Apartments Challenge ‘Crime Index’ Law

     DALLAS (CN) – Carrollton, Texas enacted an unfair, expensive and unconstitutional “crime index” law that scares away tenants, apartment building owners and managers claim in court.
     Three nearly identical lawsuits in Dallas County Court claim that the city’s flawed law requires payment of substantial fees and requires expensive, and unfair, alterations to properties.
     Under the contested 2011 law, the city calculates a numerical value for each multi-family property’s “crime index.” Apartment complexes that exceed a threshold number are enrolled in Carrollton’s Mandatory Apartment Crime Reduction Program.
     The plaintiffs say the index is arbitrary and unfair and includes crimes that apartment managers cannot be expected to control.
     “Sometime prior to June 21, 2011, in an apparent effort to address what may have been perceived as a problem with respect to criminal activity believed to have originated in multi-family housing communities, defendant enacted its first version of what it now Ordinance Number 3503,” one complaint states.
     “The ordinance provides for a formula to be applied with respect to each multi-family housing community” in Carrollton. The crime index is recalculated every 6 months.
     “An ‘average crime index’ is calculated by averaging the ‘crime index’ values for all apartment communities, and after applying an arbitrary multiplier of 1.5, a ‘crime index threshold’ is calculated,” the complaint states.
     The ordinance also states the requirements for those who are forced into the Mandatory Apartment Crime Reduction Program.
     The ordinance was rewritten in March this year after problems with the original law, the complaint states.
     “Defendant enacted an amended version of the previous ordinance, ostensibly refined those ‘service calls’ and ‘arrests’ that would be included in the calculation of the apartment community’s ‘crime index,'” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs were cited under the revised law, and appealed.
     “The grounds for the plaintiffs’ appeal were, among other things, the types of incidents and arrests that were included in the calculations of the ‘crime index’ for plaintiffs’ property were not of the type that should have been within the intent of the ordinance, because those incidents and arrests could not have been prevented or abated by any action by the plaintiffs,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs say that at their Oct. 20 appeal to the city’s Property Standards Board, the city’s attorney and several board members said the city had no discretion to distinguish between the types of alleged offenses and arrests that are included in an apartment complex’s crime index. The board rejected the appeal, and the plaintiffs say that complying with the program will make it not worth their while to run their apartment buildings.
     “The program detailed in the ordinance requires the payment of substantial fees and physical improvements and alterations to the property, which … require a substantial outlay of capital, rendering the property unprofitable for its owners,” the plaintiffs say. “Moreover, the Apartment Crime Reduction Program requires the owner and manager of the property to conspicuously post signage disclosing the designation of the apartment community as being required to participate in the Mandatory Apartment Crime Reduction Program, which signage, in all reasonable probability, would have a chilling effect upon prospective law-abiding tenants who might otherwise wish to lease an apartment home. … As a consequence, unacceptable and unprofitable vacancies would become commonplace in the apartment community, thereby jeopardizing the substantial investment made by the owner in acquiring, maintaining and managing the property.”
     All citations in this article come from Pabo LLC, Kiyomitex LLC, and Pacsouth Investments v. City of Carrollton. Jasper Peak LP and Briarcrest LP also sued the city, separately, on similar grounds.
     All plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and want enforcement of the law enjoined as a violation of the Texas Constitution.
     All plaintiffs are represented by R. David Weaver, of Arlington.

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