Amanda Servis and her family were evicted from their rental house in south Denton Thursday. Servis is running for the District 4 City Council seat.
Servis and the landlord, Marvin Williams of Lake Dallas, confirmed they had long-running battle over a leaking roof and wall in the house.
The family found another rental home in the City Council district, on Sandpiper Drive in the Southridge neighborhood. They moved in Wednesday and Thursday. However, the family’s move came one week sooner than planned, Servis said.
“We have a beautiful home now,” Servis said.
Four of the seven people who serve on the Denton City Council must live in the districts they represent. District 4 covers many south Denton neighborhoods, including Southridge, Forrestridge and Montecito, and Denia, next to Apogee Stadium.
According to court and city code enforcement records, the conflict began soon after Servis, her husband and their two young sons moved into the home on Woodbrook Street in Southridge. They complained in April 2016 that the front door wouldn’t lock. Then, in May 2016, they complained that water was getting into the house because of the leaking roof. They took that complaint to the city, too, saying the house did not meet basic minimum standards.
From January to March, the couple withheld rent payments, a common option for tenants to force a landlord to make repairs. In March, Williams went to Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Joe Holland and filed for eviction. When he filed, he claimed the couple owed three months' rent. He also claimed they kept a dog in the house without his consent.
The couple paid the back rent and then filed their own countersuit in Holland’s court to force Williams to make repairs.
In both cases, Holland ruled in favor of Williams and against Servis and her husband. The couple started to appeal Holland’s decisions in county court but ultimately didn’t follow through. Judge Robert Ramirez, who presides over County Court at Law No. 2, sent the case back to Holland's court without hearing the couple’s appeal.
The couple received notice from Williams on Wednesday that they had 24 hours to get out of the house. The couple said they were surprised that one day’s notice was considered sufficient, but constables escorted Williams to the house on Thursday to make sure the family had moved out.
“We have an attorney,” Servis said. “I don’t know how it would be for someone else who couldn’t get help.”
Williams said he normally wouldn’t comment publicly on an eviction case, but he believed the couple tried to make him out to be a slumlord.
“They would call out the city, but then they would not let me in to make repairs,” Williams said.
Williams owns two rental properties in Denton. He has filed to evict tenants from those properties more than 15 times in the past 20 years, court records show.
John Ryan, who is running against Servis for District 4, said someone told him about the case as it was happening, but didn’t know for sure until he saw the eviction notice online Thursday.
On Thursday night, Ryan and Servis appeared together in a candidate forum hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, but he did not bring up his opponent's eviction. Later, he said he did not want to mention it because he didn't know all the facts.
“I feel bad for her,” Ryan said. “While it’s definitely an issue where she lives, I’m sure she was having enough personal pain.”
Servis said things don’t always go smoothly when you stick up for your rights, but it’s still important to do.
“Even if you do fight back, there are going to be hiccups,” Servis said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.