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Judge dissolves Vickery Meadow apartment agreement. City of Dallas says residents at risk

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Keren I. Carrión
/
KERA News
Kids play in the melted snow outside the Ivy Apartments in Vickery Meadow after the snow storm in February.

A judge has voided an agreement between the city of Dallas and a landlord it’s accused of not maintaining safe apartments.

The ruling, however, prompted another, more urgent step in the city’s quest to force the landlord to make improvements to the properties.

The apartments, known as the Ivy and Sunchase Square, are in Dallas’ Vickery Meadow neighborhood and home to many refugee families from around the world. They have been cited for dozens of violations of Dallas city and fire codes.

The city of Dallas eventually sued the landlord in November of 2021 — months after its attorneys say they first contacted the property owner about alleged code violations. That lawsuit said the company, Nuran, Inc., did not maintain gutters, chimneys, walls, and floors, and did not properly eliminate infestations, among other things.

Refugees who live or lived at the apartments have also told KERA of deficiencies.

Nuran, Inc. denied the allegations in court filings and said the city did not sufficiently specify what the violations were.

Despite disagreeing on conditions at the apartments, the city and Nuran, Inc. signed a deal in February. They set down a series of dates for inspections and other steps to ensure ongoing compliance with city codes.

This “agreed temporary injunction,” as it’s called, is what the company asked the court to declare void.

Not enough detail?

Nuran, Inc.’s lawyer, Aamer Ravji, said in court on Wednesday that the injunction didn't provide enough detail about what the company was supposed to do. He also argued that by agreeing to the injunction, Nuran did not waive its right to ask the judge to void it.

The city argued in a court filing that this was a “tactic of delay” for the company.

In her decision on Friday, Judge Mary Murphy sided with the landlord and dissolved the injunction. She had said on Wednesday that Texas law and prior cases supported the landlord’s argument.

While she voided the injunction, Murphy said yes to the city’s request for another, emergency hearing. This would address alleged “life safety” risks at the Ivy and Sunchase and look at evidence presented by each side.

The hearing date has not yet been set.

Further complications

The legal fight in county court is just one front in the war between the city and Nuran.

The company also sued the city of Dallas in federal court earlier this year, accusing it of violating the freedom of apartment residents to practice their Muslim faith in a prayer room at the Ivy Apartments. The city says the prayer room, formerly a laundry room, needs a permit and certificate of occupancy.

Nuran said this demand is a violation of federal laws protecting the freedom to worship.

Additionally, the complexes are implicated in yet another lawsuit, although not directly.

References to the Ivy and Sunchase Square have also appeared in a lawsuit involving Nuran and a separate property transaction with another company. Documents filed with the Dallas County clerk indicate that if the other company wins in court, it may look to the complexes as part of a financial award.

Nuran, Inc. has, in the past, tried and failed to get rid of the “Lis pendens” notice.

“If Nuran, Inc. wants to sell the Sunchase Square Apartments or the Ivy Apartments, they will be unable to get fair market price because the notices are clouding the title,” it said in a 2019 court filing.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.