The map indicates where repeat offender properties are located in the city of Austin.[/caption]
A variety of flaws discovered in city of Austin's policies and programs regarding hazardous building conditions could pose a danger to tenants, according to a report released July 27.
Austin's 2-5-2 Repeat Offender Program, which requires properties with multiple code violations to register with the city and allows staff to inspect the property annually, was examined for the 28-page report released by Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at The University of Texas at Austin's School of Law.
“This report demonstrates that Austin’s efforts to combat dangerous rental properties are still inadequate," said Heather Way, one of the report’s authors, in a news release. “With limited oversight and no meaningful penalties from the city, Austin landlords continue to rent dangerous housing, jeopardizing the safety of tenants.”
Key findings in the report showed tenants living in hazardous buildings waited an average of 159 days for code violations to be addressed, and many repeat offender properties would not address code violations by the city's deadline. The report cites the death of two Austin residents from a carbon monoxide leak in their apartment and the death of a 4-year-old boy who was electrocuted at an Austin rental property as examples of the dangers tenants face because of a lack of the program's enforcement.
City officials have not properly enforced the rules of the program with the 29 repeat offender properties totaling 283 code complaints since October 2013, according to the report. Only four of those properties paid the required fines as of April 2014.
Landlords of problem properties must pay a $100 fee to register for the repeat offender property list. The report found much of the time, effort and resources used for the program and inspections were predominantly paid for by taxpayer dollars instead of by the problem properties.
The North Austin Civic Association—which comprises neighborhoods in the area bounded by US 183, Kramer Lane, Lamar Boulevard and Metric Boulevard—commissioned the report. NACA President Randy Teich said he is concerned about the safety of Austin tenants because of the program's failures.
“Many rental properties in Austin continue to lack any kind of maintenance program where any day now another tenant or guest could be killed because of hazardous building conditions,” Teich said in a news release. “Just last month a staircase collapsed at an apartment building in California killing a Folsom County man, and six visiting students died when a balcony collapsed at a Berkeley complex. More of these catastrophes could easily happen in Austin if the city does not take more aggressive actions to protect tenants.”