City's lawsuit targets Houston's biggest landlord

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The man who owns the most single family homes in Houston could lose almost five dozen of them if he fails to bring them up to code.

Late Friday the city of Houston filed a civil lawsuit against Richard Lee Pfirman demanding he clean up and make safe 56 homes in the Houston area. The legal maneuver is a last ditch attempt to compel Pfirman to fix the worst of his dilapidated houses, many of them rentals, according to the city attorney's office.

"The city doesn't want people living in these types of structures. Neighbors don't want them around. There's drug activity, vagrant activity," said Assistant City Attorney Donna Edmundson.

Ultimately, the city could demolish the homes and bill Pfirman the cost of the demolition, Edmundson said.

A Local 2 Investigation last November found that at that time Pfirman owned 361 homes in Harris County.

Late last year, the city of Houston filed a similar but much smaller lawsuit against Pfirman regarding 14 of his properties.

The city attorney's office said it took a contempt of court notice and the threat of jail time, but Pfirman did finally comply with that court order.

Late Monday, a representative for Pfirman who identified himself as Artie Jones, Construction Manger for All American Properties, said he and Mr. Pfirman were just seeing the new lawsuit for the first time.

"Right now, it looks like a lot of these properties have already been brought into compliance, but we will be working with the city, and we did get those other 14 resolved from the earlier lawsuit," Jones said.

The city attorney's office tells us Pfirman already owes tax payers more than $350,000 in the form of liens placed against some of his properties for cleanup work.

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