CLEVELAND — The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland reported landlord-tenant issues are on the rise, with more tenants dealing with heating problems as we head closer to the official start of the winter season on Dec. 21.
A growing number of tenants like Cindy Kindzi and Betty Brown of Cleveland are turning to News 5 for help, reporting they have been dealing with no heat or hot water for several weeks.
Brown told News 5 her landlord has been promising to repair a broken furnace and hot water tank since early November after the gas company "red-tagged" the heating equipment as unsafe.
She said she's been paying her rent at her Cleveland rental home but she's had to use space heaters and boil water to keep her three young children warm and clean.
“I have to boil three pots just to wash my kids up to bathe them for school," Brown said.
"Then I boil water just so we can wash our hands so we can use the toilet."
“I didn’t really think that some would take advantage of me and my three kids.”
“It’s too cold, it's going to start snowing really bad soon and it’s going to be freezing in here. I have six space heaters that are running.”
It is the same story for Kindzi, who is trying to take care of her nine-month-old granddaughter. Kindzi said heating has been shut down at her Cleveland apartment for several weeks due to a serious gas leak.
“It was leaking first of all, and then for Dominion to come and try to turn it on, and they said no, there is a big leak,” Kindzi said.
“You would think that the owner or management would know something like this before they would accept my first month's rent and deposit.”
“I ran out of the house immediately, there was gas in the hallway, I didn’t even make it into my home, I was so scared.”
“And I haven’t heard anything from the contractor, or the building manager, or the owner at all.”
“I’m supposed to be in this cold house, me and my grandbaby? I mean I don’t know what to do, pay my rent, and still sit in the cold?"
Attorney Jennifer Sheehe with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland told News 5 tenants should not withhold rent on their own to try and force furnace repairs by the owner or landlord.
Sheehe said tenants should contact legal aid or Cleveland Housing Court specialists to walk them through the process of contacting their landlord and setting up an escrow account with the court if a landlord doesn't start repairs in a timely manner.
“They’re not allowed to shut-off heat simply because someone has not paid the rent, they must go through the correct process,” Sheehe said.
“Let their landlord know, we always recommend in writing, that there is an issue with the furnace. And then they have to give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to get that fixed.”
“In the winter, a few days is probably reasonable if the landlord is not making any steps to get that fixed, and then they can deposit the rent with the court.”
“If you are not in Cleveland, but in Cuyahoga County or any other county, call your building department or your health department, depending on the issue, so they can come in and they can write-up violations."
News 5 contacted both landlords involved in this story. We're not naming the landlords as yet, to give them another week to make heating repairs at both renal units. News 5 will follow-up on both cases.