Tenants’ Rights Working Group-View from the Ground in Whitehall
Columbus DSA’s Tenants’ Rights Working Group has been working with the residents of a property in the City of Whitehall, where there have been consistent issues between landlord and tenants. Our knowledge of these issues has come directly from tenants. The following is a select accumulation of the knowledge our team has obtained through various interviews with residents of this property.
This property is one of the cheapest family apartments available in the Columbus area, and simultaneously, among the worst. If you have a low income, for example if you are a single parent who has one or two retail jobs, on the surface, this residence is a reasonable price for the space it provides. However, there are consistent issues including flooding, working plumbing, and general disrepair. When tenants attempt to address these issues, there are incredibly long wait times and occasionally aggressive responses from management.
In some cases, residents have waited a year or more to receive basic repairs of ovens, maintenance of pest control, and remedy of mold resulting from flooding. The units are prone to mold, as basement flooding is common and they don’t use proper indoor wet room paint (i.e, around kitchen sinks and in bathrooms). The damage that comes from this is often attributed to tenants. We have seen kitchen flooring that has significantly eroded, stair cases that are falling apart, showers that haven’t functioned for a week at a time. For reference’s sake, landlords are legally required to address maintenance issues once brought to them by a tenant within 30 day of a request, or within 24 hours of an emergency request.
“There are significantly fewer maintenance staff than appropriate for the complex size, making the number of maintenance requests astronomical for a single worker — leaving maintenance calls to often go unanswered or blatantly ignored for weeks at a time. In one case, our unit dishwasher broke and it was a total of two months before anyone could get out to see us over it. It would be another three weeks before they finally replaced it.” — anonymous resident
On top of poor living conditions, management is swift with evictions and engages in consistently questionable fee charges. The electronic payment system, which tenants are charged a fee for, whether they use it or not, often holds or withdraws payments at random. Recently, residents have been charged upwards of one hundred dollars by the landlord for a single unit’s water bill, where it had been close to twenty dollars in previous months. If at any point, there is a lack of immediate payment of these dubious fees, residents are threatened with eviction. According to one resident, many tenants are evicted within the first one or two months of living at this property.
There is money to be made in a pattern of eviction of residents. There is a financial benefit to charging gratuitous fees. There is money in delaying or avoiding essential repairs. This pattern of accepting low income residents and throwing them under a steady fear of eviction is simply the business model of a corporate landlord — and is a direct product of the marriage of capitalism and lack of due diligence in regulation of reasonable living standards by the City of Whitehall.
Safe, reasonable, and affordable housing should be a human right — not an amenity that only those with certain job types can afford. Basic housing should not be something that private entities are able to constantly throw under threat for the most vulnerable people of our city.
If our findings made you as angry as it makes us, there is something you can do. Help us fight back. Join us at the next Tenants’ Rights Working Group meeting. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.