UT law study finds data showing Houston apartment safety measures to be “severely inadequate” AP Photo/Russell Contreras

A study from the University of Texas School of Law released this week found programs designed by the City of Houston to examine the safety of the city’s 4,000 apartment complexes are “flawed, fractured and improperly managed.”

The study, titled “Out of Order: Houston’s Dangerous Apartment Epidemic,” found more than one-fourth of all Houston apartment complexes lack the city-issued and required “Certificate of Occupancy,” which reportedly certifies a complex meets the city’s standards for human habitation.

UT Law professor Heather Way and her graduate research assistant, Carol Fraser, authored the study, writing further on how the current system of inspecting apartment buildings is “largely dysfunctional” and “appears to have little or no oversight from city leaders.”

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In one example, Way and Fraser wrote on how the city employs only two health inspectors to examine more than 320,000 apartments for problems such as pest infestations, mold and sewage leaks.

In another instance, the study points out problems with an apartment complex in the Sunnyside area, in which “tenants’ pleas for help to the City fell through the cracks, and where tenants were trapped in dangerous conditions that persisted for years.”

“The identification of dangerous apartment conditions in Houston remains primarily complaint-based,” the study reads further. “…even then, Houston fails to adequately inspect and otherwise follow up on complaints.”

In May 2009, the Texas Legislature reportedly overwhelmingly passed a law requiring “minimum habitability standards” for apartment complexes in cities with at least 1.7 million people.

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Despite this support on the state leadership level, the UT Law report additionally claims Houston failed to keep up with many of these requirements.

The report makes several recommendations to help the city get back on track, including consolidating enforcement operations, increasing community involvement and providing more resources to allow apartment dwellers to report violations.

This is a developing story.