Landlord or property manager is picking on tenants. What remedies?
What protections do tenants have? 1. If the harassment is based on the tenants being members of a protected class, Federal or State Fair Housing Act unless the tenants can show that they are being harassed BECAUSE OF THEIR PROTECTED CLASS. Examples:
Tenant filed a FH complaint, then got a lease violation notice.
Tenants suffered disparate impacts because of their protected status.
in other cases you'd have to show that the tenants who were subjected to harassment were being treated differently from other tenants because of their protected class. An equal opportunity harasser not subject to Fair Housing Act.
2. Ohio Landlord Tenant Law. Section 5321.02 defines "retaliation" as
increasing the rent
decreasing the services
threatening to evict
This section goes on to say that proof of retaliation is a defense against eviction. (We are aware that there are some cases where tenants have sought a declaratory judgement for retaliation, absent an eviction action, but this is rare and egregious circumstances.)
3. Make an administrative complaint either to higher ups in the management company or to a funder if there's public funding in the property
4. If victims are seniors, it may be possible to bring a charge of elder abuse under Ohio Law.
PROOF IS KEY so here's some ideas: 1. witnesses, especially folks who can make a written statement of what they witnessed that is close in time to the event 2. tape recordings of encounters (taping a conversation is legal as long as one of the parties knows that it is being taped). 3. any documents that state or imply a threat.
Advocates can help Tenants rights organizations Disability or Gender rights organizations Private fair housing organization Topics we're researching to add new content
Sexual harassment Declaratory judgement for retaliation
Final score: Tenants 4,050,000 versus Slumlords nothing!
The news broke this past Friday that Derek and Graig Brown ("The Brown brothers") were ordered to pay $4, 050,000 to three former tenants who charged the Brown Brothers with harassment and intimidation under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Among the illegal practices of these landlords were "self help evictions" like turning off utilities, seizing tenants belongings, and padlocking the premises as well as threats of physical injury. The most important take away from the decision is that tenants can find justice from the court system with proper representation and lots of perseverance. Hopefully, this decision will encourage more tenants to come forward and fight for their rights.
The Brown brothers are notorious landlords in Cleveland where they have been able to perpetuate their rental business despite numerous civil judgments by shifting their assets from one corporation to another. According to the article, "The Brown brothers could not be located to be served with the lawsuit despite numerous attempts.... Both have used personal aliases, as well as a host of company names and addresses in Ohio and Florida...." The tenants' attorney Diane Citrino told the Plain Dealer "...numerous attempts were made to find them, including going to their properties when they usually collect rent and trying to catch one at an appointment with a probation officer - he didn't show. Judge Donald Nugent was able to rule proceed without the Browns after a notice of the lawsuit was published in The Plain Dealer multiple times. Other prosecutions in Cleveland Housing Court have been similarly thwarted.
Another reason this decision is important to tenants across Ohio is that local officials are on notice that slumlords are a hazard to their communities. This past year, a progressive mayor and city council in Pittsburgh has been enacting really serious controls over abusive landlords as a result of some highly publicized "slumlord" cases. Too often local courts and media treat landlord abuse as "business as usual," but high visibility cases can change that perception.
One really disturbing feature of this case is that fact that a child of one of the defendants got lead poisoning from one of the Brown Brothers rental housing. Cleveland's enforcement of poisoned houses is an on going scandal and owners like the Brown brothers perpetuate these poisoned environments.
RHINO member Mary Clark riffs on the Brown Brothers and more on the RHINO Contributors page.