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Question of the Week

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What's your question? Write to: communitymanager@rhinohio.com
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PM writes: "...new tenants are required to sign a waiver stating that the owners know there is lead paint in the apartments and the tenants are moving in at their own risk and have no right to sue for illnesses caused by the lead."
Where to begin???? RHINO providers have suggested the following:
1. Get children tested for lead exposure.
 If the children have elevated blood lead levels, the Health Department will inspect and order landlord to make improvements.
See testing law below
2. Federal law requires disclosure of known lead hazards and tenant education materialsMake sure landlord complied with this duty.  See the rule here:  http://www2.epa.gov/lead/real-estate-disclosure
3. Ohio Landlord Tenant Law ORC 5321.13 (D) prohibits a landlord from including a clause in a rental agreement limiting the landlord's liability.  
(D) No agreement by a tenant to the exculpation or limitation of any liability of the landlord arising under law or to indemnify the landlord for that liability or its related costs shall be recognized in any rental agreement or in any other agreement between a landlord and tenant.  http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5321.13
4. Get a copy of the lease and waiver and get statements from tenants about what they were told.  Documentation...even affidavits of what people were told can help "prove the case" if further action is required.
5. Requiring this waiver MIGHT BE unlawful discrimination against families with children. There seems to be no clear case law on this subject, but RHINO is still researching.   Ohio Development Services Agency offers some a guidance on lead hazard and discrimination.

Martin asks: "Recently I received a letter from a company [name withheld] stating that they are the new billing company for the landlord and that there will now be a $4.00 per month billing fee to send me a bill each month."  There is nothing in the lease about this method of payment.
RHINO suggests:
1. As you know, Martin, a lease cannot be modified during the term of the lease. Depending on when the lease is up...maybe worth a fight or not.  If lease expires shortly, landlord can simply include the new fees and late charge policy in the lease. 
2. Since owner and management company are not responding to your inquiries, maybe get an attorney to review the notice from the billing company and contact the owner/agent. Sometimes a letter from a lawyer can get results.
3.  Because you live in a large complex, maybe a group of tenants could go together to cover the cost of an attorney. Collective bargaining is a protected activity under the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law. ORC 5321.02.  Keep in mind that the protections in this section of the law are fragile since retaliation is hard to prove and the law permits a landlord to terminate/non renew a rental agreement. 
If you consult an attorney ask her/him to advise on potential retaliation. 
PS:  RHINO is waiting to hear more about the situation as Martin proceeds.

 Sherry's summary: Friend was denied HUD housing because she owes back rent and her husband has criminal record* but is not in the household (see bullet points below). Now Sherry's friend is  homeless (see bullet points below).
1. Seems like Sherry's friend was denied because she owes money to the same management company where she was making an application. So she has two options: pay off what you owe (see bullet points below). or apply at a different property. HUD and USDA Homesearch tools provide list of peoperties with assisted units in the community.  Find the links here.  If the non payment (or eviction filing) shows up on friend's credit record, she can ask the credit agency to add language that explains the situation. Info on managing your credit record is here.
2. Apply at a different property.  Every HUD assisted property has its own tenant selection plan  These rules can be different from one owner to another. Unless she applies, she can't know how another LL will treat you.  It happens that a site manager will tell an applicant "don't bother to apply." No application, no denial, no appeal. 
3. If denied, get it in writing.   Once Sherry's friend has a reason for the denial, she or a helper (case manager or other advocate) can prepare an appeal.  Remember that the person hearing the appeal is different that the person who is making the initial decision.  PS:  RHINO can provide technical assistance to RHINO members in forming an appeal.

Here's some other things to take into consideration. 
  • The fact that Friend's spouse is not in the household means that his criminal background cannot be taken into consideration in her application.  If/when he rejoins the household, he will have to be approved for occupancy under the same Tenant Selection Plan.  HUD has been encouraging owner/agents to be more flexible on re entry cases.  
  • Housing homeless people/families can be a priority in the Tenant Selection Plan adopted by an owner.
  • Don't pay off an old debt without some written assurance that it will permit acceptance of an application.  Paying good money just to be denied for some other reason doesn't make sense.

Spencer Wells,
Mar 8, 2015, 8:01 AM