The South Austin Coalition (SACCC) held a press conference and protest, May 23, at 5501-03 W. Quincy calling for a criminal investigation of landlord Ramon Juarez.

The Quincy building tenants accuse Juarez of endangering their live by stealing gas and gerryrigging the pipes, forcing them to go through the winter without heat. Additionally, Juarez has been accused of not paying water, gas and electric bills or complying with building maintenance codes.

With assistance from SACCC, tenants have banded together to raise $1,500 toward the $4,900 water bill. However, now tenants say they are faced with a $14,000 ComEd bill because of negligence by Juarez.

AWN spoke with one of the tenants and learned this individual received a January 2007 gas bill for over $2,000. After complaining to him, Juarez brought the tenant a check for $1,000 to apply to the bill. A subsequent bill for $1,100 was issued, and the tenant is now sending payments directly to the gas company. People’s Gas alleges the $2,000 bill occurred because Juarez had tapped into the line. The illegal tapping reportedly was discovered by the gas company, which found the pipes and notified tenants. According to tenants, they cannot enter the basement area because only Juarez and his maintenance worker have a key.

Another tenant who had a normal gas bill that ran from $15 to $33, received a bill for $296 during the month of March. That tenant called the gas company and said that when they came out in early March to check on one tenant’s complaint of smelling gas, the inspectors said they found that Juarez was stealing gas from the tenants not from People’s Gas. Only the cooking gas got through.

According to the tenants, they should pay only for cooking gas because all other utilities are included in rent. Another tenant was alleged to have gotten a $5,000 gas bill but because that person is on Section 8, the gas company wrote it off.

Officials at South Austin Coalition say that ComEd was owed $14,000, People’s Energy is owed $12,032.32, and water billing is $4,900. Juarez, allegedly, has not paid any utilities for at least two years and SACCC and others are asking why.

Juarez reportedly owns two other Austin properties-at 38 N. Central and 123 N. Central. Three other buildings are in foreclosure and Archer Bank repotedly took them over on May 29.

Meetings with Archer Bank and SACCC officials are planned. Meanwhile the plight of the Quincy building tenants remains uncertain.

AWN was unable to locate and contact owner.