THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Attorney General Abbott Takes Action against Hidalgo County Colonia Development

State charges developers with violating colonia prevention laws, creating unsafe and deplorable living conditions for residents

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged two Hidalgo County developers with unlawfully subdividing and leasing residential lots in violation of state colonias prevention laws.

The State’s enforcement action, which was filed in Travis County, names Jose Perez and Rosa Hilda Perez as defendants. Court documents filed by the State charged the defendants with unlawfully subdividing two residential lots in Hidalgo County and leasing one single-family home and up to 10 mobile home units that lacked proper water and wastewater infrastructure. The Victoria Acres mobile homes are leased to individuals under oral, month-to-month agreements. The defendants are also charged with failing to obtain plat approval from local officials.

Temporary restraining order issued against Jose Perez and Rose Hilda Perez
Photos of Victoria Acres mobile homes

According to investigators, the residences created by the defendants are unfit for human habitation and constitute a public health nuisance. The subdivision tenants’ drinking water is distributed in an unsanitary manner via a network of garden hoses attached to a single outdoor water spigot. Additionally, the Hidalgo County Health Department identified the release of wastewater from one of the lots into a small ditch – creating a public health hazard.

The Office of the Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order that requires the defendants to cease leasing new spaces, and cease accepting rent for the leased spaces. The State is also seeking a temporary injunction that requires defendants to provide alternative sources for drinking water and wastewater services at the subdivision until the court issues a permanent injunction. The Office of the Attorney General is also seeking a permanent injunction that prohibits the defendants from subdividing, leasing or selling the tracts of land until the necessary platting and infrastructure requirements are met. Additionally, the State is seeking civil penalties of up to $15,000 for each improperly leased lot.

Under Texas law, unincorporated residential subdivisions near the U.S.-Mexico border that lack adequate water and sewage services are commonly referred to as colonias. Most colonias lie outside city limits or in isolated areas of a county and lack even basic infrastructure and utilities.

Before purchasing or leasing residential property outside city limits, border area residents should check with county officials to confirm the property was legally subdivided and that the developer has made necessary arrangements to supply required infrastructure.

Texans can file complaints with the Office of the Attorney General against developers or sellers who fail to provide water and wastewater services or who subdivide land without first obtaining necessary county approval. Complaints can be filed on the Office of the Attorney General’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or by calling (800) 252-8011.