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Boone Commissioner Testifies to Lawmakers on Need for Property Owners' Protection

Boone County Commissioner Jesse Brewer testified to lawmakers on Friday about what he sees as the need to change state criminal laws to protect owners of residential rental properties damaged by tenants.

Brewer owns residential rental property across Northern Kentucky and is on the board of directors of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Apartment Association. The Kentucky General Assembly Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations convened on Friday in Walton. 

Brew told the committee on Friday that he wants to expand current state criminal mischief laws to include intentional or wanton damage caused by a tenant. Brewer said that he has dealt with numerous tenants who have intentionally damaged his properties.

“Over the past ten years, I have not only experienced it first hand, but I also have worked with multiple clients who also have endured a wide variety of intentional damage to their property caused by their tenants,” Brewer told the committee. “Things such tearing off all the cabinets off the kitchen walls, plugging the drains and leaving the water running in winter, and, of course, let’s not forget one of the most costly acts I personally have yet to experience, which is when a toilet is removed and quick-set concrete is poured down the drains.”

Brewer said that because of the way Kentucky’s criminal laws are currently written, it is very difficult to get local prosecutors to pursue cases against tenants who maliciously damage rental property.

“I am not aware of any successful criminal-damaging cases in Kentucky,” he testified. “Getting a prosecutor’s attention to pursue this type of crime is difficult at best. Even during a hostile month-long eviction process, where the resident intentionally damages the property and then calls in building or health inspectors to ‘report’ a code violation, even those inspectors who have been around for a while do not recommend pursuing criminal cases because they know it won’t go anywhere. The only option a rental property owner has is to ride out the risk of more damage being done while waiting for the process to wind through the court system.”

Landlords are forced to incur the expenses of repairing the property and lose rental income during the time it takes to fix the damaged properties, Brewer said. 

“I believe this change in the law will have a subtle impact, but multiple effects, on the overall housing market,” Brewer said. “As a property owner, if I am screening a tenant’s criminal background and I see that they have this charge in their criminal history, I can avoid renting to them and thus decrease the overall risk to my investment and business. I also believe that this change will deter tenants from causing this type of damage and save me and other landlords the costs associated with fixing up rental properties after these activities occur.”

Brewer suggested that a change in the law could lead to increased investment in housing stock by people who own rental property.

The Kentucky General Assembly may consider the change when it convenes in January.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the meeting took place in Frankfort. It took place in Walton.

-Staff report

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