Midtown Properties Apartments: Nice Digs, But You Might Get Evicted if You Express an Opinion
When we asked if he had any questions we could answer for his article, he said, "I'll just make 'em up as I go," and he laughed, because what he said was really humorous. And then, before hanging up on us, he said, "I appreciate the phone call. Take care."
If things had ended there, we would have probably just thought, "Well, that's an odd way for someone who isn't 12 years old to behave," and then moved on.
But about five hours later, Croom told us that Gould gave her the boot. She says Gould told her he did not like the fact that she told a reporter about the parking situation.
When we called Gould the next morning to confirm, he hung up on us.
Since Midtown is a member of something called the Houston Apartment Association, we reached out to them to find out if they have an opinion about one of their members evicting a tenant because she exercised her freedom of speech. After all, the HAA has a "Code of Ethics." In the preamble (seriously, there's a preamble) it states that members should strive for the "highest standards of honesty and integrity" and "seek to provide better values, so that an even greater share of the public may enjoy the benefits of apartment living."
HAA spokeswoman Aimee Arrington told us in an email, "Our policy is to not comment on specific issues between residents and their property managers. We do have a resident relations department that does take complaints about issues ranging from repairs to security deposits." She said there's a "free hotline" and an "online complaint system."
Sure, but we're trying to let the public know which apartment complexes in Houston prohibit free speech here. Arrington -- throw us a bone!
Ultimately, we're not really sure what the HAA does. Like many other associations, its members hold conferences and "EXPOS." To prove it, the website shows smiling HAA members sporting cool lanyards. Members give each other awards, and they lobby for "fair treatment of multifamily properties in federal tax law" and for abhorrent legislation "requiring owners to rent to criminals."
Arrington told us that its code of ethics is "upheld by our ethics committee," which we guess is made up of important people with special lanyards. "If a complaint is made by a member of the association about another member, the committee reviews the matter and makes a determination. That has not taken place in this case."
Clearly, the HAA's hands are tied. Since no HAA member is complaining about Gould, their ethics committee can't investigate. Which is good for Gould, because the penalty for violating the code of ethics is positively Inquisition-esque. It's even worse than double-secret probation.
"The last time the ethics committee reprimanded (as approved and voted on by our Board) was in 2012, and the punishment was denial of membership renewal," Arrington told us.
Dang, that's steep.
Croom said she'd already planned to give notice August 1, but she has no intention of being unlawfully tossed out before then. We want to see how this pans out, just so we can keep the public informed about the risks of apartment living. And we'll also keep our eyes out for Gould's article.