LAREDO, Texas – February 29, 2012 – A local court has ruled that an elderly disabled Laredo man will receive $54,000 after his landlord forced him to live in unsanitary conditions and retaliated against him for asserting his legal rights.
Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), Jose Jimenez filed a lawsuit in June 2010 against Laredo landlord Maricela Arriaga for several violations of the Texas Property Code related to his time as a tenant in a local apartment.
According to TRLA attorney Daniel Monahan, “Jose was forced to live in unsanitary conditions and punished for exercising his legal rights. No human being should have to live in those conditions or be mistreated for doing what’s right.”
In 2009 and 2010 Jimenez paid $425 a month for a garage apartment and utilities. When he moved into the apartment, the bathroom plumbing was clogged and sewage would cover the bathroom floor every time he used the facilities. As a result, mold began to grow in the area and Jimenez was unable to use his bathroom for several months. In March 2010 TRLA demanded that the landlord make repairs to eliminate the unsanitary conditions in the apartment. In the weeks that followed, the landlord intercepted the delivery of important medical supplies intended for Jimenez, disconnected the cable and power to the air conditioning unit, threatened Jimenez’s son, and illegally locked Jimenez out of the apartment.
The court found that the landlord violated several of Jimenez’s rights including failing to repair an unsafe apartment, disconnecting utilities, removing property, retaliating, and failing to disclose owner information. The judgment upholds Texas law that gives a tenant the right to live in a safe and healthy environment. State law also prohibits landlords from disconnecting utilities in retaliation for failure to pay rent.
Added Monahan, “Tenants have rights. Just because a landlord owns a property doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want.”
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality civil legal assistance and related educational services.