Lakeway residents claim city workers entering homes uninvited
Lakeway resident Dan Hess says the only person he gave permission to be in his home while he was out last Thursday was a hired contractor installing bathroom tile.
That same day, Hess got a call from the contractor who claimed a City of Lakeway code enforcer was in his closet, taking pictures.
"He panicky called me and said there was a man in my closet… and turns out the man in my closet taking pictures was a city worker," says Hess.
Hess says the contractor told him the code enforcer came into the home to make sure he had a permit for the tile.
However, the city employee allegedly was not given permission to enter. "He could have been in there for who knows how long, there's no way of knowing," says Hess.
Dan Hess posted his story on Facebook. Quickly, he realized he wasn't alone. "A number of residents reached out to me saying they've had the exact same experience -- a city worker letting themselves into their house either when they're there or not and taking pictures inside their house with no authority whatsoever," says Hess.
Several of those residents reached out to CBS Austin.
One claims a Lakeway code enforcer broke into their backyard gate and started taking pictures. Another resident showed surveillance video, which appears to catch a city employee entering a home with the door open, announcing himself seconds later.
"This is a complete violation of trust, complete violation of their role as government," says Hess.
CBS Austin took the issue to Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones.
Jones says no other homeowners have filed complaints claiming city workers are entering homes uninvited. "It depends on the situation and if the contractor is the lawful agent of the owner," says Jones.
However, according to Lakeway attorney David Groom, government employees should always err on the side of caution when it comes to private property rights. "The right belongs to the homeowner not the contractor. The contractor probably doesn't even have the right to give them permission to come in… and it's really overstepping their boundaries to rely on that," says Groom.
According to City Manager Jones, the City and Police Department are looking into what happened at Dan Hess's house.
Jones says Lakeway will review and retrain workers on appropriate protocol, and encourages any residents who feel they've been the victim of trespassing, to call the city and police.
In the meantime, Hess tells CBS Austin the City has yet to disclose the name of the city worker that entered his home last week.