Property tax cheats could be banned from federal housing program following News 5 investigation

Cuyahoga County has vowed to implement new measures to collect more than $1 million owed by landlords who receive taxpayer subsidies and fail to pay property taxes.

The county’s newfound commitment comes on the heels of an exclusive News 5 On Your Side investigation that exposed how landlords participating in a Housing Choice Voucher program are cheating the system. 

The program directly compensates landlords with thousands of dollars in rent subsidies. We found hundreds of them are cheating the system by pocketing the cash while delinquent property taxes pile up.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) operates the program. It’s designed to enable low income families to find safe and affordable housing.

The program is implemented by housing authorities across the country, like the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), where 5,000 landlords accept rent subsidies paid for by taxpayers.

Our investigation found HUD continued to fund landlords even though they failed to pay property taxes needed by municipalities to help pay for city services, such as police, firefighters, schools and roads.

We also matched delinquent property records with landlords receiving tax dollars — something neither CMHA nor Cuyahoga County tax officials were doing.

Across the county, we found at least 233 homes owned by landlords who have failed to pay more than $1 million in property taxes.

RELATED Cuyahoga County landlords continue to cheat system while millions in taxes go uncollected

Housing authority officials are now working with county tax officials to identify and track delinquent landlords participating in the program using the same data we relied on for our report.

Jeffrey Wade, director of Risk & Safety Management for CMHA, said letters will be sent this month warning delinquent landlords to either pay up or begin a payment program.

“You have been identified as a landlord who has been receiving subsidies through the Housing Choice Voucher Program that county tax records demonstrate that you are delinquent,” Wade said of the landlords. 

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Christopher Murray said his office will provide CMHA with delinquent records twice a year.

“This information will give CMHA the tools they need to address the concerns they have with their landlords,” Murray said.

In September, officials will review property tax records again. If landlords fail to either pay up or begin a payment program, they will be banned from renting similar properties to new renters.

This is the latest investigation from our ongoing Cleveland Abandoned series.

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