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DOJ, Ohio US attorney renew push to oust predatory landlords

Northern Ohio U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman says the U.S. Department of Justice will pursue any predatory landlords, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OHIO, USA — A renewed push is underway to make sure landlords don't take advantage of their tenants.

The U.S. Department of Justice said its making this effort a priority, especially in the COVID-19 era.

"With the first of the month having just past, they've come upon two checks that would be due for rent that would be very difficult for some people to be able to pay," U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman told WTOL 11 Tuesday via zoom.

It's tough times in Toledo and across Ohio as COVID-19 continues to infiltrate and linger in our lives.

The DOJ is once again shining the spotlight on predatory landlords and Toledo's Fair Housing Center is pushing out a seven-page memo to the public.

Credit: WTOL

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Along with resources to protect tenants, the May 4 report says since the COVID-19 crisis started, complaints have come in about sudden and drastic rent increases, landlords refusing to make repairs, and even threatening eviction after tenants disclose testing for COVID-19.

The claims are unacceptable, Herdman said, and there are ways he wants to remedy them.

"We can intervene in a case that is pending by filing a statement of interest. That would be one option," he said. "We can also send some sort of communication to landlords that we suspect are engaged in a pattern of abuse. If the abuse is significant enough, we will file a lawsuit."

Just like the one filed against Toledo landlord Anthony Hubbard, which 11 Investigates told you about months ago. It alleges Hubbard prayed on several tenants over many years.

Herdman said he has a message for folks thinking they can get away with it.

"If you're trying to exploit somebody who's having difficulty making their rent by asking for sexual favors or putting them in a position where they're being coerced into engaging in sexual conduct, you're doing it wrong," he said.

If you want to report predatory landlord practices or other discrimination, you can call the U.S. Attorney's office in Cleveland at 216-622-3932 or in Toledo at 1-833-938-1375. You can also e-mail USAOHNCivilRights@usdoj.gov.

Below is the seven-page memo from the Toledo Fair Housing Center: