State Orders Montrose Apartment Owner To Get Rid of the Crime or Shut the Place Down

Declaring the 42-unit Montrose complex a “common nuisance,” the county attorney’s office and the state of Texas have filed a lawsuit against the owner of the former Skylane Apartments at the corner of Richmond and Hazard St. The suit claims that the apartment complex, now known as 1901 Richmond, “habitually” harbors criminal activity and that the owner has not done enough to fix the problem. Between August 2012 and October 2013, according to the complaint, police were called approximately 100 times to the property, resulting in reports of drug possession and sales, aggravated assaults, and the discharge of firearms. The attorney’s office wants the owner to post a bond and clean up the crime problem, or shut down for a year and forfeit the money.


The property’s owner is Fat Property LLC, run by Cody Lutsch. Lutsch purchased the property in 2011, with plans to fix it up, after buying and renovating 2 other Montrose Skylanes. (Another Lutsch redo project, a 3-building complex at 1624 Holman in Midtown, was voted winner of the Swamplot “It’s Alive” Award last year by readers of this publication — for a turnaround project that included clearing the place of prostitutes and drug dealers.) Lutsch tells Houstonia magazine’s John Nova Lomax that the Richmond property is now “1000 times better” than when he bought it; an employee of the neighboring music store Sound Exchange tells the same reporter that activity at the corner “kinda calmed down there a couple of summers ago, but this past year it was bad.

70 Comment

  • 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.

  • I’m not going to reply until I calm down a bit. Otherwise I’ll say something I’m regret.
    If the city would like me to revert the property into how I found it two years ago, I’m more than happy to do so.

  • 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.

  • Cody: Hire an attorney now. Do not post anything anywhere on the internet. Even the shallow talent pool at the Harris County Attorney’s Office and Texas AG know how to get on the internet and find what you are saying in order to twist it and use it to their benefit in court. Remember, they have the burden of proof. Don’t do them any favors. You need to lawyer up in a hurry and get ready to fight. The government is seeking a temporary injunction, which means that you could have to be at a temporary restraining order hearing at any minute and a temporary injunction hearing (practically a mini-trial on the merits) within 10 days of the TRO being granted. Get off the internet and get to your lawyer’s office asap.

  • 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.

  • What Old School said.

    It’s VERY good advice.

  • FYI, the first I heard of this was via swamplot a few hours ago. Now, some facts about 1901 Richmond and this process in general:
    1) We bought the property a bit over 2 years ago. Almost every tenant in that property, since we took over, has been replaced. With the units being HEAVILY upgraded (I can link to some before/after pics when I have time). There are only 9 tenants left from when we took over (4 of them are Vets. 2 of them are older ladies that have lived there forever. One of them helps look after the place. And the other two previous tenants have given us no reason to remove them)
    2) After buying the property, we immediately started cleaning the place out, kicking out drug dealers, removing units that were basically used as whore houses or smoke rooms. We locked up all the units that people had been squatting in (I’d find people hiding in the kitchen cabinets, seriously). Many of those original police calls were *from us* (or from tenants who called the police when we started taking their stuff out). So note to any owners fixing up a property: Don’t call the cops. It’ll be used against you it seems.
    3) When you quickly kick out 20+ people in a known bad property, and you’re working to quickly clean it up and re-lease, you’ll often get a few new tenants in that first new wave that are not the best. We had that issue, and expected it. We dealt with those tenant issues as they came up. Boot-Remove-Replace. Slowly but surly, the bad apples shook out.
    4) We began to take tenants from MCC (Montrose Counseling Clinic), which I believe to be a good organization. Sadly, some of those tenants were not the best, so we’ve had to remove them and can no longer accept them. I respect the group so I won’t go into what % of our problematic tenants were from them, but it was on the high side.
    5) Soon after we did a big chunk of the clean out, I got a call from the city that said due to PREVIOUS years of crime at the property (before we took over), I would have to steer the property through the “Remedial Action Plan” where I pay the city a bunch of money for them to tell me what they want done (make sure lights are on outside, trees kept trim, trespassing affidivate in place, etc.). I’ve done it before on the other Skylane properties (219 W. Alabama [now “The Spur”], and 502 W. Alabama [basically across the street from my office and where I used to live]. Mostly basic stuff I had been doing as part of common sense — but I got to pay the city to be told what to do. But whatever. Cost of doing business. Given that I was doing everything that they wanted to see done, the property was taken out of the remedial action plan after my 6 months of probation.
    6) A few months ago I was contacted by the city to say that there was some issues with some of the tenants. **EVERY TENANT they had issues with (I think there were 3) had already been evicted, or were in the process of being evicted before our meeting** They asked me to sign a paper saying I would do xyz (stuff like put cameras up — which I already had. Have exterior lighting — which I already had. Get rid of a group of tenants they called out — which I had already done or had already filed on. Hire a security guard — which is ridiculous, but I did it anyway. And gate the property — Which I didn’t do, which is why I assume this law suite was filed). I’d still get called from time to time and would be told to replace some steps or add additional fencing — all of which I’d end up doing.
    This property has not been the primary focus of mine, or my companies attention for a while as we’ve bought new properties that were much worse and needed more help (our stuff in 3rd ward, our stuff in Midtown). The city should ask the Midtown Management group the turn around at Holman for example. Holman made 1901 Richmond look like a catholic girls school. Now Holman is quite and clean. Or the before/after at our 3rd ward properties. I don’t expect the city to give me a damn medal for fixing up some of those other garbage properties because, as I’ve said, I have my own selfish reasons for upgrading them: It makes economic sense to do so, and I live in the same area as these properties. So I don’t need an attaboy from the city, but how about a look at the totality of what’s done. Or put this 1901 Richmond property in perspective of OTHER properties around town that are 100x worse.
    It’s my STRONG believe that the city doesn’t give a crap about these other areas because they’re not Montrose. Okay, that’s not fair. I should say the city cares LESS about properties outside the notable areas. You don’t have the same neighbors making the same complaints to their connections in the city who will actually listen. A cigarette butt on the sidewalk of your property in Montrose will have you cited, but you can have a building full of drug dealers a few miles away and the city doesn’t care.
    I know because I’ve been personally fighting with the drug dealers who used to populate the Holman property (as I did in the Richmond property in the beginning). I end up being the one to kick in the doors. Run people off at night. I’m not complaining that the city leaves these other properties alone as it’s allowed me to clean them up much faster then if they tried to ‘help’.
    The city solution to getting rid of bad tenants? “Write in your lease that if they do anything wrong, they’re gone”. Oh, that’s a great suggestion. So let’s say I do that, and they do something wrong, then what? “Well, then tell them to leave!”. Sure, I’ll tell them that, and then they don’t leave. Then what? “Well, they have to!” Well, let’s say they don’t. “Well…”. Do you know how many drug dealers I’ve known that were selling I’ve tried to get rid of and it takes MONTHS sometimes? Finally I’ll go kick them out in my own way and the cops get called — on me. Does the city know the property code? I’m not a layer but it often seems I know tenant law better than most people that should be experts.
    There are so many protections in place when trying to get rid of tenant. Which fine, whatever. I can see the arguments. And honestly, it’s not as bad as it is in other states. But the fact is, it can take months to get rid of someone — so don’t have the expectation that I can just “make” someone leave right away if they break a property rule or even a law. I already travel into gray space when cleaning up a place.
    Hell, at 1901 Richmond, I had a tenant who I evicted that was still in the property. The cops did a huge drug bust on him. I thought “awesome, they got rid of him for me”, yet the next day he was back and he got to stay another month before I could get rid of him.
    Finally: Let’s be realistic. What I’m going (or rather my company) isn’t really lowering crime persay. We’re just moving it. All the people we’ve kicked out of Holman or Richmond just go somewhere else. Which, selfishly, is fine with me. Someone elses problem now. But if the city is looking at the issue as a whole, even the good I’m doing isn’t solving anything. It’s just moving crime out of areas where people are more likely to complain about it to areas that are not.
    Oh, and thanks swamplot for letting me know we’re being sued… and thanks for letting me rant a bit about it…

  • The state has a duty to protect its citizens where their safety and welfare is concerned. Libertarian-types always see this as intrusive and evidence of some sort of police-state. Ho-hum. I once lived in a Lutsch property. He’s just a slick Houston slumlord who makes a buck by flipping properties. During these “transition” periods, the decent residents are ignored, lied to pathologically, and are forced to endure numerous inconveniences and hardships while Lutsch employs the barest minimum corrective measures so that he may bask in the glory of his imaginary good will, and his effort lauded by his press cronies. He and his ilk are driven by narcissism and profit and nothing more. I moved away from that Montrose madness years ago.

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

  • I moved into this complex in July 2012 and moved out after three days. Like an idiot, I didn’t do enough research until after I’d shelled out two month’s rent. It wasn’t until then thatI learned the place was infested with roaches, harboring addicts and managed by a thrice-convicted rapist. Yes. Thrice. Cody can’t arrest anyone, no, but he could implement an application process to live there. In July 2012, there wasn’t one. You just had to pay an extra month’s rent. That’d be a quick way to eliminate anyone with a history of selling drugs or a violent criminal history. I understand that background checks cost money, but I’m sure that it’s worth the cost.

  • 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!

  • 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!!!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • If you’re a public nuisance, you should be shut down. Slumlords profit while those around them suffer. Fix it up or tear it down.

  • Rubbish!
    If there is a repeat crime problem with a tenet, the owner has the right to cancel their lease and eject them from the property. It is the only right thing to do.

  • Cody, listen to Old School, I’m sure you have an attorney by now. And hang in there, we know how hard you work to get these properties back on track!

  • 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.

  • I once lived in an apartment complex in Austin that was hit with a crime wave when the owner went overseas for three months and he left the complex in the charge of the property manager who promptly rented all the vacant apartments to either drug dealers or prostitutes. We tenants called the police, had undercover surveillance officers in our apartments and there were a few arrests, but the property manager had signed leases with them that meant that when the dealers or prostitutes got out of jail on bond, they came right back and took up their respective trades. It wasn’t until the landlord came back and actually evicted the dealers and ho’s that they finally went away. I agree that the owner should lawyer up, but I also think he has a responsibility to evict the dwellers who are causing the problems and he can work with law enforcement to assure they don’t come back. Police cannot evict tenants, landlords do that. Both the landlord AND the police have responsibility in this.

  • Pragmatic: I totally agree — but that’s just it. We are not aware of any bad tenants there (at least not any that have already been evicted — a process that can drag for months depending on how ‘good’ a tenant is at working the system).
    Before the city took action, they said “get rid of these tenants”, all of which we had ALREADY gotten rid of or had ALREADY filed on. If I could get rid of them in a more “aggressive” fashion I would.
    We have, and have always had, a pretty strict policy about crime on our properties. We’ve done a lot of evictions at the property (I’m sure it can be searched, if anyone wants proof). Which leads me to another issue: Eviction for reasons other than non-payment of rent isn’t easy. It’s not just “get rid of them!”. There is a court system to go though. And we go though it. It’s just not as slam-dunk-quick as people think. And you don’t always win
    I’m extremely anxious to see what proof the city has in terms of “habitually harbors criminal activity”. We’re not absentee owners. We’re there, and at all our properties, every day.
    CREOLE: You’re right. The neighbors want it gone. Almost everyone that lives in a nice gated house would love to see all these old apartments blown up. And for the most part, they’re getting their way. Not many of these old affordable properties left. We’ve bought as many as we’re likely going to buy in Montrose, and try to fix them up the best we can. But we haven’t bought a new one in Montrose in… a year? And likely won’t again.
    Drew: I appreciate your comments only because I was able to look you up and see you were an actual tenant (I appreciate you using your name). That said, I won’t get into a debate here about your claims but I can see evidence that you’re not being totally accurate. But be that as it may — the tenant that moved in right after you has been there for just over a year and just signed another year lease. Nice kid. Never had a complaint of roaches. We spray quarterly (along with all our properties). Though over the last year and a half I see we had to fix his ceiling fan once and his bathroom exhaust fan became loud at one point.
    WR: You can terminate their lease, but that doesn’t mean you can ‘eject’ them. You still have to go in front of a judge, hope you win, hope they don’t appeal. Then, even after being evicted that doesn’t mean they’ll leave. You’ll often have to file a WRIT to have a constable come and drag them out. Even when you’re pretty good at the process (which I think we are), it can take a while.

  • 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-).

  • Doh. Something about the fifth amendment and admissions against interest.

  • 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.

  • Let me preface, Cody, that what you do (buy and manage old properties) is fully within your right, and if the $ work out for you, more power to you.
    However, in the real estate community, what you do is called a market disruptor and we hate your guts (with love). What you do lowers property values in a couple of block radius, prevents developers from buying and building new homes, overall slows down progress of development in a given are. Essentially slowing down the inevidable gentrification. We also question “WHY!?!?!” you do what you do vs. just building new because based on comparing profit/loss models, you step over dollars to pickup cents.

    Some of us, and evidently the city, would rather you not fix up a really run down properties so it can be demolished post-haste for the overall benefit of the community.

    With Love

  • Cody, how much would you sell the property for? (presumably to a developer).
    Or maybe the city could buy to tear down and make a park.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
    So Cody, how did you get yourself in this position?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • “From anon:
    If the city has a problem with crime in a particular area, I believe they should use the police force to patrol that area.”
    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.

  • A swamplot regular getting sued on questionable grounds by murky government forces?
    Tons of first-hand accounts for and against?
    Commonsense signing “With Love”?!!

    This is the best reading on Swamplot in months. Go get ’em Cody.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 ™

  • So, the county has filed a suit against Cody, but he hasn’t heard anything about it from them? Is this legit? I was under the impression that to sue someone you had to notify them (or in the case of an entity like Fat Property, notify their registered agent).

    How does Swamplot know about this before Cody does? For that matter, how does Swamplot know about it at all? Where is this information coming from????

  • @ -B-: I like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but we don’t have that here. The district clerk’s office publishes a list of new case filings every day; unless someone shepherds it through it takes a few days at best to get the citations issued and served.

  • 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.

  • @Mollusk

    Haha, the moment after I posted that remark it occurred to me to just check the HC district clerk’s website. I read through the case docs and it looks like either Cody is a complete liar or the county’s case is full of… well full of something :)

  • The City of Houston should use emanate domain and turn this slum into a park and throw Cody and CommonGilligan in prison for 1st degree stupidity and assholism.


  • Cody, you’re picking fights you can’t win, they just got the order last week to sell one of your properties over the Montrose district tax dispute, now this. As a business owner you need to find the most efficient ways to settle things like this, you can’t afford to “fight the good fight”, that’s for hipsters and ACLU with nothing to lose.

  • 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.

  • 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.
    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.

  • Cody, take heart, because surely there’s someone who wants to build a high-rise there.

  • ZAW: Good advice. Meeting with local civic groups and/or neighboors is something we almost always do. In fact, I did meet with the local civic group where 1901 Richmond is located (Richwood Place)
    They’re a great bunch of people. I gave them all my name and contact info and asked that they call me personally at any time if they saw something. We can’t be there 24/7. And even with cameras, neighbors are going to see if someone is doing something ‘fishy’ that we don’t know about.
    Luckily I was able to google and find the minutes from their meeting which took place in March 2011, a week or so after I bought the place. If you’re intersted, it’s here:
    And our team has been working on a history page that shows what we’ve bought when. I hope the info on the page can help show the city/state that we’re not the bad guy. We just updated the site to have info on the suit:
    . (search the page for “Richmond” to save yourself the time in reading all the non-applicable stuff)

  • “Get involved in the local Civic Associations and Super Neighborhood. Get on the Board for the local Management District if there is one.”
    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.

  • 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.

  • There are 4 registered sex offenders who have 1901 Richmond as their address. I am not sure if they are still living there, but that seems like a lot for 1 complex.

  • Cody: The sole reason the County and State have sued you is to try to force you out. If you lose the temporary injunction hearing, you will get called back to court for a contempt hearing every time there is a violation of the injunction. They will keep coming after you until they can get an order shutting down the property. At that point, you will have no choice but to sell for pennies on the dollar and lose an income producing asset.
    The alternative is to hire a good attorney who is a litigator with experience representing landlords (plenty in Houston). Go to court prepared to win the TI hearing and be in a position of strength to get the plaintiffs to move on and let you be. The County and the AG can be beat. Plenty of people have made the County and State look bad at these proceedings. The County and State look for low hanging fruit–the pro se property owners who come to court and whine to the judge about how the big government is out to get them.
    You can answer pro se, but plaintiffs will eventually move to strike your answer and get a default judgment against you. Business entities must appear through a licensed attorney.
    Forget about the political arguments for now. You can’t change the law in court. And you won’t convince the powers lined up against you to go away by calling them out for having improper motives. You will only get eye rolling from the judge. But if you have good legal counsel and put on a good presentation showing that the plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of proof and get out of this, you will then have some clout to make the political point and make some changes.
    Once you are served (it may be a few days), things will move very quickly once a temporary injunction hearing is set. You may need to request expedited discovery, subpoena witnesses etc. before the hearing. If you do not get to an attorney ASAP, you may miss out on the opportunity to best defend yourself. It won’t be cheap, but will be worth it compared to the hit you will take if you lose and the satisfaction you will have knowing that you beat them.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Again, what Old School said.

    What happens at a temporary injunction hearing sets the tone for the remainder of the case.

    The County Attorney’s office has a staff of lawyers and a budget for this sort of thing. You will need one, too.

  • 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.
    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?”

  • For what its worth, I’m a litigator too. Listen to Old School’s advice – all of it. Have an attorney lined up TODAY. I’ve seen temporary restraining order hearings done over the phone with maybe an hour’s worth of heads up. The temporary injunction hearing has far more serious consequences, but get an attorney lined up and briefed on the facts NOW.


  • 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:
    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.
    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.
    Lawyer up, friend. I wish you the best.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • We need a new mayor…

  • I was a former tenant of Cody’s. Not only was he the worst landlord, but he would let anyone into the property as long as you have a deposit. No background check, barely a lease agreement. aslong as he got his money you were allowed in.

    Cody can not control the crime, but you can control your tenants. I am so glad he is no longer my slumlord. no more crack whores, no more roaches, and no more botched crappy repairs!

    Maybe they should crack down on cody himself, btw he uses pictures of other properties for his rentals most of the time.

  • “Former Tenant”, I wish you’d have used at least a first name to add some legitimacy – though I’ll take your word that you had a bad experience. Although I won’t comment on the case from the story, as someone that’s worked for Cody, I’d like to reply to your statements:

    1) Every lease, going back to 2008, has been a TAR (Texas Association of Realtors) 14 (later 15) page lease. Fat Property now use an TAA/HAA (Texas/Houston Apartment Association) lease. This must be signed by both parties before a key is turned over.

    2) Properties, at least those in Midtown/Montrose, are only advertised online and the application is rather extensive. In fact, all Montrose properties (specifically the former Skylane) that used to have a big “for rent” sign with number before purchase by Fat Property have had those signs removed or painted over. Additionally, the application process requires a checking account to pay the application fee. So between the extensive questions on the application, and the fact it requires a checking account to pay, and the fact it’s only advertised online, this helps keep out someone ‘off the street’ that happens to have come up with just enough to have a deposit.

    That doesn’t guarantee good tenants but nothing does. If there is a issues with a tenant, they’re dealt with quickly. Often a building is purchased that has several ‘bad’ tenants already in it. They are not all kicked out day-one. There needs to be a reason to do so and it happens via attrition as we follow the legal guidelines of the in-place lease. As such, some of the new tenants in the early days of taking over a new property may not jive with the existing tenant mix.

    The exception to the above screening rule would be tenants from a local respected origination that Fat Property has tried to work with and help in the past. I won’t mention their name here but sadly, due in part to this case, Fat Property can no longer accept those tenants. This is the only property that took those tenants which could explain why this property had a bit more problems even after fixing most issues than others. The last three tenants we had to remove prior to their lease ending were from this group (we still support the group in other ways, we just can’t take their clients)

    3) Photos of the buildings are always of the actual building. Where you might have a point is in the unit photos. On buildings that have 10’s of units that are all the same layout and upgrades, often just one photo is used. This is often a photo of the first unit upgraded so often the unit in the picture isn’t as good as the units rented down the line as upgrades are improved. But either way, units are viewed in person by prospective tenants before they take it so it would be hard to bait and switch. Same goes for if we tried to take a photo of a different building. That would be quickly uncovered when a prospective tenant came to view. Rendering any attempted at bait and switch fruitless.

    I’m interested to know more about your experience as if we did fail somewhere, we like to know. We’re not perfect. Part of that comes from trying to do to much at the same time. Criticism behind an alias doesn’t help us if there is a legitimate issue. My e-mail is michael at fatproperty if you want to contact me directly. I hope to hear from you.

  • I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for. You move into a former flophouse at a low rent and you just aren’t going to have the River Oaks Country Club set hanging around your laundry room. These are transitional properties that serve an economic niche and to expect anything other than that is unrealistic. That being said, at least Cody is trying to make a difference and this charade of a bond smacks of some kind retribution or hidden agenda.