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Apartment management, tenants at odds - The Galveston County Daily News : Local News

November 27, 2014

Apartment management, tenants at odds

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 1:15 am

TEXAS CITY — Tenants of a Texas City apartment complex run by a Christian ministry group said they have had their electricity shut off and were being retaliated against by their landlords.

On Wednesday, tenants told Texas City police and Constable Derreck Rose about the deplorable conditions at the Timothy Apartments, 5105 Timothy St., in Texas City.

Tenants complained about lack of utilities, bedbugs, overcrowding of apartments and trash on the premise. According to Texas City police, the apartment complex has been cited for “life and safety issues.”

By Wednesday afternoon, the property owner was working to remove the ministry and fix the problems at the complex.

The apartments are managed by Worthy Ministry Inc., which, according to its website, also provides assistance, including food and shelter, to the homeless and addiction counseling.

Kim Coldwell and Elizabeth Trevino said Worthy Ministry directors Laura and Christopher Propes attempted to evict them from their apartments after a personal falling-out. When those attempts failed, Coldwell and Trevino said the landlords had the electricity shut off to their apartments.

“This is how they get everybody out of here,” Trevino said.

The Propes did not return multiple phone calls Wednesday.

Property owner David Barnes said he was unaware of the conditions at the apartments.

Barnes said he’d owned the property since 2007. It was about a year ago when the ministry took over the complex to help homeless people and others down on their luck and collected the rent to pay him, Barnes said.

It seemed like a worthy cause, he said.

But now, Barnes said he is scrambling to fix the problems at the apartments.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said.

Tenants had not been asked to sign lease agreements, and the police department cited the complex for multiple violations.

Barnes said he would be evicting Worth Ministry Inc. and was working on restoring power and natural gas to units at the complex. Barnes said he would be providing proper lease agreements for tenants who wanted to stay.

Texas City Police Chief Robert Burby said the apartments were inspected in November, and apartment managers were issued citations for various property maintenance violations. After a March 28 inspection, Christopher Propes was issued five more citations, Burby said.

“This case is still under investigations by the City Environmental Crimes Unit,” Burby said.

According to the police department’s website, Christopher Propes was arrested and charged March 27 for an unrelated charge of nonpayment of child support.

Coldwell, 52, said she and her husband moved into one of the Timothy Street apartments about six months ago while struggling through difficult times.

“This is just a transitional spot,” she said.

Like the other residents of the complex, Coldwell didn’t sign a lease to move in. Instead, she and others agreed to a set of rules that included going to church services, counseling and the possibility of having their stay at the apartments immediately terminated for rule violations, among other things.

According to documents provided by tenants, residents are either asked to pay $70 a week for their apartment or, when they do not have a job, they are to work for Property Manager Christopher Propes.

“We follow the rules, we pay, and if we are not working, we do things on the grounds,” Coldwell said.

But last week, she received a notice to vacate the apartment after there was a falling-out between her husband and Christopher Propes, Coldwell said.

The eviction went before Justice of the Peace Sonny James, where it was thrown out because of the lack of a lease agreement, according to court documents.

Coldwell was able to stay in her apartment but her electricity was shut off Wednesday morning.

Trevino said she testified in support of Coldwell on Monday, and she, too, had her electricity shut off. She also had run afoul of the landlords when she called Texas City code enforcement in March to complain of the conditions.

Trevino said the apartments are run by a Christian ministry in name only. In her time there, she said there has been no counseling or guidance.

“This is a scam,” she said.

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com.