Attorneys representing the City of Dallas and the tenants of Topletz Properties have secured a court injunction that prevents the owner of more than 200 residential properties from increasing rent, evicting tenants or taking other retaliatory actions without cause and approval from the court. The hearing included testimony that the standard Topletz lease requires renters to pay for repairs and ongoing maintenance in violation of the Texas Property Code, and has not been reviewed or updated since the 1960s. The city’s original complaint, filed in November, accuses Topletz of renting properties with numerous code violations to tenants. “But this case is not just a matter of city code compliance or some other municipal regulation, says attorney Michael Hindman, who represents the tenants together with attorney Mark Ticer. “Currently, if something breaks, then it’s up to the renter to fix it or pay for it. What’s really broken is the Topletz way of doing business. Earlier this year, Topletz sent letters to tenants telling them to not allow city code inspectors or neighborhood services personnel into their homes. At least one tenant received a form letter asking for her signature that claimed she was “completely satisfied” and that the property “needs no repairs” and “is in compliance with all City of Dallas codes.” In contrast to the company’s letter, the two lead plaintiffs’ properties have inadequate heating, cooling, electrical circuits and water, among other violations. In addition, each home was judged to be structurally unsound by City of Dallas inspectors.
The temporary injunction is expected to remain in place until trial, scheduled for Nov. 8 in Dallas County’s 193rd District Court.