Midtown Properties Apartments: Nice Digs, But You Might Get Evicted if You Express an Opinion
Clarification: Croom was not served with a written eviction notice by Midtown Properties, nor did she allege she had been. She claimed that Gould told her on the phone that he wanted her off the property because she talked to the Houston Press.
Mum's the word.
Midtown Properties operates 13 boutique apartment complexes in Montrose -- they're some of the loveliest places you can find inside the loop. Tenants pay a higher than average rent, and in exchange they get clean, well-kept and stylish digs with a charm that distinguishes them from neighboring cookie-cutter complexes that spread like kudzu.
There's only one hitch: Jeff Gould, Midtown's vice president, runs a tight ship. If a tenant expresses concern to a reporter about the management of one of his properties, he may try to evict that tenant. So you better shut your goddamn trap.
We hadn't realized until this week that some tenants in Houston have to sacrifice their First Amendment rights, and with the population explosion here, we feel obligated to give the public a heads-up.
This unwritten rule was brought to our attention by former Houston Press employee Brenna Croom, a five-year Midtown tenant. She pays $25 a month, on top of rent, for a covered parking spot. Midtown gives stickers to folks with covered spots, but they're not the kind of stickers that, like, stick. They're not like state inspection stickers that have to be scraped off. They're like oil-change-reminder stickers that tend to peel off after a while.
Croom's sticker fell off at some point, and unfortunately for her, she forgot to note this in her sticker diary. So at 11 p.m. Tuesday, while she was home, her vehicle was towed. Now, there are no red-and-white tow warning signs on the property, which state law requires before a vehicle can be towed. But still, the SUV was towed and Croom was told it would cost $233 to retrieve it.
She voiced her frustration to the Press after management wouldn't give her a break. Sure, her vehicle didn't have a sticker, and it should have. But management didn't dispute that she was a tenant and that she was actually parked in a spot she pays extra for, and, to Croom, it seemed like this was just one of those things on which reasonable people can compromise.
Nah. She was told that rules are rules. At Ranger Tow, though, they gave her a discount, because they understood that this was not a situation where someone was parking in a spot they didn't pay for. In other words, the folks at Ranger Tow were reasonable.
The whole thing sounded unfortunate, so we thought we'd call Gould to find out his side.
"We've got neighboring properties that are...continuously parking their vehicles on our property's parking area," he told us. He said notices are sent out "from time to time" to remind residents to make sure their stickers stay on.
"It's designed to keep, you know, violators from taking resident parking," he said. "It happens all the time." Bottom line: "It's all about the parking sticker." (Which, again, is a good reason why Midtown tenants need to have sticker diaries).
But when we tried to ask more questions, Gould got impatient. We didn't, for example, get a chance to ask about how many vehicles were towed from Midtown properties in the past six months. The owner of Ranger Tow told us that his drivers tow one or two vehicles a year from the property where Croom lives. That's one vehicle every 182-1/2 days, which means we have a different understanding of the word "continuously" than Gould does.
"I don't have time to debate the parking sticker with you," Gould said. "...Policies are policies." We kept waiting for him to fill us in on something Croom was keeping from us -- like she never once paid rent on time in her five years as a tenant; that she converted her kitchen into a meth lab; or that her apartment was the hub of a clandestine international giraffe-hide-smuggling ring. Something to indicate that she was an unsympathetic character.
Instead, Gould told us this: "I'm going to write an article about you, too." (He didn't say where his article would be published, otherwise we'd link to it, because we're sure it'll be a knockout.)