NKY Property Owners Sue to Resume Evictions
Three apartment community owners and the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association (GCNKAA) filed suit against Governor Andy Beshear and the circuit court clerks of Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties on Tuesday to allow landlords to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent.
Beshear shut down evictions in state circuit courts as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic impact the coronavirus has had on individuals.
But the property owners and apartment association argue that some tenants are taking advantage of the pandemic.
“Many landlords, including the plaintiffs in this case, have bent over backwards to work with tenants impacted by COVID-19,” said Chris Wiest, the Northern Kentucky attorney who filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington.
“But some tenants have not been adversely impacted,” Wiest said. “They are abusing the situation, the system, and their landlords, leaving the property owners with costly bills, maintenance costs, and utilities payments while the tenants literally have thumbed their nose at the landlords. Almost 200 years of clearly established case law establish this action is not constitutional, even in times of emergencies, so the only remedy the plaintiffs have is to file this lawsuit in federal court.”
In addition to GCNKAA, Vail, LLC, the owner of Aspen Pines in Wilder, Clayton Development, the owner of Charleston Pines in Florence, and Anduril Strategy, the owner of the Blake in Park Hills, are listed as plaintiffs against Beshear and Kenton County Circuit Court Clerk John Middleton, Campbell County Circuit Court Clerk Taunya Nolan Jack, and Boone County Circuit Court Clerk David Martin.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to declares Beshear's orders as unconstitutional and to allow for enforcement of evictions, and then to award them "reasonable costs and fees."
The suit only pertains to evictions in the three Northern Kentucky counties.
The federal CARES Act also provided for a 120-day eviction moratorium which expires on July 25 for some residences, such as rental units covered under federal assistance programs and those subject to a federally-backed mortgage.
On May 8, Beshear modified an earlier executive order to suspend all eviction proceedings indefinitely in Kentucky. Local circuit court clerks have refused to accept eviction complaints from landlords, the plaintiffs said in a news release.
The GCNKAA and its landlord members have established a tenant assistance fund to help tenants who are unable to pay rent. In addition, the association has established relationships with community organizations to help tenants find jobs and rent assistance and has strongly encouraged both landlords and tenants to work together to reach payment agreements, a news release said.
“Landlords represented by GCNKAA have entered into a number of such agreements for those tenants who are willing to work with their landlords,” Wiest said. “What is left, and at issue in this case, are evictions for those tenants who refuse to work with landlords.”
Anduril Strategy, which owns the Blake in Park Hills, claims that several tenants with leases of six months or more refuse to pay their rent.
“Anduril has called all of its tenants who have indicated difficulties in making their payments and the company has offered to place them on a payment plan, reduce their rent, or put them in touch with community resources that can help with rent payments,” Wiest said. “For some of these tenants, these efforts have been ignored.”
Under Gov. Beshear’s May 8 executive order, nonpaying tenants are not required to prove they have been impacted by COVID-19, arbitrarily shifting the financial burden onto property owners, many of whom were already suffering financial hardships due to the pandemic, a news release said.
“The ‘No Eviction Orders’ fails to provide for any tribunal or mechanism by which property owners and landlords may obtain redress from a tenant’s refusal to pay, even if they are able to pay, even if they are working and receiving full wages,” Wiest said. “By enacting this order, the Governor did everything in his power to eliminate all judicial remedies available to these property owners.”
Photo via Aspen Pines