Dallas apartment evicts tenant, throws belongings in dumpster. But it was the wrong unit.
He came home from work to find everything he owned was accidentally thrown in a dumpster by maintenance. But now, building management says he has no rights to reimbursement.
DALLAS - A Deep Ellum man says everything he and his daughter own was thrown in a dumpster after the management of his apartment building said they accidentally ordered maintenance to clean out his rental.
Turns out apartment management had the wrong unit number, and now that man says he's out tens of thousands of dollars. But the building management argues he never should have been living there to begin with.
After Johnny Abney spent years building a life for himself and his 9-year-old daughter, everything they own is gone.
"Clothing items. All of my groceries. They cleared out my refrigerator full of groceries," he said. "Right down to the shower curtain."
The items weren’t stolen. They were thrown in the dumpster by order of the management at The Hamilton, the high-end midrise apartment building where Abney lived in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas.
"They came to my door and cleaned everything out from my clothes to my daughter’s clothes, toothbrush, bathing items, pretty much left me with nothing," he said.
It's all in a police report Abney filed when he returned home from work in late July to find his apartment door unlocked and the contents cleared out.
According to the report's narrative, a leasing agent on site said "there was a misunderstanding, and maintenance accidentally cleared out Abney's unit" instead of the unit next door where a tenant was being evicted.
All of Abney's belongings had been thrown in the dumpster hours earlier and had been picked over by other residents.
"Not only did they put my stuff out. They watched people take my property all day," he said.
Property management offered to get what they could from the trash and return it to Abney’s unit. He says they even had that stained mattress professionally cleaned, but most of his and his daughter's stuff was gone for good.
Much of what did make it back from the dumpster was damaged.
"They told me it was a mistake. They apologized," Abney said. "They were overly apologetic. ‘Let us know if anything's missing.’"
But that quickly took a turn.
Abney recorded a conversation he had with one of the leasing agents who was quick to point out that the apartment in which he and his daughter lived was leased by his ex-girlfriend who had since moved out of state.
Abney was subletting without permission. And even though receipts provided to FOX 4 by an attorney for The Hamilton show Abney paid the nearly $3,000 in rent each month, any direct discussion about making him whole was off the table.
"We are binded like by law. We cannot discuss anything with you or anybody who is not her lease," the apartment manager said.
According to this lawsuit Abney has now filed against the property management company, they gave him 24 hours to fill out his own rental application or face eviction.
"I've already lost property," he said. "Now you trying to kick me off the property with no resolve?"
The eviction notice was posted on his door 24 hours later.
Jason Freidman is Abney's attorney. He says the issue of who was on the lease is irrelevant.
"The rent was paid in full. There was no reason to go into his apartment. There was no reason to throw anything away," he said. "The apartment building didn't know when they threw all of that stuff away who's stuff it was, whether it was the person on the lease or his."
There is an update on a consumer alert FOX 4 first reported on at the end of last June. A home builder walked away from a contract just days before closing, leaving one North Texas family homeless.
Freidman adds Abney chose not to fill out the application or pay the fee required for one very simple reason.
"He chose not to because he wanted to resolve the situation with the property that you threw away before I decide if I'm going to stay in this building," Freidman said.
An attorney for The Hamilton would not speak on camera but did communicate by phone and email. He said even if Abney did fill out the rental application, he would have been denied because he already violated the lease terms as an unauthorized occupant.
"With me losing all my property, that's the last thing on my mind," Abney said.
According to the lawsuit, The Hamilton also alleged there was counterfeit money pulled from Abney's things. That was another reason they said he would not have been welcome to stay.
FOX 4 asked The Hamilton to provide a police report, photos or video or any evidence at all. They provided none.
Back at Abney’s, among the discarded pile of trashed school supplies with which his daughter was supposed to start the fifth grade, we found our own. The play money clearly marked as "copy" right next to what's left of her bed.
FOX 4 sent a list of questions to The Hamilton via their attorney, which went unanswered. They would not sit down with us for an interview. They did say they asked Abney for a list of what was missing from his fridge to establish a value for reimbursement.
Abney says that never happened. He did move out days after we met with him. He and his daughter are temporarily staying with family.
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