^
Keep Houston Press Free
4

Woman Claims Landlord Ordered Her Apartment To Be Barricaded

Joe Gutierrez was watching television in her Montrose apartment when a man she didn't recognize started barricading her front door.

At first Gutierrez thought she heard construction, but when she peeked outside her window, she saw the maintenance man nailing boards across her front door, blocking the entranceway. Gutierrez panicked and called the police, who ultimately tore down the plywood.

“I didn't know the law system too hard, so I didn't know if it was illegal for him to do things like that, and I didn't understand it," Gutierrez said." I was just closed up. I was thinking, 'I just can't believe this. I just can't believe it.'"

An officer had just been to Gutierrez's Colquitt Street home the day before, to tell her she needed to leave. Gutierrez had lost an eviction court battle three days earlier against her landlord, Brett Stettner. Stettner evicted her for unpaid rent, loud music and having a roommate who wasn't on the lease, according his former attorney, Jerry Schutza. But Gutierrez's attorney, U.A. Lewis, contends Stettner simply would not come by to collect Gutierrez's payments, wanting her gone.

The law allows tenants up to five days to appeal an eviction judgment and to stay in their home if they pay one month's rent into the court registry, Lewis said. Despite the fact that Gutierrez was still within this five-day window and was appealing the ruling, a police officer showed up at her door to tell her to pack up. Gutierrez phoned Lewis right away, and the attorney said she explained to the officer that Gutierrez was appealing. So the officer left, Lewis said.

Yet the following day, Gutierrez said the maintenance man showed up and started hammering plywood onto her door. He built a three-sided enclosure over the door.

Gutierrez said she recalls the maintenance man telling police he intended to leave a “small opening so she could get out,” apparently as ordered by the landlord.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Now, Gutierrez is suing Stettner for false imprisonment, wrongful eviction—since she claims Stettner wouldn't take her money—and retaliation. Stettner ultimately dropped the original eviction case against Gutierrez since she moved out, shortly after almost getting barricaded inside, which made the case moot. She's seeking more than $75,000 in damages in the new case.

Lewis told us that she could think of no other reason as to why Stettner would send a maintenance man to nail Gutierrez inside her home other than because he was angry that she was continuing to fight him about the eviction.

“People call up my office with these stories, and you think maybe the tenant is delusional and making it up—or that the landlord has lost their mind,” Lewis said. “And strangely enough, you find out that these are actually things that are happening. In this case, at first I was thinking, 'Well maybe he didn't know that she was in there.' But no, she let him know—they had had that issue the day before when he tried to call the police on her.”

We tried to reach Stettner to find out why the maintenance man arrived at Gutierrez' apartment that day. He failed to return multiple phone calls seeking comment.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.