"The phone calls continued from the manager and I was still being harassed by the complex. I asked the complex to quit contacting me but the phone calls continued," Sawyer told the court.

Centerpoint evicted Durham in June, despite his apparent plans to move out by the end of the month. Eight months later, in February of this year, Sawyer got a letter in the mail from Centerpoint's collections manager, Jennifer Reven: "Following your default and move out from the above apartment you have an outstanding balance of $3,341.25." In the letter, Reven warned that "if payment is not received immediately I will instruct our attorney to file a lawsuit against you for this amount."

In fact, Centerpoint had started filing suit months earlier, in November 2012. The bill was for "final utilities, unpaid rent and late fees, eviction court costs, damages beyond normal wear and tear, concession charge back, reletting fee, electric provider fee and writ of possession fee." A judge ruled for Centerpoint, and tacked on $1,050 in attorney's fees.

These images of Kenya Gilstrap's toilet and sink were used as "proof" by Centerpoint that she had damaged her apartment beyond normal wear and tear.
These images of Kenya Gilstrap's toilet and sink were used as "proof" by Centerpoint that she had damaged her apartment beyond normal wear and tear.

"I think Mr. Sawyer felt sorry for his kids and he paid the rent for them," Heintzelman said in an interview. "He probably didn't have the money to continue to pay for them because they didn't work."

At least Terra Shepard actually lived at Centerpoint, although not full-time. As a traveling roofer, she used to chase storms, looking for the next big insurance payout. Around 2006, she rented a Centerpoint apartment to have as a crash pad when she visited Texas.

"It was just one problem after another," Shepard says. "Every time I came back in town there was a note on my door saying that I owed them something. None of it ever made much sense to me so I just paid it."

Shepard finally ended the lease in 2011. She says she didn't get a dime of her security deposit back. Then she got a letter in the mail, asking for around $1,200.

"When they sued me, which I thought was just hilarious, I just basically chose to ignore it," she says. Court records show that Centerpoint won a default judgment against Shepard of $931. Months later Centerpoint asked a court to freeze Shepard's bank accounts until she paid up, records show. The case was dismissed. Shepard says she filed for bankruptcy around the time of the lawsuit, preventing Centerpoint from collecting the debt.

Centerpoint's attorney, Israel Suster, says his client wouldn't want to go to court without a solid case. "It costs them time, money and expense," he says. But the residents almost always lose, and end up covering those legal expenses.

"I just paid them everything," says Riley Zollars. She lived at Centerpoint back in 2007, when she was staying in Dallas for an architecture internship. She didn't know she owed Centerpoint money until she left Texas. "When I talked to them on the phone, I don't know who I was talking to from Centerpoint, they were like pretty nasty, and they basically were just like, 'You have no rights, there's no way you're going to win this.' And I really didn't have the means to go to Texas and try to find a lawyer and all that stuff, so I just paid them."

The bill was $3,743.

Sarah Surratt co-signed for her granddaughter to live at Centerpoint around that same time. Then her granddaughter lost her job. They fell behind on rent and were evicted.

Surratt, 80, recalls getting a call from a woman from the complex who sounded mad. She wanted $5,000. "I kept insisting that I was not going to pay her that $5,000," Surratt says. She got off the phone and talked to an attorney, who helped settle the case — for $4,000.

A mother who co-signed for her son in 2007 got caught in Centerpoint's legal crosshairs when the complex evicted him, saying he was a "suspect in a drug investigation," documents show. When he returned to Centerpoint with his mother a final time to try negotiating the money he owed, the cops were there. They arrested him and he spent the night in jail — not for drugs, his mother says, but for traffic tickets he owed but never paid. He was convicted in Denton County of two traffic citations the year prior, but Texas records show no drug charges against him.

Centerpoint accused her son of not just breaching his lease by getting evicted but also for damaging the apartment. The judge sided with Centerpoint, awarding the apartment $2,491.52 — plus another $1,225 in legal fees.

For most property owners, lawsuits aren't a worthy investment, legal experts say; landlords usually just turn debts over to collection agencies. "Suing a tenant is not a very lucrative activity," says David Sadegh, president of the Tenants Council of Houston.

But for Centerpoint, litigation, or the threat of it, appears to be a key weapon in its arsenal. It starts with a letter, like the one Duffey received, threatening a lawsuit if he didn't pay up.

"I am not a certified collector," Heintzelman, the property manager, said in an interview.

"I cannot, say, threaten lawsuits or say some of the things that a licensed collector can. It's against the law. ... I'm limited in what I can ask for."

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34 comments
Anoynm.
Anoynm.

I used to live in Centerpoint for almost a year. It was my first time renting on the States, andi was played by them.They evicted me a month after i renew in January 2013( wise). 

Right now i cant even rent a place without asking me about this one. Supposely, i owe 6,000.00 dollars for an apartment that it didnt even had a bed ( by that time i was really poor) .

All i received was threats and disrespect :Kendra and her secretary are a Dream Team . 

There was not even a single month that i didn't owe late fees, even when i paid on time.

Now i am bound to live in a hotel because i cant rent anywhere.

Adolf
Adolf

Kikes, what do you expect?

super40chic
super40chic

The city must be getting a kickback from this company this is ludicrous. Any real judge would ask why a complex in the hood has sued over 700 people!?!? Really

Texas really needs more tenant and employee rights badly. It's sad. I hope karma comes there way

lemonaioli
lemonaioli

So glad Lincoln Property isn't like this. Yes, for many years they had the market rate/concession thing going but if you stayed for the duration of the lease, it wasn't a problem. I lived in the Village for longer than I care to admit but they never did me wrong. I got more back from my deposit than I actually thought I would. Yes, reading the lease is important so you know what you're responsible for but they're not going to change it for you so after year one, I initialed it without going over it with a fine toothed comb.

carsosi
carsosi

I lived here and can tell you from first-hand experience that this is VERY true.  They will attempt to collect even from items you put on your walk-though form.  Stay away from this place.  Go live at a week-to-week hotel if you have to.  Avoid this place at all costs (literally)!

jglaser1000
jglaser1000

How is this Apartment Complex in Dallas, on Frankford, suing in Denton County?  There is something fishy going on. The cases should be filed in their jurisdiction, Dallas.  This Judge needs to be looked into Big Time.  Also,does the Denton Courts not address this at the time of filing?  -I very disappointed in the Denton Courts also. 

fir3walker
fir3walker

Shouldn't the Texas Attorney General look into this company?

I mean, this has been going on for too long.

I think we need to call for an audit of Centerpoint... I bet ya they wont have to look very deep to find something really nasty there....

DFWNORML
DFWNORML

Someone should simply burn the place down and hang the management - and then roll them up and smoke them.

rlisch6
rlisch6

Did any of these folks appeal to the County Court like you can with an eviction in JP Court?  When I was evicted, I appealed and it went to the County judge and was a brand new trial.   I won my appeal.   If the justice of the peace is so bad, wouldn't at least someone get a win at the County Court?

rlisch6
rlisch6

Ok, am I missing something?  The story talks about how huge the complex is and says there have been 700 lawsuits filed since 1996.  That works out to roughly 41 suits a year.   Are any of these evictions?   And it says the judge has ruled on 55 trials.  If she was elected in 2006, that puts it at just under 8 trials a year.   Let's say there are 500 units in the complex.  That works out to be 1.6 percent of the their tenants!   So 98.4% of the tenants are NOT sued?

And isn't it strange that gosh, if it's not the lawyers (who apparently know what they are doing), it must be the judge's fault because, gosh, tenants NEVER break their lease.

I'm sorry, but this sounds like a lot of sour grapes from people who lost.  Wilonski leaves and the Observer is left to this?  What's next: "The Outrage of Sunrise:  How the Western United States are Being Screwed by the Earth's Rotation."   

s2pid80it
s2pid80it

Well, apparently, the lesson here is if you are going to rent in Dallas, be smart, be educated, and be rich.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Great job bringing this to light...slimy law practice, slimy judge, slimy apartment complex.

jekku60
jekku60

Wow. With all of the people who rent in Dallas and the surrounding cities, this should be a huge wake up call to do one's homework and READ THE FINE PRINT.  While the clientele at the complex doesn't sound like it's the best, the management is very obviously using its tenants in this little 'criminal' sideline business to make themselves more money. Add an equally slimey lawyer and a judge who always rules in favor of the complex, and you have the very reason why our justice system is a mess. The fact that they have continued to appeal a measly $1,500 claim for FIVE YEARS(!!!) shows you all you need to know about them. They're crooks! As a tenant myself, I  always worry about what I might do--even unknowingly--that may cause legal repercussions for myself, so I try to document and photograph everything. It's sad to know that in Texas, the tenant does not have the legal system watching our backs, yet we literally throw away our hard earned money each month when we rent. Something is definitely NOT right.

TXsharon
TXsharon

Great job digging in on this! The laws need to change but that's not likely to happen anytime soon in Texas where corporations and businesses are favored about people always. 

jglaser1000
jglaser1000

@super40chic 

I agree with you.  Hope these people will get on Yelp.com, RipOffReport.com and other ratings systems to get the word out!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@jglaser1000 that address is Denton County, and the property pays taxes to Denton county

sleepyhead420
sleepyhead420

@fir3walker oh, you told a funny there. at least about the attorney general looking for wrongdoing.

fir3walker
fir3walker

@rlisch6 I think the best solution is to avoid Centerpoint and call for an investigation of Patty Larson to see if she's getting paid by Centerpoint.

jglaser1000
jglaser1000

@rlisch6 

You are so far off base, why did you bother commenting?  You assumed full occupancy along with the number of units that you made up. There's never full occupancy at this place. You also assume a yearly turnover to come up with your ratio. What about the tenants that have been there 5 or 8 years.  People that need cheap rent often don't pick up and move every year, it is just not feasible.  AND, you assume that this judge started seeing the cases from the beginning of her 2006 tenure.  Why would a Denton Court be involved in a Dallas Case? Do you think this Apartment Complex has been going up to Denton this whole time thinking that no one would get suspicious on why the cases are not being tried in Dallas where they are supposed to be?  -Seems like you are also a friend of these people!

fir3walker
fir3walker

@rlisch6 I agree! we need to get the word out that Centerpoint engages in these types of practices.

Too many sour grapes!

Centerpoint's motto:

"You can check out any time you like.  (if you have $3,568 handy)"

or, 

"CENTERPOINT - IT'S JUST CHEAPER IF YOU STAY... OK?"

MissMacy
MissMacy

@rlisch6 Not every case ends up in court. Most former residents pay up in order to avoid it.

amy.silverstein
amy.silverstein

And most of the lawsuits filed don't go to trial. There's only a trial if the person who is being sued files an answer and shows up to court. 

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

@rlisch6 As it says in the story, that number of lawsuits does not include evictions.

jglaser1000
jglaser1000

@s2pid80it 

Yes, be educated enough not to let them take you to court somewhere else than the county you are in, because they just might have a Judge in their Pocket!


rlisch6
rlisch6

@whocareswhatithink  Unless the judge is getting something under the table, I'm not sure following the law as written is slimy.  At least Ms. Cadenas put her money where her mouth was and got the law changed.

rlisch6
rlisch6

@TXsharon Kudos to Ms. Cadenas for getting the law changed!  She didn't whine, she pushed for change and got it.    THAT

jglaser1000
jglaser1000

@fir3walker @rlisch6 

My exact thoughts!  What does Denton Court have to do with a Dallas Property? How did the Apartment complex even get the Denton courts to take a Dallas Court Claim?  -This is extremely suspicious!

NightSand
NightSand

@rlisch6 @whocareswhatithink I think if you read the story, Judge Larson treated the defendant like a child and didn't even acknowledge that the signature was obviously forged.   

 
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