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CORRECTION: Law director tells tenants to pay rent to the court

CORRECTION: Wednesday’s story on housing problems facing several local tenants incorrectly reported that depositing rent money with the Bellefontaine Municipal Court can start legal proceedings to remedy the ills. City Law Director Howard Traul II said the court cannot make a judgment or file an order on behalf of the aggrieved tenants. It can merely hold the rent money in escrow until the landlord proves the residences are inhabitable.

Tenants whose landlords refuse to fix fire and electrical hazards, deal with bedbugs, remove accumulated trash and address sanitary sewer issues need to band together and quit paying rent to the landlords, Bellefontaine City Law Director Howard Traul II said at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

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HOWARD
TRAUL II

Instead, they need to pay their rent to the Bellefontaine Municipal Court which will begin legal proceedings to remedy the ills, he said.

But two tenants of Gil Myers said his property manager is threatening people with eviction and arrest.

“He can say a lot of things,” Mr. Traul responded, “but the landlord/tenant law is very specific and very favorable to the tenant.

“I think he needs an education in the law.”

Councilwoman Deb Baker said to 121 E. Brown Ave. tenant Jackie Bevins, “If you continue to give him money, he won’t feel the pain.”

For the third meeting in a row, tenants and neighbors of the Myers’ properties registered complaints with the council.

Glen Kindle, who lives at 224 N. Detroit St., said he is paying his rent to the court, but other tenants are not following suit.

“They’re afraid of him because he has money,” Mr. Kindle said.

He said there is raw sewage in the basement of the rooming house, exposed electrical wiring at an outside breaker box and no working smoke alarms.

He has called the Logan County Health District, the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office and others.

“They all say, ‘We’ll get back with you,’ ” said Mr. Kindle, who walked out frustrated after addressing the council.

Chad Rickenburg of 224 N. Detroit said he believes the harassment of tenants includes sexual harassment by the property manager.

“I’ve put my money in escrow and he threatens to evict me,” he said. “There are children living in Gil Myers properties who are covered in lice and bedbug bites. It doesn’t matter how hard the parents try to clean up the problem. It keeps coming back.

“I would invite council to come and take a look for yourselves.”

Neighbor Chassity McKee who lives across from 121 E. Brown said she has observed the property manager aggressively harassing the tenants.

She also has made repeated calls to the fire marshal and state health officials and plans to continue.

Council members assured the residents they are concerned about the problems and they are looking at derelict housing issues.

However, it will take time, they said.

“Unfortunately,” said Council President David Henry, “we don’t have a magic wand that we can wave to get rid of it instantly.”

Police Chief Brandon Standley told the tenants to report issues of harassment to his officers.

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