as the National Board of Real Estate Investment Trustees have arrived at a similar industry average for returns around 10%.
Higher rents are supported by renovations, says the Achieve website.
So far, tenants are reporting higher rents but few repairs. Peair Richardson, president of the Seven Oaks Tenant Union, said his unit had been without hot water for three months and without air conditioning for three weeks. He made his first maintenance request three months ago, but said no maintenance personnel had visited his unit.
He said he saw crews repaint the exterior walls of some buildings in the complex and install new wooden details in the stairwells.
Many residents who use Section 8 housing vouchers say they are evicted from their homes before the natural end of their lease.
Debra Watts, one of the tenants staying at Motel 6, said Achieve charged her an extra $100 every month because they didn’t have a lease with her under the new landlord’s name, only her lease with the new owner. ‘old owner. But she said they weren’t making any moves to create an update either. to rent out. She said the representatives she spoke with had indicated that they no longer wanted to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.
Sandoval’s office said households staying at the motel will stay there until their units are habitable again. While at least one couple was able to return, others have since arrived at the motel, bringing the total number of households to 19.
His office also helps facilitate relocation assistance through Neighborhood Housing Services, while the San Antonio Housing Authority works with residents who use Section 8 vouchers.
Sandoval praised the union for bringing the resort’s conditions to public attention. She said she expected more tenant unions to form in the city, given “the housing situation we have right now.”