Response to city action on 1901 Richmond

We’ve removed our reply, since the last thing we want to do is get into a fight against the full force of the state and we’re hoping that when presented with facts, they’ll change their mind and we can get back to fixing up our properties rather than spending that money on legal fees.

However, needless to say we were quite shocked to find out the state felt we were derelict in our duties at our Richmond property. So much of our team has spent countless hours to improve the property and work with our neighbors and police to clean it up.  The property is so much better than a few short years ago, and we’re happy to have been able to help.

Luckily, we have plenty of stats and pictures that will help us.  In addition to quotes and testimonials of locals in the area.  We also have evidence of having worked with the DA office on the issues they requested that we work on.

So rather than have a big public reply, we will allow cooler heads to prevail.  Over the last few weeks, our team had been working on a ‘history’ page that would show some of the properties we’ve bought in our neighborhood and fixed up.  We’re very proud of our work.  We don’t know of any other company who has fixed up as many blighted buildings in Montrose and Midtown as our team has.  Every one of us shares in that feeling of accomplishment.

While we were not quite finished with our ‘history’ page (we’d like a bit more detail, and we have some funny ‘before’ photos), we decided to post it anyway. On the page, you can find information specifically about what we’ve done with the Richmond property.  In fact, if you’re at this page primarily because of what you’ve seen about the Richmond property, you can save some time and search the history page for the word ‘richmond’ and skip the rest.

Our history page can be found here

Update: Since some media have picked up the story, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of support.  Both in the form of e-mails to us from the community, as well as public comments on the sites that have posted this story.  So while we’ve decided to keep most of our own thoughts to ourselves, we thought we’d share some of the public comments we’ve seen.  Obliviously not all were positive, but we’d guess 80%+ were.  When reading the comments, please note that we are not claiming any conspiracy is taking place, though some of the comments of support due make suggestions of ulterior motives. We’ll keep our opinions as to the ‘why’ to ourselves, however we will say we think our Mayor has done a good job and wish some of the positive comments did not have negative remarks about Mayor Parker.

Once again, from the whole team at Fat Property, we thank you for your words of support! So without further ado, here are some of the public comments of support we’ve seen.

(FYI we’ve only had time to post comments from swamplot.  If you want to see all the comments from the site [the good, the bad, the ugly], you can go here)

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To me, and anyone else who lives in the Montrose area with half a brain, what’s going on should be quite obvious. Up-and-down Richmond you have these older class C properties being knocked down, with new and shiny being put up in their place.

Then you have 1901 Richmond. One of the last large holdouts for affordable housing in the area. A place where students and restaurant and other hard working people who want to live and be a part of Montrose can find a place under $1k/month.

Of course the neighbors do not like this apartment complex, no matter how much Cody has improved it. It’s where all the “poor people” live.

No matter what Cody does to that property, there will be pressure from the city to get it knocked down so that something else can be put in its place.

I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist, but this isn’t hard to figure out. I live on Norfolk, about three blocks from this property. I want some of whatever drugs the city is on if they don’t think that place is been radically transformed. We wouldn’t even walk by it a few years ago. Now it’s lit up nicely and very quiet. This lawsuit doesn’t pass the smell test at all. I hope there is someone in the “big” Houston media who maybe looks behind the pressure. I’d bet my left garden gnome it’s someone that benefits from redevelopment in this spot.
Good luck Cody. I for one am very happy with what you’ve done!

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This property is SOOO much better than it was 3 yrs ago. Why is the State coming down on this property owner? He is not the law. They should do their jobs!!!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Cody, you’re my favorite slumlord.
We will have to order 1000 “Free Cody” t-shirts asap!

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100 calls can be deceiving. I own 30 properties, and one of my cleanest had a tenant who would call several times a night because she heard a nearby unit’s dog barking. After I got rid of the tenant with the dog, she called several nights in a row about a tenant she heard screaming, and it turned out in the end she was on drugs. A single crazy tenant can easily call the cops 20 times… so it only takes a handful. I think 1901 actually went through PIP / blue light certification, and it is one of the only inner loop properties to achieve that. My final thought is maybe the City will squeeze some money out of some owners during election year again, maybe now.

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Go Cody!

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Cody … hang in there, we know how hard you work to get these properties back on track!

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What basis does a govt agency have to force a private property owner to “clean up” renters who commit crimes? I thought the policing agencies did that? The renters sign leases, pay appropriate monies then live there. If the landlord supposed to screen renters based on crimimal history because the county wants them to? Hundreds of thousands of people rent in Houston that are in the country illegally. If landlords started screening based on those crimes there would be cries of discrimination.

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I think someone’s forcing the complete devaluation of the property – then will grab it up after the ‘fire sale.’

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I’m sure the neighborhood will be thrilled to see this place torn down. 100 calls is a lot for a complex this small, I know people who live in the vicinity of this complex and I’m sure they’re behind this aggressive stance by the COH, they want to see this place history. My advise to them has always been, “then buy it and tear it down”, of course they start changing the subject, really all these neighbors who complain about this type of thing, should put up or shut up, instead of getting the COH to do their dirty work.

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What a joke. If crime is such a problem there, perhaps the cops should hang out there and fight crime.

They expect Cody to do their job because the cops failed?

And what exactly is Cody supposed to do???? He can’t go out there and start arresting people.

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so anyone else interested in seeing what proof the state has to claim an apt complex “habitually harbors criminal activity.”

pretty f’in wild claim there.

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Sorry Cody. BS. I will pull some data and lets stick it to the man!

I lived at 1926 Norfolk for five years and your complex has vastly improved. I know you work your butt off.

IN FACT – Cody’s complex is the ONLY thing that has improved around there.
The crappy food store/texas pizza and sound exchange?! c’mon. the other, even crappier, apartment complexes in those blocks?!

Anyway. Thanks for what you do. You have improved at least 3 MAJOR eyesores and sub-pockets of this City. What you have done to Holman is REMARKABLE as nobody would touch that property for YEARS.

People need to remember that property as well as the other Skylane’s previously.
Not only will I delve into historical crime at that address, I think an even better picture would be crime in the proximate area as well. I think crime around W Alabama and Garrott/Jack has gone down tremendously since your involvement over there.
They should give you an award, not a lawsuit.
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Cody, please hang in there. I agree with other posters who think someone has a interest in the property and is working to get it at a bargain basement price (and the city is in cahoots–knowingly or un-).
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The way I see it Annise is basically the mafia here. They want to kick all the poors out of the ‘trose… Cody is standing in the way of that with his own properties and with teaching the other Montrose owners how to fight… so they’re punching back.

This is so obviously retaliatory it’s not even humorous.
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I live a couple of blocks away on Lexington, and I agree that it has gotten better over the last year or two. I often drive by and see several of the residents hanging outside, talking and playing chess. However, I also see some people walking from the apartment down to the bridge at Hazard to shoot up. Seeing as the rail expansion down Richmond has been put on hold, I don’t think this is a land grab. Hopefully, this can be quickly settled, and the owner can continue to improve the property and it’s residents.
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How to solve crime is 1% in a landlord’s hands and 99% in the City’s. Really, the only power a landlord has is an attempt to prove breach of lease in someway. As for people who were convicted of sex crimes or previously committed crimes, the landlord may not legally be able to evict because of that. In fact, the City could fine a landlord for prejudicially evicting on that basis. The reality is only the city has the power to put criminals where they belong, and act swiftly to do so. The City knows this, and warns landlords not to take this sort of stuff in their own hands on a monthly basis at the Public Safety meetings. The fact that Cody is getting told to do so and fined if he does not makes me sick. He should fine the City for not doing their job. 100 times out to a property and they still are failing? What does that say about those cops…
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I’ve read Swamplot for years and this is the first time I’ve been compelled to comment. I live in the westmoreland subdivision next to two of the properties that Cody purchased (502 and 219 w Alabama). Those properties had a miraculous turn around under his watch. Anyone who thinks these properties have not been radically transformed has a very short memory.
I can’t speak for the Richmond property but I’d be shocked if it didn’t have a similar turn around story.

Cody, please let me know if you need any help.
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There are two sides to any story, naturally.

I do not trust the city at all – especially when they are working together with the county attorney’s office. Both of them have the typical bureaucrat’s attitude of “we know better than you.” Catch them violating their own rules or ordinances? No problem, they will just change the ordinance to suit their conduct. And as everyone on here knows – developers OWN city council and the mayor. I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss a conspiracy theory.
Now for the other side of the coin.

The real bummer is that you’ve got 1920 Richmond right across the street and Joe French has done wonders with that place. It’s arguably the same “category” of property so the city and/or county will just point at it and say, “See?!!” I see the word slumlord tossed around on this site and that’s unfair and in many cases unwarranted. People like Cody and Dana are businessmen and of course they are going to want to profit from their investments. That said, this is a risky business and you have to manage the risk, even if it eats into your profits.

I wish everyone the best of luck here. The best outcome will occur if, as someone else has said, you hire competent legal representation and convince all parties that cooler heads are necessary. Then each side is going to have to give. The city and/or county is going to have to get off its bureaucratic high horse and help you rather than fight you, and you will have to make some compromises regarding the property and its condition.
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Cody
Who did you annoy this time? It’s odd that you continue to be singled out from a plethora of unscrupulous slumlords, especially in that area of Montrose.

That area has been home to some of the most violent gang members in Houston, not to mention the daily drug trafficking, openly acknowledged prostitution, high-density of registered sex offenders, and illegal immigrants. All of which have been generally accepted as a benign eyesore by the city and state. Yet, you seem to attract attention somehow.

Could it be from the homeowners in that area? Probably not, they’ve ignored the slums for decades and believe that it’s better now than it was three decades ago. Typically, the civic associations have ignored the slumlords for decades since the board members never had the pleasure of living next to one: it’s never been addressed as a group and it is unlikely to change.

Could it be from the Neartown Super Neighborhood? Not a chance, the president and supporters are known to support business over the homeowners. They seem to focus on pleasing business owners like HEB to gain campaign dollars for city positions, not on trivial crime problems in the area.

Could it be from the city? Unlikely as well, the mayor lives in a nice area of Montrose and can easily ignore the Richmond area, while she spends her time improving her neighborhood.

Could it be the rent-living residents? That would be hard to imagine since most of the residents are transients and can move if the situation’s bad.

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I have not read all of the comments, but I wanted to put something down on Cody’s behalf. We moved my mother-in-law there when he first bought the place two years ago. He gave her a great deal on the rent because he was trying to get more stable tenants there while he fixed it up. It was still way too rough for her though, and she did not feel safe. Cody was very cool and understanding and broke the lease without giving us any grief whatsoever or making us pay any additional fees.

If the city has a problem with crime in a particular area, I believe they should use the police force to patrol that area. Drug dealers do not like to hang around places that cops are always showing up at, so they usually move along pretty quickly if they do.
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They’re suing Cody for having too much crime on his property, but not suing the owners of Club H20 in Westwood. I know I’m the only one on here who really cares about Alief/Sharpstown/Westwood news, but doesn’t it strike you as strange? 1901 Richmond had a lot of calls for service, but Club H2O has had THREE SHOOTINGS IN FOUR MONTHS!!

It points two two big issues in Houston. The first, of course, is the double standard. A landlord Inside The Loop has highest than average calls for service, and he gets sued. A landlord Outside the Loop has several shootings in less than half a year, and they don’t get sued.

It also makes me wonder if Houston’s apartment problem hasn’t been mostly addressed at this point. We’ve come a long way since 2008, when we had our moment of truth on the problems plaguing our apartments. Crimes still happen at apartments, but it’s far fewer than it was. And usually the owners are on board to help address the issue. Granted, while the Mayor Parker pats herself on the back for it, it’s really the the hot rental market that did it – we’re finally starting to address the multifamily surplus we’ve had since the 1980s. But either way…

Maybe it’s time to move on. The bigger problem these days seems to be unlicensed after-hours clubs and cantinas. It would be nice if we had the same city-wide, coordinated approach to this problem that we’ve had to apartments.
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DATA IS DONE. To help put it in perspective – In the 18 months prior to Cody’s purchase of the property, there were 85 police incidents in the surrounding blocks of Colquitt, Hazard, Norfolk and Richmond. In the last 18 months, there have been only 46 police incidents in those surrounding blocks. I think a 46% reduction in crime is pretty darn good, Cody. Kudos!

Before you tell me that crime is down overall and these figures are skewed – I have not checked the City overall but crime in this particular beat (1A30) is only down 14% over that same period. That number is also including Cody’s block so I would say that his 46% reduction is a large part of that 14% reduction overall.
Once again, great job Cody!
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According to city officials, the city allocates resources to sites where they receive the most complaints. According to local police, they don’t receive many complaints in that area, and therefore, fewer police are stationed there.

Cody’s situation is unique. He seems to be one of the few multifamily resident building owners trying to improve his properties in the Montrose area but seems to be penalized more than others. Apparently, he’s found a way to put a target on himself, and it’s escalating. First, it was the city that over penalized him, and now it’s the State.

If we could just figure out how he created these problems, then maybe we could apply those techniques on the real slumlords and clean up the area.

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I think one public measure of how active a landlord is, is how many evictions are filed. That is direct evidence of an owner coming out of pocket, paying the city, in order to clean up their property legally. Irresponsible owners who are passive or absentee may wait months or just never do evictions. Owners that do things illegally, do their own evictions, and ignore property code. In this case, I think Cody ranks in the last few years as performing the most evictions. I see him all time doing them. He has probably spent 100k on them and lost even more than that in the downtime that’s resulted. If the city were really out to get the bad guys, they should first look at the ones not working so hard to obey the law every single month. I know many the further outside the loop you go.
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Well we all love Cody, geez the poor guy is trying to make a difference and the city treats him like Leona Helmsley. Hang in there Cody, you’re a force for good that’s needed, don’t let the COH bully you or try to destroy your credibility by character assassination.
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I worked in the DA office when I was in Ohio and would see cases like this. Something about this doesn’t sound right. I’m curious to look up the full case on Monday but for the state to win they’re going to have to prove he was negligent and knowingly allowed crime to take place on the property (it’s not enough to just lease to someone that has a record).
I don’t know Cody or what he done but just based on quick research it doesn’t seem like he fits the bill. These types of cases are to target a much different type of property and owner. So this is a bit disturbing.

I know where this property is as I drive by it on my way to work. It seems just like every other older garden style apartment building of its age. With, perhaps, it’s nice corner lot behind the exception.

My guess is someone is trying to “poison the well” and make the property cheap. What better way than to file this type of action? They have to know they’ll very likely lose (though at minimum cost the guy time and money). Sadly for Cody, win or lose the property value will likely be lowered just due to a new buyer than runs their own due dilligance. The exception would be if the new buyer was a developer. They wouldn’t care.

And maybe that’s the goal. The property doesn’t really fit in with The New Montrose ™
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A sleazy developer who has contributed heavily to our out of control mayor and her mafia is probably behind this UNCONSTITUTIONAL illegal filing. Typical government sleazoid bureaucrats: going after the wrong people. While ignoring the worst of the worst offenders. Remember that when you vote next month.
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The Montrose district tax is a scam that put our old-timer landlord out of business… bless his heart, he just couldn’t keep up with all the CoH bullshit on all his properties.
No conspiracy here, Mayor Porker and her parasitic development cronies want the old Montrose out.
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Old School’s advice is wise. Neighboring business owners are part of this, willingly or unwillingly.
History:
http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/west_university/news/new-tactic-in-fight-vs-montrose-management-district-don-t/article_5581b36a-0cee-56e1-a45f-62e8d99d69bd.html
New tool:
http://www.isiahfactor.com/2013/05/29/the-tool-that-helped-get-rid-of-rhe-gangs/
Montrose Management District article:
http://www.texaswatchdog.org/2011/12/special-taxing-districts–like-the-montrose-management-district-houston-texas/1322752070.column

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I think another big lesson here is: all building is political. It’s easy to pretend that image doesn’t matter, but when you’ve got a complaint-based code violation system and vocal neighbors – it most certainly does. Cody: we’re all shocked to hear about the lawsuit. To us you’re one of the good guys in apartment ownership and management. But there are so many dangerous, rotten multifamily properties in he houston that it’s easy to assume the worst in landlords you don’t know.
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As I’ve said in the past, you could avoid a lot of red tags, and even lawsuits like this one – by reaching out to the neighbors early in the process of buying and rehabbing a complex. Get involved in the local Civic Associations and Super Neighborhood. Get on the Board for the local Management District if there is one. I know you perceive these groups as the enemy, but really they just want the same thing you want: safe, comfortable neighborhoods to live and work in. Moreover, if they knew you the way we do here on Swamplot, they’d be hard-pressed to complain to the authorities about your properties.
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Cody, take heart, because surely there’s someone who wants to build a high-rise there.
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Good advice. Get involved with Neartown where they have a history of working against the homeowners. According to recent history, they’ve been successful in helping business owners ruin property values in the Montrose area. You need to work your way up to president, ingratiate yourself with the local business community, and then run for city council. As long as your committed to selling off Montrose, developers will finance your campaign. It’s a proven method.
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Those apartments had been bad since I know the 1980′s when my junkie best friend lived there!

Cody: You are a friggin’ hero in my book. NOBODY else in Houston cares enough to buy these derelict properties and fix them up and still keep the rents affordable for a working person.

It’s just astounding to me that the city would harass the one person who is actually doing something to clean up the neighborhoods. I honestly feel that a person to person apology from Mayor Whitmire would not be too much to ask.

This is Houston. This is exactly the kind of thing this city does and this is exactly why so many of us long term Montrosians and inner-loopers are so heartbroken and disgusted with our hometown.

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50% of our city budget is for cops and firemen. If crime is bad in montrose I suggest that HPD take all speed trap cops and start addressing the real crime problems. This type stuff gets me pissed and crime in this town is real high. However this is a sign of the times, we have propped up losers for so long there are more of them than taxpayers
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I can offer a unique perspective on this. I was one of the first people to move into this property after Cody took over. He leased my boyfriend and I an upstairs apartment. We lived there until two months ago. The only reason we moved out is we found a two bedroom apartment and wanted more space. It was actually another one of Cody’s properties. They let us transfer our lease and our deposit with no problem.

I got to see the cleanup at the property from the first day. I’ve got to see the decrease in crime and traffic here. The cleanup of the property in general.

I wouldn’t say the property is perfect, but we felt safe here and it is a lot better. I have a best friend who lives in an apartment two blocks away that I won’t even go over too. I wonder what the city is doing about that property?

Cody: you should know who this is. Please contact me if I can help testify for you.
Swamplot: if you need any proof feel free to contact me

And if the city is reading this: there are tons of true slumlords out there who are out of state and don’t do anything at their properties. Given I see workers (or cody himself) at the property every day, you’re targeting the wrong person.
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What old school said is probably right. I’ve seen it happen; in fact, We pushed for it when I was a Super Neighborhood President. But the circumstances were entirely different. When we did it, the property at hand was far, far worse than 1901 Richmond has ever been. It was so bad that, if you Google the address, the first thing that pops up is a Youtube video made by a street gang that has coopted the property as their home base. That was all the more frightening because the complex is two-doors down from a high school. Moreover, the guy we were trying to force out was actually the one who had let it get that bad – not a new owner who was trying to fix it.
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It goes back to the double standard I was talking about. We had to pull teeth to get something done about our nuisance property, even though it was known gang-turf and had been the site of several shootings and stabbings. They go after 1901 Richmond for what? Because someone was walking by and smelled pot smoke? Because some developer wants the land for $2000 a month “lofts?”
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Ok, I just read the petition and want to echo all the other legal advice already given. Get a lawyer asap and start prepping your rebuttal evidence. They clearly want you out of business. I would suggest gathering the following items:
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Affidavits from tenants and neighbors, pictures, work orders & spreadsheets of all the improvements you’ve made, file-stamped copies of every eviction suit you’ve filed relating to the property, logs of the police calls and reports that you filed (since they’ve alleged that you failed to notify police about the crime), and also pull comparative data from other neighborhood complexes. If you know people who are on the board of the nearby Civic Association(s), see if they will give you an affidavit or come testify on your behalf. Their testimony (and credibility) would be worth a lot to your argument.
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A temporary injunction hearing is like a trial. All your evidence will need to be in admissible form or you won’t be able to use it in court. Your lawyer will help you with that. But the work will likely fall on you to contact witnesses, collect documents, etc. Also, ask to get this moved from a level 2 discovery plan to level 3. They are serving requests for disclosures (or at least they say they are), so the clock will start ticking on your discovery deadline as soon as you are served.
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Lawyer up, friend. I wish you the best.
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I wish I would have seen this link earlier.

Like Debbie, I might also be able to provide a unique insight. I used to work for Cody as a property manager. I actually work for him while he was in the beginning of cleaning up the Richmond property. While the property is MILES better (I hope the state wouldn’t argue otherwise) it still might not be where Cody would like it. And I have respect for Cody, I’m just being honest.

The problem Cody often has is he spreads himself way too thin. He will buy a property that needs a lot of work, and then dive headfirst into it. He will be at the property every day in the beginning, getting plans in place, getting contractor started, putting together a schedule for everyone to follow.

What happens is he will then purchase another problem property and devote his time to the new one, under the assumption the plan that was put in place will be followed. This happened while I was working at a property in the 3rd Ward. The first two weeks went gangbusters while Cody was there. Then when additional properties were purchased in the medical center, he left to focus on those. While progress continued at the property I was working out, it wasn’t quite the same.

My advice to Cody would be twofold: Hire a lawyer as has been suggested, and slow down a bit on the new properties. The bad properties are not going anywhere. Let them be the neighbors problem, or the cities problem, or another owners problem, until you are 100% done with your current property.
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I only know of Cody through his comments here, but from what I know of him, I respect his business plan. Our city makes it too easy to tear down and destroy for deep pocketed developers, and seems to make life difficult for smaller players who try to improve neighborhoods through renovation.

Cody, I hope you have taken the advice of some of the people here and found yourself good legal representation. I really don’t see that the County DA is representing “The People” in this case.

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We need a new mayor…

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Ms. Vinson has some pretty serious problems with her pleadings:

In #15, she states “Defendants have knowingly tolerated [drug, prostitution, etc.] activity and have allowed such activity to occur habitually on the property. In light of the forgoing, as a matter of law, the Property constitutes a common nuisance within the meaning of chapter 125.”
Ha! Too bad she directly quotes the relevant section of Ch. 125 in #11, stating that in addition to knowingly tolerating such activity, the person maintaining the property must ALSO fail to make reasonable efforts to abate the activity. Nowhere in the pleadings is this asserted(it is awkwardly paraphrased in #28, but with an emphasis on the result, not efforts). So on the facts alleged, Fat Property is as a matter of law NOT maintaining a common nuisance.
The closest she comes to closing that gaping hole is the reference to CPRC 125.002(h) in #16, alleging Cody didn’t call the police and cooperate with investigations (which could be equated with the reasonable efforts element). The problem there is 125.002(h) doesn’t just ask if the property manager called the police, it also asks if the occupants did. We know they did, because THE PLEADINGS SAY THEY DID. You can’t use police calls to show a problem exists, and then pretend they never happened when discussing abatement.
So Cody, do hire an attorney; the County Attorney’s office is doing a pretty good job of destroying their case, but they might need backup.

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As other posters have commented, since when is it up to property owner to police the neighborhoods? I know first hand the work (blood, sweat and tears) Cody has put into the various properties he has owns/owned or managed in Houston. Be assured he’s 1st in line when it comes to doing what he can in ‘cleaning up’ the city. I think the vast majority of the comments here, back that up. Cody has my full support on this one.

 

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