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Business & Economy

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown calls out problem 'institutional landlords'

Sen. Sherrod Brown
Andrew Harnik
Associated Press

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown on Wednesday called attention to the problems caused by out-of-state institutional landlords that he said are hurting Ohio renters.

Across the country, large private equity firms are neglecting property maintenance, raising rents and forcing out tenants, Brown said.

Brown called out one company in particular, Vinebrook Homes, which has rental properties in Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.

Last year, Cincinnati sued the company to recover more than $600,000 in unpaid fines and water bills.

Brown said many Vinebrook residents have contacted his office reporting neglectful ownership practices. "One resident reached out for help after she submitted multiple maintenance requests to get her heat repaired. Vinebrook failed to respond. The resident was left out without heat for weeks in the dead of Cincinnati winter," Brown said.

Brown said he recognizes rental housing is a business with the right to collect rent in exchange for providing a decent place to live. "But if your building doesn't have working heat, if you're not maintaining it, if you're jumping at the chance to evict tenants and set them up for surprise fees, you're simply not holding up your end of the deal," he said.

Brown said his office is looking into legislative fixes to address the issue.

In an email, Vinebrook Homes defended its business practices, pointing to a study the company said shows its rents are lower than the Cincinnati market average, and that Vinebrook spent $28.7 million in rehabilitation, repairs, and property taxes on its properties over the last 12 years.

“This study illustrates the positive benefits Vinebrook’s long-term investment has on Cincinnati’s neighborhoods and economy,” said Dana Sprong, co-founder and managing partner of Vinebrook Homes.

"We are proud of the hard work and commitment our local team dedicates to providing safe, affordable rental housing for residents, and the positive impact our investment makes across Cincinnati," Sprong said.

Business & Economy
Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.