COLUMBUS Ohio (WCMH) — Joining the black mold and broken cabinetry in Nena Cole’s East Side apartment are dozens of U-Haul moving boxes that clutter the first floor of her two-bedroom unit.
Cole, 46, is a tenant of a complex owned by Ebner Properties who said she is facing eviction — not because she failed to pay her rent, but because she complained to the city of Columbus’ code enforcement after her landlord failed to repair issues in her apartment, she said.
A student at Felbry College of Nursing who cares for a 15-year-old disabled son with asthma, Cole said she is being evicted because she’s been asking for repairs that didn’t materialize.
“I asked them ever since April 2020 to do repairs in my place,” Cole said. “And it’s been ignored. I wrote them letters and no response.”
Since moving in to the $749-per-month townhouse at Napoleon Park Apartments on Doney Court, Cole said she’s had two gas leaks, a jammed-shut sliding glass door, filthy filtration systems, and a malfunctioning electrical socket that forced her to move her refrigerator from the kitchen to the living room, among other issues — none of which have been repaired by property owner Mark Ebner, she said.
“I don’t understand how he can be so cruel when I’m taking care of a disabled son, and I’m just hurt, sad, you know, emotional stress,” she said.
But Napoleon Park resident manager Rose Welsh said Cole was not being renewed as a tenant because she doesn’t get along with her neighbors.
“She doesn’t get along with anybody in the park,” Welsh said. “The neighbors — anybody.”
NBC4’s Cynthia Rosi asked: “But is that a reason not to renew somebody’s lease?”
“Sure it is,” Welsh said. “I don’t even have to have a reason. But I do.”
Under Ohio law, landlords can choose to not renew a tenants’ lease at any time and without a reason so long as they provide at least 30 days’ notice before the lease ends, according to Chris Kelly, a social worker at Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
“They don’t have to give a reason. You don’t have to do anything wrong. And that’s a question we see asked here frequently: ‘I don’t know why he wants me out. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t break the lease,'” Kelly said.
Although Welsh argued that Cole never submitted any maintenance requests, Cole sent NBC4 several text messages, some dating as far back as April 2020, that alerted Welsh to the problems.
In April 2020, Cole said she had two gas leaks in her apartment: one in the stove and the other in the furnace.
“The emergency maintenance man hung up the phone on me,” she said. “It took them three days to come and do my gas leak.”
Cole showed NBC4 a fascia to her sink that had fallen off, which she said she asked Ebner to repair.
“This is the piece I showed Mark Ebner, and next thing you know, my lease is not renewed,” she said. “So when I called code enforcement out, they came out three times last year — that’s when they decided not to renew my lease.”
The code enforcement officer documented the following items during one visit: sections of damaged, missing soffit on the exterior of the structure, damaged and missing window screens, the furnace lacks an air filter and an air filter compartment, according to an inspection form provided by Cole.
In addition, an inspector noted that foundation walls are damaged and show signs of water infiltration, an electrical outlet in the living room is damaged and loosely secured to the wall, damaged and/or missing baseboards, bathroom vanity is damaged and in disrepair with a missing front panel.
NBC4, during a visit to Cole’s apartment, also took pictures of a hole in the tiling in the bathroom, an electrical socket without a cover, the inability of the back sliding door to open, and a hole near the furnace unit.
Cole said while the first few code inspections were unsuccessful in prompting her landlord to address the issues, she said her case was sent to the city attorney’s office for further review.
NBC4 visited Ebner Properties at its main office, but reporters were told there was no one there who could speak to them. An email to Ebner Properties brought no response.
Cole, who said she’s been on the Section 8 voucher waiting list since 2016, said she has yet to find another place to live that’s in her price range.
She said she has until May 31 — her ordered move-out date — to find a new home.
“My son, with his disability, we cannot be in a homeless shelter at all. He has medical equipment that needs to be plugged into electricity,” she said.