Sometimes COHHIO’s Housing Information Line needs to remind housing authority officials to follow their own policies when it comes to raising the rent on vulnerable tenants.
Mr. Williams first called COHHIO’s helpline in August 2019 asking about what he thought to be an improper increase in his rent by housing authority and his landlord. Mr. Williams lives on a fixed income and relies on a housing choice voucher to keep a roof over his head. While a small increase in rent would have been doable, but the housing authority approved an additional $114 each month.
After reviewing Mr. Williams’ lease, the rent increase notices, and the housing authority’s administrative plan, it was clear that Mr. Williams’s rent increase was improper and should not have gone forward.
The Housing Information Line first talked with Mr. Williams’s case worker, who did not have the most recent copy of his lease. When we tried to explain that the lease did not allow for a rent increase, we were told we were incorrect, even though they did not have or want a copy of the lease from us. From that point on, we traded emails and phone calls with housing authority officials in order to try to restore Mr. Williams’s rent to the correct amount. However, without the current lease, they kept insisting that the rent increase was proper.
It was not until an in-person meeting with the housing authority and their attorney in December that they accepted a copy of Mr. Williams’s current lease. At that point their attorney agreed – they should not have allowed the landlord to increase his rent.
In February, the housing authority agreed to refund Mr. Williams the extra $114 he had been paying each month, resulting in a repayment of $1,026. CMHA also reviewed Mr. Williams’ income and lowered his portion of the rent to even less than what he had been paying before the improper rent increase was implemented.
COHHIO’s Housing Information Line helps hundreds of Ohioans navigate similar legal issues each month to ensure landlords and tenants know their rights and responsibilities under the law. The program, overseen by Fair and Affordable Housing Coordinator Joe Maskovyak, Esq., one of the state’s foremost experts on landlord-tenant law, gives law students valuable experience advising vulnerable Ohioans on thorny housing issues.
If you or someone you know needs help, email the Housing Information Line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-485-7999.