AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) – Chris Newby usually parks his cars in his garage and driveway. Last month, a stranger parked his car just a few feet away in Newby’s guest room.
“It sounds like a plane hit the house, I mean, I felt like I hit the ceiling,” Newby said. “The whole house just shook.”
It was Jan. 19 at 2:30 a.m. Newby was upstairs sleeping when the car barreled into a spare bedroom right below.
The Honda made a mess of the spare room.
“Looked like a tornado hit it. I mean, the entire room was just crunched,” Newby said.
He said he tried to rescue the driver but couldn’t get to him through the rubble. Emergency crews were able to reach him, and police arrested the driver on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to an APD police report.
Newby wasn’t hurt, but there was a lot of damage to his house. To add insult to injury, about 10 days later, he received a letter from the city for code violations because of the status of his house. The letter was dated the day of the crash.
“There are two different violations,” Newby said. “One for having a hole in my house and one for having no window.”
The letter explained Newby had 30 days to get his house in order or face consequences, including as much as a $2,000 fine per violation, per day.
“It felt tone deaf to me,” Newby said. “I’m in violation for being a victim.”
The Austin Fire Department notified the Austin Code Department about Newby’s house, said Matthew Noriega, a division manager at the code department. He said the citation is the city’s policy and procedure, with the ultimate goal of ensuring safety.
“This was a catastrophic incident and they wanted to ensure that the homeowners were safe and the building was safe,” Noriega said.
Violation notices, he said, are also issued after other catastrophic events, like fires. But with all violations, the city policy includes a chance for leeway with extra time given to come up to code.
“If an extension is needed, we will give them that extension,” Noriega explained. “We work with the owners or management.”
Newby made contact with a code inspector who he said told him he could have extra time to make repairs. Even so, the Austin native is disappointed.
“Austin is kind of going against me,” he said. “It feels a little less like home every day.”
Newby said the driver’s insurance is paying for the repairs, which should be completed around the end of February.
According to the Austin Code Department’s annual report, in fiscal year 2022, the department investigated more than 28,000 code complaints and 86% of properties achieved voluntary compliance.