COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — They thought they were moving into their dream home but ended up with a rental nightmare. That’s what tenants of one of the biggest landlords in the United States are saying, including some in central Ohio.
An Arizona company called Progress Residential bought more than 200 houses in Franklin County between May 2021 and November 2022, according to a search of records with the Franklin County Recorder’s office.
A spokesperson for Progress said it serves as property manager for 1,116 homes in the Columbus housing market.
People who rent from Progress frequently complain of shoddy repairs, little or no response to large or small maintenance requests, and excessive fees.
One tenant in Columbus, who spoke to NBC4 on the condition that her name not be published for fear of retribution by her landlord, said she and her family had been renting a three-bedroom home from Progress since January 2022.
“I knew I wanted my boys in a good school district, so we found this home,” she said. “We have more space — more room for our boys — and it was just something that I knew we needed.”
The mother of three signed her lease online and was given a code to enter the home using a keypad on the door. She said there was no official walk-through, as a renter might typically expect when they move in.
The problems with the home appeared almost immediately, the tenant said, and included a toilet that had never been installed, outlets that did not function, a ceiling fan that caught fire, and steps that cracked when she stepped on them– nearly causing her to drop her twin infants.
The tenant said getting things fixed can take weeks, if they get fixed at all. She said she waited at least three days during the summer to have her air conditioner repaired and has been waiting for weeks for a response to a work order to secure the dishwasher beneath the kitchen counter (it lurches forward when the door is opened).
“Over the last year, we’ve made significant investments in staffing, particularly in customer care, service and maintenance, and we are expanding our use of data and technology to drive greater resident self-service and make it even easier to lease and live in a Progress home,” the Progress Residential spokesperson said. “When there are situations where residents do not feel satisfied, we work to make it right. In the last year, Progress Residential has supported the completion of more than 6,000 work orders for our homes in Columbus.”
But the problems got worse after the tenant’s fiancé was laid off from his job and the family started receiving rental assistance. She said after Progress picked up the rental assistance checks from IMPACT Community Action for two months, it stopped in December.
“I contacted them day in and day out, never got ahold of them for a while,” she said. “I sent emails, I tried contacting IMPACT to contact them. They couldn’t get ahold of them.”
Progress began taping eviction notices to the family’s front door and charging $40 for their trouble, the tenant said, saying her family currently owes roughly $300 in fees related to the unpaid rent in December.
“I have offered to pick the check up and overnight it to them,” the tenant said. “I’ve offered to pick it up and take it wherever they needed me to, and it was—no. They didn’t want me to do that. They told me they didn’t want to pick up the check. So, IMPACT sent them a check, and then they said they never got the check.”
The tenant showed NBC4 documentation of IMPACT’s inquiry into the December rent payment, showing a check had been issued, then re-issued when the first check was not cashed. Neither check had been cashed as of Thursday.
“It’s really difficult to– to manage, you know– having a relationship when you’re trying to find someone who’s, you know, in Arizona,” said Shameikia Smith, IMPACT’s vice president of Housing Programs.
IMPACT officials said other tenants on rental assistance are having similar problems with the Arizona-based company.
“As we try to advocate for those who are marginalized, and particularly those who are our neighbors, right? We weren’t informed and so we couldn’t make a good decision to be able to help them so that they could remain stably housed,” Smith said.
From Tampa to Tucson, and a lot of places in between, Progress Residential owns thousands of single-family rental homes in hot housing markets across the U.S. Tenants from coast to coast have sounded off in social media communities about the problems they’ve faced in Progress homes.
As for the Columbus tenant, Progress put the eviction on hold last week, as the rent check that was cut more than a month ago still awaits pickup. The family’s January rent was paid on time, but they plan on moving as soon as the lease ends.
“Eviction is always a last resort, and the decision to evict is not taken lightly and made only after other efforts toward resolution have been unsuccessful,” the spokesperson from Progress said. “We work directly with residents facing financial challenges to provide information and resources to support them to avoid eviction. We are still accepting rental assistance and we have a team dedicated to processing and helping residents apply for this support.”
Officials in one state have taken action against Progress. Minnesota’s attorney general sued the hedge fund that owns Progress last year, accusing the company of creating uninhabitable conditions for tenants in order to maximize profits.
Last week, the Minneapolis City Council approved a set of conditions that Progress must agree to in order to maintain its rental license in the city.
According to Progress, help for tenants is available by calling 1-844-475-2326, ext. 9 or emailed at email@example.com.