Lawsuit over Cleveland apartment building conditions moves to federal court

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 5:32 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The city of Cleveland’s lawsuit against the landlord of the Residences at Shaker Square apartments has now moved to federal court.

The lawsuit said the property’s owner has several housing code violations. The company owns three apartment buildings on Shaker Boulevard in Shaker Square.

Tenants, like Ronald James, are fighting for better living conditions.

“We spent the whole winter cold trying use the space heater and ovens to stay warm and I think that really galvanized the tenants of the three buildings to start taking some kind of action,” James said.

James said a lack of heat is not the only problem. He said there have been trash pie ups, leaking roofs, and broken elevators to name a few.

“We’ve also had black mold and infestation of rats and insects, so it’s been very hard,” James said. “Very difficult to live here.”

He said the landlord has increased their rent despite making necessary repairs to the building. James said many of his neighbors will keep their rent in escrow while this lawsuit is pending.

“We’re working class people, a lot of us are retired on a fixed income,” James said. “We just can’t afford these big increases in rent when we don’t have the services we need.”

Jay Westbrook, a former long-time Cleveland City Council member, works with the Morelands Group that is partnering with the tenants.

“This is a super, super slumlord,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook explained the lawsuit, which was in Cleveland Housing Court, has been moved to federal court by the landlord’s request.

“This landlord, we believe as a delay tactic, as to exercise their right,” Westbrook said. “It is a right of the defendant to say this case really belongs in federal court.”

If the property does go into receivership, someone else would take over the property’s maintenance.

Tenants hope that is what ultimately happens.

“If the receiver comes it will be the first time in city history a receiver has been appointed to manage an apartment building,” James said. “We’re optimistic the receiver will improve the conditions in the building.”