Tougher Dallas Housing Codes Spark Conflict

New rules to better protect tenants

Dallas city leaders are debating tougher rules for apartments and single-family rental homes to better protects tenants. But there was little agreement about precisely which changes to make at a City Council briefing on the choices Wednesday, after years of discussion and a public hearing on the issue Tuesday night.

"We're basically just writing now what I would describe as a ball of confusion," Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold said. "It seems like we are empowering the slumlords again, because they're going to pay the fine and continue to do what they do. That's why we have those situations now that we have."

City leaders agree there is too much blight and many rental properties are not maintained in acceptable condition. The disagreement is over how much tougher to make the rules and how to enforce them.

Councilman Rickey Callahan is also a real estate property manager.

"We have 900 ordinances now. The majority are not enforced," Callahan said. "To pile on more standards here, it's a feel good exercise, but we need to make sure if we pile on more standards here, that we go out and exercise the bite when the time comes."

Major changes include adding rented single-family homes and condominiums to the code inspections rental apartment complexes already receive.

Tenant Jordan Goodwin said plumbing and insect problems are ignored in the Uptown condo she rents. She said a property manager and the condo owner each claim the other is responsible.

"I flinch constantly in my house because I'm afraid there's a cockroach," she said. "I've gotten so desperate from not getting a response from anyone or getting an unsatisfactory response."

Goodwin said she called Code Enforcement with the city of Dallas and was promised inspectors would investigate.

"They told me that it would take anywhere from two weeks to 90 days to get someone out here," Goodwin said.

The owner of her condominium and the property manager did not return NBC 5's messages Wednesday.

The city also proposes reducing the required level of air conditioning for rental properties to 80 degrees in hot weather instead of 85 degrees required now.

Property owner Ruel Hamilton is rehabilitating a 1955 complex on Corinth Street in Dallas. The complex has all new air conditioning equipment, but Hamilton said it is still very hard to reach the city's new air conditioning goal on the hottest days.

"Getting to 80 degrees when it's 100, 105 (degrees outside)? It's very difficult," he said.

But Hamilton said he supports most of the other changes the city proposes. He said being a good owner is good for business.

"People want to live in the nicer complexes," Hamilton said.

Dallas City Council members spent several hours discussing changes their staff supports and never reached the more challenging issues opposed by staff but supported by several council members. Talks will continue.

The staff goal was to put the changes in place by Oct. 1.

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