CLEVELAND – Shaker Square tenants like Ronald James, living in Shaker Square Residences, say they are tired of having to live with what they call intermittent heating issues, water service interruptions and more Again.
James and other tenants living in three buildings owned by Shaker Heights Apartments Owner LLC told News 5 they had contacted Friedman Communities building management about several issues since January, but are still facing several issues, including chronic elevator problems, water leaks, and suspected mold issues.
“So everyone is really cold in this building and really angry,” James said. “They keep raising the rent, they keep making cosmetic changes. But all the upgrades to this building have gone to empty apartments so they can get more income, but the people living in those apartments don’t ‘get no improvement.When we ask the management about the problems, they always say they are doing their best, but they don’t do anything.
Saretha Douglas, who is also a tenant at the complex, hopes the City of Cleveland will take additional steps to encourage building owners to make more permanent heating and plumbing repairs.
“There is ceiling damage throughout my apartment,” Douglas said. “So walking out of one room and going to another is like walking outside. It’s completely cold, it’s terrible. They put bandages on everything instead of fixing everything. Would you like your family to stay in this cold, would you like your family not to be able to flush the toilet?”
Some tenants, like Regina Burton, who lives at 12500 Shaker Boulevard, have taken their case to Cleveland Housing Court and are exploring legal ways to withhold rent payments until repairs are made.
“We’re going to escrow because there’s no point in sending anything to them,” Burton said. “The only way for them to be careful is if they don’t get that money every month.”
News 5 contacted the Cleveland Housing Court about the case, and it said Shaker Heights Apartments Owner LLC failed to show up for its Oct. 18 court date, so now the court is issuing fines.
The Cleveland Housing Court released the following statement:
An arraignment hearing was set for 10/18/2022, where the defendant did not show up. Their failure to appear resulted in the listing of Apartment Owner Shaker Heights, LLC on the Business Registry, where they will face penalties of $1,000.00 per day (per day) until they appear in person before the tribunal. The next court date is set for 12/5/22 at 1:00 p.m. where they will appear on the business docket in Room 13B of the Justice Center.
All active eviction cases under this LLC will be stayed in accordance with the Courts Clean Hands Doctrine
News 5 has also reached out to Cleveland Building and Housing Director Sally Martin O’Toole about the case. She confirmed that building inspectors were at the complex on October 25 and that building management had begun repairs, restoring heat to affected apartments. Martin said she is now waiting to see what building violations are found by inspectors.
News 5 has made several attempts to contact the building’s ownership through its Friedman Communities leadership team since October 21, but we are still awaiting a response.
Meanwhile, Jay Westbrook of the Shaker Square Alliance, told News 5 that there had been an increase in repair problems at apartment buildings in the Shaker Square area, in part due to the growing number of out-of-town investors buying properties.
They bleed people for rent and don’t put the money back in the building and send it back to New York,” Westbrook said. “Just within a two-block radius of Shaker Square, there are 77 high-end apartment buildings, classic apartment buildings at the time, that have been bled out. Those landlords are from Boca Raton, France, from Manhattan, from Utah, they come to bleed people.”
There will be a meeting on Friday, October 28 at 6 p.m. where affected tenants can meet with Legal Aid and tenant association leaders at 11811 Shaker Blvd. to discuss their problems.
Cleveland City Council Speaker Blaine Griffin said the city will take additional steps to help distressed tenants.
“I’m beyond anger, I’m beyond frustration right now that we have old people in the city of Cleveland, these days, in this civilized country, that we have a landlord and we let’s have a landlord who has the audacity to make people live in those kinds of circumstances,” Griffin said. “This property has continued to drive up rent prices here, and those are people who call Cleveland home, and I’m going to talk to all the lawyers I can to see if we can sue this group, that we can sue them.”
However, worried tenants like Tony Dial wonder how difficult it will be to legally trace the owners of the building.
“You have investors from out of town who have come here. What was their purpose in buying these three buildings, certainly not the purpose of bringing it up to standard, because they did nothing,” Dial said.
“My question to politicians is why does real estate get a pass? If you check the LLCs that own these properties, there are four of them, well, who is the real owner? So if you’re trying to go after them, who are you going after?”