Arrested? You may get evicted

New resident Yesina Rodriguez signed a Crime Free Lease Addendum when she moved in to the Arbor Oaks apartment complex in Odessa two months ago. The document is a one-strike-and-you’re-out agreement.

By signing the addendum, residents like Rodriguez agree that if they, any member of their household or any of their guests are arrested on or off the rental property, they can get evicted from the apartment.

Members of the household include minors older than 10. Any criminal activity is considered good cause for eviction, the lease addendum states. More importantly, a conviction or indictment is not necessary to be evicted under the lease agreement, only an arrest.

The addendum is part of a new program started by the Odessa Police Department in 2010 and currently used by four Odessa apartment complexes.

The Crime Free Multi-Housing program and is run by OPD’s Community Response Unit. Nationally, the program started in 1992 in Mesa, Ariz. Similar programs are in place in 44 states and several countries, according to the International Crime Free website.

“It’s going to improve the quality of life for everyone,” OPD Sgt. Mike Anaya said.

As a single mother with three children, Rodriguez said she thinks having an additional police presence would give her a sense of security.

“I’m a momma,” she said. “It’s just me and my kids.”

A former employee of UAH Property Management LP suggested the program to Anaya, who heads up the CRU team, Regional Manager Jessica Flores said. The real-estate management company specializes in Section 8 public housing and manages property in several states, including Oklahoma and Texas.

UAH manages several properties in Odessa. Of those, Arbor Oaks, Arbor Terrace, Key West Senior Village and Sedona Springs are using the OPD addendums, Flores said. She said more properties will use the program after apartment management attends mandatory police training.

Residents of UAH properties are signing the new addendums when they renew and new residents are signing them as they move in, Flores said. She said she thinks it’s making a difference in the complexes.

“I think they have a lot more respect for obeying the law,” she said. “There’s a lot more teamwork now.”

Arbor Terrace resident Marcel White said the new program sounded a little harsh to him. He said a person who forgets to pay a traffic ticket shouldn’t have to be evicted.

“Some things I don’t think it’s worth losing your home,” he said.

Anaya said the program is targeting the criminal element in the city. He said he hopes 100 percent of apartment complexes in the city will participate in the new program. If a resident is evicted from one apartment complex in the program, Anaya said other complexes in the program won’t rent to the resident either. The lease addendum only applies to arrests in the city, not in the county.

No one has been evicted under this program at the Odessa complexes using the crime free program, Flores said. There is similar language in leases approved by the U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development for public housing that allows residents to be evicted for drug or criminal activity on or near the property.

The ACLU of Texas declined to comment on the program. After looking at Odessa’s crime free addendum, Media Coordinator Jose Medina said it was not something they comment on. The program is voluntary and Medina said it appeared to be a matter between tenant and landlord.

In October 2009, the Wichita Falls City Council passed a law requiring all apartment managers to attend crime free training. Sgt. Joe Synder supervises the Wichita Falls Crime Free program and calls it a great success.

“It has probably reduced police calls by about half,” he said.

Odessa’s program has been cleared by Senior Assistant City Attorney Catherine Clifton and the justice of peace courts, Anaya said. If an apartment resident or household member is arrested, the police officer takes their information and forwards it to the leasing office.

“Management has the final say,” Anaya said. “We’re trying to give them another tool to better the apartment community.”

OPD officers on Friday held a Phase I training for apartment managers and leasing agents. Phase I is eight hours of crime prevention training. Phase II is inspecting apartment complexes to make sure they’re safe and well-lighted. Phase III has apartment managers holding a get-together to educate residents on the new program.

Apartment complexes can use the crime free lease addendums after Phase I training, Synder said.

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