CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, News 5 misidentified a woman as a representative of Lake Shore Towers’ management. It has come to our attention that the woman was, in fact, a resident with the same first name, and not the property manager. Her quote has been removed and we regret the error.
A company that manages a Lakewood apartment building is defending itself against claims it unlawfully forced low-income tenants to pay for their own pest control.
Tenants living at Lake Shore Towers on Edgewater Drive filed a suit against Columbus-based Showe Management in Lakewood Municipal Court in June, claiming a bed bug treatment agreement they signed, that puts the cost burden on tenants, violated a Lakewood ordinance.
Invoices showed tenants, many of whom were elderly and living on fixed incomes, were ordered to pay as much as $700 for treatment or faced eviction.
Lakewood City Councilman Dan O’Malley said that ordinance requires landlords pay for treatment when there’s an infestation. He toured the building in March and sent a letter demanding the landlord rescind their agreement.
Ordinance 1306.34 reads in part, "Whenever infestation exists in two or more occupancies...or in the shared or public parts of a dwelling containing two or more dwelling units, or in the shared or public parts of an occupiable structure, extermination thereof shall be the responsibility of the owner.”
Since that lawsuit was filed, Showe Management filed a counter suit, claiming Lakewood’s ordinance violated Ohio state landlord tenant law, which has no such language.
In a statement to News 5, an attorney also claimed “There is no pervasive infestation,” adding, "The bed bug policy used at Lake Shore Tower Apartments has been reviewed and approved by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. In developing its policy, Lakeshore Associates has also made sure that its policy and procedures comply with the Ohio Landlord Tenant law and local ordinances."
Mary Otter is one of the tenants suing. An invoice showed she was forced to fork over about $600 after she noticed the bugs in her unit.
"I’m on a fixed income. I can’t afford a $600, $700 bill,” Otter said, adding she’s since been pleased with how the landlord has tried to resolve the issue, saying Showe recently stopped forcing people to pay.
Now, Otter hopes a judge makes that decision permanent.