Residents of Southeast Houston apartment complex damaged by tornado cannot access their belongings

Hundreds of residents at one Southeast Houston apartment complex are having to start all over after the powerful tornado destroyed everything, but they can't access the property and getting mixed answers from the property manager. 

SUGGESTED: 3 Southeast Texas tornadoes confirmed in Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria counties

Adriana Medina is trying to gather things from her unit at Beamer Place Apartments. While many of her neighbors lost everything, her unit is still intact, but without power. She and all the other tenants are trying to collect their belongings, but can't get on the property until they sign liability documents. Medina and her fiancé have issues with the document.

Liability document tenants at Beamer Place Apartments received Thursday evening

"The first part of it, sure…they want to protect themselves a liability if anybody gets injured while on the property," says Joe Bermudez. "I totally understand that, but why sneak in lines down here, talking about how you can either get the money that we owe you, or you can get your things, not both?" 

Other tenants did not hesitate to sign the documents and were let in. Some told FOX 26 they were required to pay their February rent before entering. 

"They don't really want to speak about it," says Medina. "They just want us to sign these papers."

There was heavy police and security presence on the property when FOX 26 arrived. Entrance gates for tenants were locked by 5 p.m. while construction crews were removing debris. We're told they were preparing to demolish many of the damaged units. 

On Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner and other city officials visited Beamer Place, assuring the public that the damaged property will be addressed. 

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Tenants like Adriana Medina aren't confident things will be squared away at all. She's hoping to get inside to collect precious items, like a picture of her mother Maria, who died just five months ago. 

"I have four kids," says Medina. "I've already lost two days of work. I need my kids things, too. They're still little. They want their things." 

FOX 26 stood outside the leasing office after Loretta Wiley, the Property Supervisor, told us they would address the concerns after their office closed, but staff members snuck out Thursday evening. Beamer Place is owned by SMI Realty Management, according to their website. 

FOX 26 reached out to Lone Star Legal Aid about this issue. While he couldn't comment on the complaints at Beamer Apartments, Eric Kwartler, of the organization's Eviction Right to Counsel Unit says, in general, a property owner cannot demand a liability waiver like this very easily for someone to simply enter their home.

"It is dangerous in these situations," says Kwartler. "The tenants should be careful because sometimes, unfortunately, the units are total losses. But being able to access your home and retrieve your belongings...excluding you because you will not sign a liability waiver....when we see that, we generally have a concern."

Item number six on Medina's copy of the document focuses on a "no duress" clause. It states: I agree and acknowledge that I am under no pressure or duress to sign this agreement and that I have been given a reasonable opportunity to review it before signing.

Medina just received the document Wednesday.

"Both asking you to sign a liability waiver, and that includes provisions that say that you're not signing under's difficult for me to understand how not being able to access one's belongings in one's home, and being requested to sign something to do so is anything but the very definition of duress," says Kwartler.

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