Cleveland strengthens response to protect public from nuisance properties
Cleveland is toughening up its policies to tackle nuisance properties and protect renters from unresponsive landlords.
Under Cleveland’s current authority, the city can only board up and demolish unsafe properties declared public nuisances. But on Monday City Council approved legislation to empower the city to make certain repairs to those nuisance properties.
The new policy will give the city authority to pull from its demolition budget to fix a problem like fixing a broken elevator in a senior housing building or repairing an apartment’s boiler during the winter if the owner does not do so.
“There’s a critical life, health and safety condition: it could cause a death, it could cause an accident," said Cleveland's Building and Housing Director Sally Martin. "Somebody needs to do something. And typically, [renters] look to the city to do that.”
The city will then bill the property owner for the repairs, Martin said. If they don’t pay, the bill will be tacked onto their property taxes.
In a given year, Martin said the city typically demolishes about 500 to 700 structures. Much of the $4 million demolition budget is grant-funded, she said, but she doesn't expect to use much of that for nuisance property enforcement. She called it a "last ditch effort."
It's part of an ongoing effort by Mayor Justin Bibb's administration to crack down on negligent landlords, particularly ones that live out of state. Martin said that's typically where they see many issues with nuisance properties, though in other cases, it can be local homeowners without the resources to fix their houses.
"We want to get the word out that the city is serious about life, health and safety concerns and protecting residents and this is one more step toward that," Martin said.