Feb 3, 2023 - News

"Distressed" Buckeye-Shaker tenants hit back at absentee landlords

Council president Blaine Griffin speaks animatedly at a lectern outdoors, as a diverse group of neighbors in winter clothes watch

City council president Blaine Griffin says enough is enough. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Tenants of three apartment buildings on Shaker Boulevard have formed a "distressed tenants" organization and are planning to withhold their rent to force a New York-based ownership group to make essential, long-delayed improvements.

  • They cited water damage, mold and a persistent lack of heat at a press conference Wednesday outside 12500, 12600 and 12701 Shaker.

The (dangerous) details: More than 10 units in the Shaker complex, owned by The Chetrit Group, have been without heat for two years, according to resident Chimene Anderson, who said she keeps her unit warm with two space heaters and an open oven set to 400 degrees.

  • Despite these conditions, tenants are still paying $900 per month or more in rent.

The big picture: Remote "predatory investors," such as The Chetrit Group, have been scooping up low-cost properties in Cleveland and extracting as much rent as possible while not paying for building upkeep or improvements before reselling for a quick profit.

Why it matters: City officials say these companies are degrading the local housing stock and limiting the available supply for local buyers.

What they're saying: Council President Blaine Griffin said it's time for City Hall to use "every tool in its toolbox" to hold The Chetrit Group and owners like them responsible.

  • "As a landlord, you have a special responsibility to keep your tenants warm, safe and dry," he said. "This is one of the most deplorable situations I've ever witnessed in Cleveland."

The latest: In partnership with Cleveland City Council and the neighborhood Morelands Group, the Shaker tenants are creating an escrow account with the Cleveland Municipal Housing Court to force the owner's hand, an arrangement permitted by Ohio law.

The other side: The Chetrit Group and registered agent Michael Chetrit did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

Of note: Tenants also say they can't get The Chetrit Group, which has owned the complex for a little more than a year, to return calls, despite pleas for building improvements.

What's next: Councilwoman Deborah Gray told reporters she's going to New York City to visit The Chetrit Group's offices to demand answers.

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