What we know about the lawsuit against Mesquite’s Hillcrest Apartments
The city of Mesquite is suing owners of an apartment complex that violated city building codes and put its residents and their health at risk, according to the lawsuit filed Monday.
Landlords of Hillcrest Apartments are facing two additional lawsuits from a former tenant and a visitor who say they were injured after apartment ceilings collapsed and fell on them in July 2019.
Here’s what we know about the lawsuits and the complex.
The owners are not based in Texas.
The 1970s complex is owned by two non-state companies: Summit Hillcrest Apt, Ltd. in Montgomery, Alabama, and CC Hillcrest LLC, which is managed by Code Capital Partners LLC in New Canaan, Conn., and Windermere, Florida., according to county records.
Although county records show the complex is owned by two entities, CC Hillcrest LLC “presents itself as the owner” of the entire apartment complex, according to the suit. In practice, CC Hillcrest LLC — which is managed by a private equity firm, Code Capital Partners — has custody and control of all ownership, the lawsuit says.
According to the city’s lawsuit, the state of Alabama dissolved Summit Hillcrest in November 2020, and the following month the company revoked its registration with the Texas secretary of state. Despite this, the suit alleges that Summit Hillcrest continued to do business in the state.
Code Capital Partners was founded by Jared Remington and is based in Utah, according to the lawsuit. It also has other addresses listed in Connecticut and Florida, according to Dallas County and the company’s website.
The city says it has been trying to work with landlords since at least April 2021.
At a Feb. 7 city council meeting, Mesquite City Manager Cliff Keheley said the city has known about the complaints against Hillcrest for years.
“The city has repeatedly engaged with landlords to develop long-term solutions to these issues, but recent incidents leaving residents without heat for days and sewer backups for weeks have forced the city to take this action,” a statement from Mesquite said Monday.
In the lawsuit, the city says it met and corresponded with Remington on several occasions, beginning in April 2021, to discuss code violations and “necessary steps” to avoid a lawsuit.
It is not known what repairs have been carried out in the complex.
Part of the complex was renovated in January 2008, according to the Dallas Central Appraisal District, but a representative said the extent of the improvements was unclear.
District Software also notes improvements to the property as of November 2012.
Robert Eden, the attorney representing CC Hillcrest LLC, said he purchased the resort 17 months ago and made “a significant number of property improvements”.
“Some repairs have unfortunately been delayed at times due to supply chain issues, pandemic-related contractor shortages and other uncontrollable challenges,” he said in an email.
Three people are suing the resort after being injured.
In addition to the city’s litigation, the landlords face two lawsuits brought by a former tenant, Francisco Llorca, and a visitor, Vivian Perez-Carrillo. They are suing Summit Hillcrest for negligencealleging multiple injuries after apartment ceilings collapsed and fell on them in July 2019. Llorca’s lawyer was unavailable for comment.
Llorca and Perez-Carrillo are seeking thousands of dollars in damages, with trial dates in Dallas County Civil Court being April 25 and May 24, respectively.
According to the lawsuits, Perez-Carrillo and Llorca had informed the property managers of the collapse of their ceilings. Llorca’s lawsuit alleges that “no attempt to inspect was made” after he informed property managers of his ceiling collapse.
Perez-Carrillo said she repeatedly warned the property manager about the ceiling – and about a week before it collapsed on her.
In the third lawsuit, a Mesquite woman is suing Summit Hillcrest for negligence after claiming to have fallen into a hole that was not properly sealed. Brenda Jones says she suffered multiple injuries after walking in an unlit area of the complex in September 2018 to avoid a skunk infestation which had already been reported to the owners. Jones’ lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount during litigation, according to Lesley Holloway, managing partner of Ben Abbott & Associates.
The majority of housing is considered low income.
According to the city’s lawsuit, the apartment landlord is claiming 75% of tenants for low-income tax credits because they receive Section 8 housing vouchers. The Dallas Central Appraisal District said that at the end of 2019, 299 units of the resort’s 350 units were considered low income for tax purposes.
Many residents are people of color.
Hillcrest tenants live in a census tract where 31.6% of residents are black, 26.89% are white, and 21.8% are of another race, according to 2020 data. All tenants The news interviewed for this story and who spoke at the Feb. 7 city council meeting are black.
What solutions are offered to tenants?
Hillcrest residents who spoke to The news says it is often impossible to find another place to live due to the costs associated with moving.
Sandy Collins, executive director of the Texas Tenants’ Union, said closing the property was also not a good solution, especially for low-income residents who would have nowhere to go.
“We believe rather than punishing tenants, which a closing order would typically do, [the city] must punish the landlord and ensure that the property is returned to standard condition so that people can continue to have a place to live.