'Easy to bully': A corporate landlord in Cincinnati is aggressive in trying to evict tenants, critics say
VineBrook Homes, which has over 3,000 single-family homes in greater Cincinnati, is among the most aggressive local landlords in bringing eviction proceedings, legal aid lawyers say.
In February, Jenike Allen traveled to housing court in Cincinnati to try to stave off eviction from her three-bedroom rental home. Her landlord said she had failed to pay a rent hike it had told her about, and Allen wanted to assure the judge she had never received notice of an increase.
A single mom who cares for Alzheimer’s patients at a nearby nursing home, Allen didn’t have a lawyer and waited nervously in the courtroom for her case to come up. As she did, a woman Allen didn’t know described her own eviction to the court. Not only were her allegations the same as Allen’s, so was the woman’s landlord.
“We had the exact same story and the exact same company — VineBrook Homes,” Allen told NBC News. “If I would have told somebody this, they’d say, ‘You’re making it up.’”
Allen’s experience in court that day was no anomaly, local legal aid lawyers say. VineBrook Homes Trust Inc., which owns over 3,000 single-family homes in the Cincinnati area, is one of the most aggressive landlords in bringing eviction proceedings against its residents, they say. A big institutional owner of over 24,000 single-family homes in mostly lower-income areas, VineBrook Homes is a real estate investment trust (REIT) with properties in 18 states, including Alabama, Indiana, Missouri and Mississippi.
Jenike Allen.NBC News“They are one of the worst landlords in our service area,” said Nick DiNardo, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, who estimated that his office has handled hundreds of VineBrook evictions over the past two years. “They charge improper, or in some cases, illegal fees, they lock people out of the [online] rent portal when the tenant doesn’t pay these improper fees, they give the tenant no way to contest the fees, and then immediately file eviction.”