Liberty residents, realtors complain of city government overreach in utility ordinance

Liberty Real Estate Broker Dan Van Deventer addressed Liberty City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 10, regarding an ordinance to electrical service hook-ups.

The City of Liberty will be looking for better ways to connect electrical service to residences after complaints were made at the Nov. 10 city council meeting by several residents, including a half-dozen local realtors. They complained that electrical service customers are unable to get uninterrupted service due to an ordinance that requires their homes to first be inspected by the City, and those inspections may take up to 10 days or longer if problems are found in the home.

“This ordinance you passed is mind-blowing to me as a real estate broker and a citizen of the city of Liberty. I can’t keep uninterrupted service on a property? I must turn off the power and then wait one to 10 days for an inspector to come out and go through the house,” Dan Van Deventer told the council. “I don’t have a right to buy a house as-is and expect to get city services.”

Van Deventer said the ordinance has created unnecessary hardships on his real estate clients, who have poured their life savings into a home only to find out they will be denied service until their home undergoes an inspection by the city even though many of the homes have already undergone an inspection to qualify for a mortgage.

“Do you know how many houses we sell to people who come in from out of town, the trouble they get into and all the trouble they deal with for a loan process? Then they get their inspectors. That inspector comes up with a list of items that need to be repaired or changed. That buyer deals with that home loan and what to fix. Buying a home is very stressful,” he said. “They are moving to Liberty for a purpose. Most people come over here because they have a job they are starting in Baytown, Beaumont, Dayton, wherever. They need a shelter. They need a house. Any real estate agent will tell you how stressful it is to get to that point.”

Van Deventer said the City is sending the wrong message to people who choose to live in Liberty.

“‘Sir, thank you for moving to the City of Liberty but you might need to live in a hotel or your U-Haul for a couple of days until our inspectors can get around to inspect your service,'” Van Deventer said.

He said the City should not forbid service to someone over superficial problems with a house, such as a cracked window, leaky faucet and unsealed doors.

“If you have a dangerous service drop on your house, I get it, but are you going to tell this man who has spent his entire life savings and has a job to start that he needs to go find a hotel room,” Van Deventer said. “When you can get power turned on in Houston with a phone call and a credit card, we are going backwards, folks. Do you want people to move here or not move here?… Making people jump through hoops. This is wrong, y’all.”

He complained that the Liberty will be “left in the dust” by its sister city, Dayton, located just six miles west.

“Do you know why Dayton is going to leave Liberty in the dust? Because they are more advanced. You can go online in Dayton and fill out a schedule fee of the item that is to be performed. It’s set,” he said.

Other realtors at the meeting told Council they have clients setting up camp wherever they can while they wait on their electrical service. One realtor said her customer is living in his car while he waits.

“I think the reason why so many people are upset is there was zero communication,” said Ashleigh Morris, a realtor with Texas Diamond Realty. “To have a client call after closing. They have purchased a home and are legally bound to the property, to be stuck with a home that can’t have electricity for up to 10 days, and that’s just to get your initial appointment for an inspector, and if something goes wrong, oops, you need $3,000 of work. You have spent all your money paying for your own own and you can’t get out of it. It’s too late.”

Liberty resident Brandy Wells Corral said she learned of the ordinance while trying to transfer electrical service from her grandmother’s old home into her name after she purchased the property from her mother. Prior to purchasing the home, she lived in it for eight years.

“I don’t think this was thought through fully. I think on paper somehow things look good. Things on paper and the way things affect real people can look a lot different,” Corral said.

The citizens who addressed the Council also pointed out the nonsensical idea that homeowners could make repairs to their homes without electricity to operate saws, drills and other power tools.

The City Council and city management were responsive to the citizens’ concerns and thanked them for letting them know that the ordinance was causing a hardship that was never intended.

“This is not what I intended, that’s for certain, and I think I can speak for everyone else,” said Councilwoman Libby Simonson.

Simonson suggested forming a committee that would work with the City and suggested that Van Deventer serve on the committee. Her suggestion was received with applause by the citizens.

The City agreed to step back from the ordinance for the time being, with no required certificates of occupancy issued until the matter has further review.

Councilmembers Diane Driggers, Neal Thornton and Simonson, and Mayor Carl Pickett also emphasized the importance of citizens attending Council meetings on a regular basis and having a voice through public comments.

Liberty City Council meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Liberty City Hall.

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