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How some Cincinnati officials want to crack down on negligent landlords


Cincinnati landlords with unsafe housing would face new regulations under a few ordinances being considered by City Council. Mayor Aftab Pureval proposed the measures, which were introduced in council’s Equitable Growth and Housing Committee Tuesday.

About 60% of all Cincinnati households are renting. Of those, 75% are considered low to extremely low income, according to the latest HUD data.

"It's going to be several weeks before we take up the substance of this, including a presentation from the administration, so there will be time for community engagement," said Committee Chair Jeff Cramerding. "And just to be clear, it's my intent — and I think the intent of the council and the administration — to focus on these very, very large, very, very out of town landlords that do not have any community connections that have got a long track record of violations."

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Three separate ordinances are up for consideration. One would make landlords with unsafe properties pay for moving tenants to new housing. In the past, the city has taken on some of that cost, or helped residents find other financial help.

Another would allow the city to hire contractors to fix essential services like furnaces and sewer pipes, if the landlord fails to complete the necessary repairs. The city would bill the landlord for the cost.

The third ordinance would expand the Residential Rental Inspection Pilot Program, which started in 2021 in Avondale, CUF, and East Price Hill. The program aims to speed up the correction of code violations and prevent rental housing from deteriorating. If a property meets certain criteria — like a high number of code violations in a short period of time — the city will conduct regular inspections to keep the owner accountable.

The ordinance would make the pilot program permanent and expand it to West Price Hill, Westwood, College Hill and Madisonville. It would also add a new element: if a property in one of those neighborhoods qualifies for more frequent inspections, all other housing owned by the same landlord anywhere in the city will be reviewed as well.

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A few small, local landlords told the council committee they're concerned about adding rules that would make it difficult for small businesses to keep up.

"What we don't want to lose is the perspective of the small housing provider in the conversation when you're going after these big box rental companies," said Tiffani Ray, incoming president of the Real Estate Investors Association of Greater Cincinnati.

Cramerding says the proposed rules are focused on "institutional investors" with hundreds of properties, but all landlords should be accountable.

"If you go into the housing business with the intent of making a profit or as an investment, that is a very high responsibility," Cramerding said. "When you enter that business, you need to do so in a deliberate manner, so that you can provide your tenants with a safe environment. And if you cannot provide your tenants with a safe environment, to the extent that the city has to relocate them, I am not sympathetic to that situation."

Ray says her concern is primarily about being part of the conversation.

"For the most part, I think it's the right thing to do, personally, this is my personal opinion. But I'd like to have a seat at the table," she told WVXU. "My organization, people like me — I have been a housing provider in the city of Cincinnati for over 30 years — there's no place for our voice."

Cramerding says the extended timeline allows for community engagement and refining the measures as needed.

The Equitable Growth and Housing Committee meets every other Tuesday, but the next two regular meetings are canceled because they fall on Election Day (Nov. 7) and the week of Thanksgiving (Nov. 21). The next regular meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.