January flooding at a luxury apartment complex in Beachwood is leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent being kept away from the building's landlords, at least for now.
The "rent strike" at The Vue includes about 40 residents, but the path to making them whole again isn't clearly defined. Filing their monthly rent with the court protects them from getting evicted and forces management to address resident concerns before getting the rent.
In February, March and April, those residents have paid nearly $250,000 in rent to the Shaker Heights Municipal Court.
"We're paying our full rent and we weren't getting what we were promised," said The Vue resident Neil Weinberger.
"They usually call them tenant unions and we're talking about a rent strike, so that's nomenclature that comes from labor law," said Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Professor Kenneth Kowalski.
Kowalski says residents can try to organize like union workers, but they don't have the same protections.
"Unlike labor law, you don't have a body that certifies that this is the bargaining agent of the, in this case, the tenants," said Kowalski.
At The Vue, the buildings' owners, Strategic Properties of North America, and management, Stark Enterprises, tell News 5 they'd prefer to work individually with their residents, essentially cutting out the resident association.
"It's sort of a question of whether or not the landlord will choose to deal with the group of tenants, a union or association," said Kowalski.
Management held some early negotiations with residents in February, but after those talks broke off, they didn't start back up again.
The building's holding company, Commerce Park Place Holdings, LLC, and the residents are fighting it out in civil court. The residents' lawyer has requested a jury trial, which could extend the legal battle into the summer.