Headlines: Houston Janitors on Strike; 12-ft. Seabrook Gator on the Loose

Photo: Stephen J. Alexander via Swamplot Flickr Pool

12 Comment

  • from the HHA:

    “Many sidewalks are obstructed by broken concrete paving or tree roots and often present a danger to our neighbors. Some sidewalks are not continuous, and on many blocks no sidewalks exist. If somebody falls because of the condition of the sidewalk in front of your house, you, and not the city, could be sued for substantial damages.” *******************
    What a ridiculous statement by the HHA…The sidewalks in the Heights are owned by the city….each individual property line is on the house side of the sidewalk….A person can not be sued for substantial damages if a person falls on city owned property unless the person intentionally created the hazard…Just more ignorant statements coming from the HHA in hopes of strong arming homeowners into doing something they are not legally required to do.

  • Marksmu:
    City Ordinance (Chapter 40, Article III Section 40-84) states that sidewalk repair is the property owner’s responsibility; unless damaged through City operations.
    I’m guessing that the property lines actually include the sidewalk in many cases. I know its true for my home, though I don’t live in the Heights.

  • I checked my survey. The sidewalk is not on my property….A city ordinance can not require you to maintain city property. If its your property but they have an easement, or right of way, then I agree the ordinance can do that – but for a sidewalk on the city property, they can not require you to maintain it…the sidewalks, at least on my street, are on the property owned entirely by the city of Houston.

  • After reading the ordinance, the ordinance does state the owner of the property abutting a sidewalk is required to build/repair/replace it, but I find it difficult to believe the city is able to enforce such a provision….Does not seem right at all that the city can force a person to repair or replace something which they do not own. Where is the line to be drawn if they can force you to repair property that is not yours? Why not force you to repair the roof on the courthouse too while they are at it? You don’t own either one…

  • Who owns the sidewalks in front of vacant lots where homes once stood? Where the homes were bought by FEMA, that is. And where the sidewalks get covered by mud and silt from the bayou when the banks overflow? And where the grass does get mowed but the sidewalks never get cleaned? Who is responsible when someone falls on THOSE sidewalks?

  • Anyone with mangled sidewalks in the Heights that are soaked with the blood of fallen pedestrians should consult their attorneys and not rely on message boards or the HHA for legal advice.
    Municipalities are generally responsible for trip and falls on sidewalks, but only if it can be shown that the problem with the sidewalk was a “special defect” and not an ordiary defect. That is a requirement of the Texas Tort Claims act to get around sovereign immunity.
    The City of Houston ordinance does require homeowners to make repairs, but only after recieving notice from the City that the City is ordering the homeowner to make repairs. So, an argument could be made that the City is still in charge of maintaining the sidewalks as they are responsible for issuing notices to homeowners to make repairs and would be liable for failing to order the repair of a “special defect”.
    Abutting landowners are generally only liable for a defect in the sidewalk if there was an unusual or special use of the sidewalk or or they committed a wrongful or unlawful act which caused the defect in the sidewalk.
    HHA is definitely out of line. But, there is a lot more to the analysis than whether it is on the City ROW or whether the abutting homeowner did something intentional.

  • Just wondering if anyone reading this has had personal experience with an insurance claim or a lawsuit resulting from an accident on the sidewalk in front of their residence…

  • While you don’t OWN the sidewalk in front of the property, it is up to you to fix it.
    “Its up to you to fix it” doesn’t mean the city is going to make you, it just means YOU’RE not going to be able to make THEM fix it.
    So if you want to fix up a bad sidewalk in front of your property, then do it. I’ve done it simply because I didn’t want a jacked up sidewalk in front of my property. I called 311, they said the city didn’t do it — so I did. It wasn’t that expensive (relaitve to other functions of home ownership), improved my own property (looks and function), and increased my property value.
    So sure it would be nice if the city always fixed them up for us, but I look at it as the trade off to no state income tax. I would trade fixing my sidewalk to paying 10% of my income to the state like I had to in California.

  • The article states that the HHA is looking for volunteers to “survey” the neighborhood sidewalks. I am betting that properties that the HHA deems to have unsafe, unsightly, or non-existing sidewalks are going to be receiving letters from either the city or the HHA “demanding” that repair, replacement, or construction of a sidewalk take place. The letter will end by saying something to the effect of :if you choose not to make the repair/replacement/construction of the sidewalk in question the city will do it for you and a lien will be placed on your property until all costs have been paid to the city with interest and attorneys fees.

  • Forget the sidewalks, I want to know where the gators are lurking in Seabrook…

  • @marksmu: The City has a “Safe Sidewalk” program that allocates CIP funds to repair sidewalks in areas that meet certain criteria. Communities have to apply for the funding. I would hope that the HHA is trying to organize an effort to get that funding. I doubt the City would be politically tone deaf enough to pay for Walmart’s sidewalks, but then send out letters to Heights residents telling them to fix their sidewalks at their own expense or face a lien and attorney’s fees. But this is Houston, where anything is possible.

  • Just like sidewalks, the city requires me to mow the alley behind my house, which I don’t own. There was a post on Swamplot last year about that. (Of course I haven’t touched it since and there is a wonderful little forest popping up back there now – and no sign of city enforcement).