COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A small group of landlords is responsible for thousands of evictions in Franklin County over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 15, 2020, more than 33,000 evictions have been filed in Franklin County, according to data compiled by The Eviction Lab, a non-profit research group from Princeton University. The Eviction Lab’s data dates back to 2000.

“Evictions — they’re not just, you know, a consequence of poverty. They can be a big cause of it,” said Jacob Haas, a research specialist at The Eviction Lab. “They can cause people to lose their homes, to lose their communities.”

Haas provided NBC4 Investigates with a list of the 100 properties with the most eviction filings since the earliest days of the pandemic, when much of the economy shut down and droves of workers lost their jobs.

“It’s a small number of landlords year after year that are filing for these evictions,” Haas said. “Corporate landlords and large landlords are disproportionately filing for evictions. You know, it’s not the mom and pop landlords that are doing filings, tens and hundreds at a time.”

An apartment complex on Refugee Road is the site of more evictions than any other property in Franklin County since the pandemic began, with 454 filings there between March 15, 2020 and June 18, 2022.

It’s owned by LINK Real Estate Group, which filed 1,315 evictions during that time period across nine properties on Haas’ list, making LINK the second most prolific plaintiff in the document.

5812 Investment Group appeared the most on the list. The Columbus-based company filed 1,737 evictions across 15 properties.

In a relatively distant third, Monarch Investment and Management Group filed 639 evictions across six properties.

“Everybody hates landlords,” said Bob Nicolls, who owns Monarch. “I mean, that’s just the way of the world, right?”

Monarch is based in Colorado and owns properties across 20 states. By Nicolls’ own description, the company pulls in roughly $65 million in rent a month, with the average unit renting for about $950.

“We don’t want to file evictions, we want to try to work it out with a resident,” Nicolls said. “But yes… we absolutely do evict people if you don’t want to work with us.”

Nicolls suggested Monarch likely has so many evictions in Franklin County simply because of the large amount of real estate it owns – 3,200 units, according to Nicolls. He also said the rental housing market took a big hit during eviction moratoriums during the pandemic, and the business had to stay afloat.

“Filing an eviction is always a last resort,” said Nick Harpster, a managing partner for LINK, which is based in Columbus.

Harpster made his comments in a written statement provided to NBC4 by a public relations company hired by LINK. The statement also said:

“In addition, we work to create stability and keep residents in their homes, with intentional, proactive practices around:

  • Communicating proactively with residents about any issues with their account.
  • Working with local resources, such as CMHA and Impact, to connect residents in need of emergency rent payment assistance with resources.
  • Offering administrative assistance when needed to help residents understand and apply for these emergency resources.
  • Offering flexible payment methods.
  • Offering alternatives to deposits, which help residents minimize the upfront costs associated with a move-in.
  • Staying up-to-date and following all current and local regulations and legislation when filing an eviction is unavoidable.”

Haas said knowing where evictions are most concentrated helps communities come up with more targeted plans to keep people in stable housing.

“They’re concentrated in lower income communities are concentrated in minority communities. Evictions disproportionately harm Black renters and Black female records, especially those with children,” he said.

Earlier this week, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced the city’s plans to make housing more available and affordable.

5812 Investments did not respond to multiple requests for comment.