Weeks without water: Many Austin apartment residents still suffering after extreme winter storm

AUSTIN (KXAN) – It was the best news Lindsey Hyde had received in three weeks – a drop of water fell from her kitchen faucet on Wednesday.

“Save it!” She screamed.

In the nearly three weeks since the first extreme Texas winter storm that left millions of people without electricity and water for days, the Westdale Creek apartment complex in North Austin has been without water – a scenario familiar to many apartment dwellers in the city.

However, Hyde’s rental payment on March 1 did not change.

“They only respond with the part of the lease that says we are not liable if snow or weather destroys something,” said Hyde. “You don’t understand because you can go home with water and a clean place.”

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A Westdale Creek manager said plumbers expect water to flow by the end of the week but would not comment on whether or not to offer rental discounts to residents. The manager said the city of Austin recently shipped pallets of bottled water and groceries for residents.

Courtney Irons, a resident of the Treehouse Apartments in South Austin, was in a similar position until water started flowing into her apartment on Wednesday afternoon.

According to a manager, Treehouse Apartments supplied water to 21 out of 26 buildings by 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Like Westdale Creek, the Treehouse Apartments do not offer discounts to residents.

“My apartment hasn’t been secure for half a month and I had to pay a full month’s rent yesterday,” Irons told KXAN.

The City of Austin advises anyone whose landlord has not restored water to their home phone 3-1-1.

Austin Water, who stood before the city council’s water supervisory committee Wednesday, pledged to secure and store an emergency supply of water bottles while water trucks were being prepared before another severe weather event.

An apartment in Rosemont, Oak Valley, floods after the storm (KXAN / Chris Nelson)

Greg Meszaros, director of the utility company, said he was preparing a report to the city administrator on what went wrong during the storm and what improvements the utility company could make in the future.

“These are the types of areas that Austin Water will be stepping up and investigating and taking steps beyond the infrastructure of our system,” he said.

In addition to representatives from the Austin Tenant’s Council, residents of the Rosemont at Oak Valley apartment complex in South Austin presented management with a list of demands.

Several residents raised concerns about unsafe living conditions as construction workers worked to repair housing units that had flooded during the storm last month.

“We just want simple requirements to be met for the entire community,” said Arthur Jimenez. “Hotel vouchers, temporary accommodation, without rent.

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KXAN reached out to the Austin Tenants Council to find out what a landlord does for a tenant. Molly Jensen, the council’s executive director, said her team has been flooded with phone calls and online messages asking for help and clarification.

Jensen said landlords have “reasonable time” to fix repairs, which is usually estimated at seven days. However, if the landlord needs to make an insurance claim to repair this damage, repairs need not begin until an insurance check is received to cover the cost.

In a statement to KXAN on Wednesday, the MacDonald Companies, which owns Rosemont in Oak Valley, said in part, “The winter story has damaged over 60 residential units in Rosemont. As you know, the frost hit all of Texas hard, not just us. Therefore, the availability of qualified contractors and materials was the main obstacle to repairing the units. This applies in particular to the defective sprinkler system. Under state law, these systems can only be repaired by technicians who are certified to work on such systems. Most plumbers don’t have such certification. “

The MacDonald Companies representative also said he offered residents various options, including early termination of leases and relocation to undamaged units.

“To date, all damaged units have: (a) all powered, (b) all wet materials removed, (c) all sprinkler leaks replaced, and (d) all hot water leaks remotely repaired,” continued the MacDonald representative. “We currently have contractors on site who deal with the water damage to panels and floors. Please be assured that we are doing our best to repair our residents’ units as appropriately as possible. “

In most apartment rental agreements, there is no responsibility for the landlord to pay for or find alternative accommodation, even if the unit is habitable. But FEMA can help pay for it. You can file within 60 days of the official disaster declaration.

KXAN policy reporter John Engel will have a full report tonight at 6 p.m.

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