Suit Over HUD Apartment Complex Settled

Kristie Watthuber. Texas City Sun. January 15, 1997

Hitchcock-A lawsuit filed nearly a year ago against the owner of the federally subsidized Independent Missionary Village Apartments has been settled.

The complex is a multi-family housing project in Hitchcock. Its 72 units are subsidized by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which means each tenant pays rent on a sliding scale based on their income. For defendants to receive the federal subsidy, they are required to strictly comply with the HUD Handbook and regulations.

The lawsuit, filed by tenant Lisa Hanks on Jan.23, 1996, alleged the rules of the complex’s lease agreement violated HUD laws. Among other things, the suit requested a declaratory judgment that the challenged rules were unreasonable.

Parties on Jan.10 reached a settlement and submitted an agreed order to end the litigation challenging several rules. The agreement currently is pending before 122ndDistrict Court Judge Frank Carmona.

Jeff Kemp, the attorney representing the apartment complex, refused to comment.

The settlement modified several rules and requires the landlord to provide every HUD family with a copy of the new rules, Gulf Coast Legal Foundation attorney Stephen McIntyre said.

Rules were modified that restrict celebrating in and decorating an apartment and outline how long a guest can stay upon manager approval. Eliminated rules include:

  • Unannounced inspections of apartments for cleanliness.
  • Restrictions about outside gatherings on the grounds.
  • Automatic charges to all “section” occupants for damages done to nearby common areas by unknown individuals.

Violation of rules by a tenant, family, or guest is grounds for eviction.

“All of the attorneys on the case worked together in good faith to draft new rules, McIntyre said. “The settlement was a compromise.”

He said the settlement of this and similar cases protects the dignity and privacy of more than 1,000 indigent HUD residents.

“It helps ensure that poor families not be evicted for violating an unreasonable rule,” McIntyre added.