The city of Cincinnati has filed its third lawsuit in less than a week against a landlord it accuses of neglecting properties and exploiting tenants.
The city’s latest lawsuit accuses Texas-based VineBrook Homes of creating a “public nuisance” and repeatedly violating both the Ohio Landlord Tenant Act and Cincinnati Municipal Code.
The complaint also says VineBrook breached a 2021 settlement agreement in another lawsuit filed by the city.
The earlier lawsuit was settled with VineBrook admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to pay $563,000 in fines and unpaid water bills and promising to fix properties that inspectors found in violation of city codes.
The latest complaint was filed by the Quality of Life Division of the City Solicitor’s Office. It will be heard in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.
“We disagree with allegations in the City’s complaint and will vigorously defend our company, employees, and reputation. Since beginning our operations in Cincinnati 15 years ago, VineBrook has worked diligently and directly with the city to address business issues and provide safe and affordable housing. We view this latest development as an opportunity to refocus our efforts and we remain committed to providing safe, functional, and affordable single-family rental homes to residents to help set them on a pathway to homeownership and a better financial future,” VineBrook said in a statement to The Enquirer.
The city last week filed a lawsuit against the owners of the 976-unit Williamsburg Apartments of Cincinnati in Hartwell, accusing the landlord of a “pattern of neglectful behavior that has created conditions no one should be forced to live in,” Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval said during a press conference.
Both lawsuits seek a court order requiring the landlords to fix issues with their properties in a timely manner.
VineBrook owns approximately 950 properties in Cincinnati, including more than 5% of all housing stock in some communities. The company has an extensive history of building, health, and safety code violations, according to the city.
“We have no tolerance for investors who come into Cincinnati, let properties degrade, and exploit tenants,” Pureval said in a press release. “VineBrook’s neglectful behavior has caused significant harm to renters, and the City of Cincinnati will fight back with everything we have to protect our residents.”
The lawsuits against VineBrook and Williamsburg show the city’s “willingness to prosecute bad-acting landlords,” according to a press release.
In addition to the lawsuits against VineBrook and Williamsburg, the city also filed suit last week against H&E Enterprises, a business entity of landlord and property owner Avi Ohad, accusing it of negligent practices.
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