City Attorney Files Largest Nuisance Suit In Columbus History
By CLARE ROTH • SEP 19, 2018
Columbus leaders announced the largest public nuisance lawsuit in the city’s history today, naming three large multi-building apartment complexes with 802 units owned by one realty group.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein says one complex, the Mayfair Village Apartments on East Broad Street near Whitehall, had a multitude of health, sanitation and safety violation. In June, the city began fining the company $1,000 a day.
“Those fines have now racked up over $75,000, so this really is a last resort,” Klein says.
Klein says the city started working with the property management group AMG in early 2017, but they failed to fully comply.
“There’s a litany of things: extensive water damage, inoperable furnaces, damaged walls and ceilings, a ceiling actually collapsed on an individual, someone fell through a steps, mold, drains, lighting fixtures with exposed wires that are live wires that someone could get electrocuted, roach infestations, rodent infestations,” Klein says.
But Klein says there’s no immediate danger for tenants.
“We are not looking to shut them down and relocate 802 units, because there’s no immediate threat,” he says. “What we are looking to do is use the court process to compel this individual to fix these properties immediately.”
While the City Attorney’s office has gone after, and closed, apartment complexes as recently as last month, Klein says this case is different – it’s about quality of life, instead of crime.
“Shutting down places, most of the time, it’s in conjunction with police,” Klein says. “It’s about violence, it’s about drugs, it’s about gangs. This time, it’s about poor quality of life.”
The lawsuit also involves AMG’s Hartford on the Lake comlpex near Noe-Bixby Park, and the Fitzroy Apartments just off Morse Road.
The lawsuit is filed in Franklin County Environmental Court.
Until the city passes legislation to treat any property being rented whether a company, LLC, or individual as a defined business with a set of rules and regulations with specific definitions, compliance, and enforcement, this problem with continue to fester.
- Required registering of all rental properties with a better yearly required valid contact information to include a valid email.
- In addition to this there should be a mechanism next to the contact number to quickly report if the contact info is not valid so that the auditors office can take action for incorrect information. This is technology that can easily be implemented and at least follows the principal that the city needs to provide better resources so citizens can “partner” with the city so that the city can have reliable information on property owners whether, owned, rented, or bank owned and take more timely action when citizens report a concern to code enforcement. There are many people that try to report issues but get stuck immediately on the first page
- Properties for profit rentals, etc should have to pay an administration fee or rental tax or rental license fee to the city for this. We tax everything else why not these properties that our renting in our communities and taking advantage of our city resources of trash pickup and community maintenance, hence our BIG major bulk trash situation MOSTLY caused by rental properties!
- As a home owner we pay to have trash removed based on average occupancy of a single home dwelling and most likely taking into account the turnover of the property. Properties that are rented should have to pay a higher fee because their trash burden to the city is more substantial than my usage.
- Out of state property owners, companies, or LLCs should be required to have a local property manager.
- Properties for rent should have a certification statement from a governing agency of acceptable living conditions similar to the requirements sent forth in order to have a property certified as Section 8.
- Rental properties formed as LLC’s should be required to show their Profit-Loss Statements. This information should be readily available on the Auditors site.
- Rental contracts that have to be filed with the city with specific language that includes code enforcement requirements of maintaining a property in the city this would include language in the contract that if a tenant for example fails to maintenance a property such as mowing, snow removal, etc or code enforcement the owner is immediately responsible regardless of whether language is specified in the contract of renter responsibility.
- The city should provide services to a property owner that rents to compose and have a sheet listing city services, rules, etc. This can even go further and include local block-watches and nearby community organizations.
- The city should compose and have available to rental property owners a list of expectations, city services, how to use, etc for all renters. The property owner renting should be required to hand out to every renter and every time they rent to a new renter.
- The eviction process needs to be changed to remove the “set out” process of evicted tenants. This just contributes to our trash and blight problem in our communities.
- The property owner is responsible for the proper removal of tenant belongings left in a property and not allowed to be set out as bulk for the city to have to take care of.
- There should be an “Angie’s List” of some kind that is easily assessable for both tenants and landlords to check the “rating” factor of both tenants and landlords.