Frustrated landlords attend forum in Lexington

In anticipation of the looming deadline on an eviction moratorium, several Lexington organizations hosted a forum on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, where frustrated landlords could speak their minds.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In anticipation of the looming deadline on an eviction moratorium, several Lexington organizations hosted a forum Tuesday where frustrated landlords could speak their minds.

According to a report by LEX 18, the event was hosted and organized by the Catholic Action Center, the Greater Lexington Apartment Association, the Downtown Landlord Association and the Central Kentucky Housing and Homeless Initiative.

Landlord Ron Johnson was one of the more than 50 people in attendance. He said the past year has been tough.

"Frustrating, and I feel that nobody is listening," Johnson said.

He said out of the 70 units he has in Lexington, 58 aren't paying, which has so far set him back around $500,000.

"Everybody says, 'Be patient,'" he said. "How patient do we have to be?"

Johnson said some tenants moved out and passed keys onto outsiders without a lease.

"We have refrigerators and stoves, they were missing, washers and dryers," Johnson said. "When we get there, when they're all said and gone, we can't do anything about it. Cops didn't want to get involved in it, because their hands were tied in reference to it."

He said the whole process has left him feeling helpless.

"There's nothing we can do," Johnson said.

He's also trying to navigate the rental assistance programs and said it hasn't  made the situation easier.

"Just found out that we got paid by two people," Johnson said. "We've never seen the checks."

Susan Straub, director of communications for Mayor Linda Gorton, said the mayor's office was able to meet with Johnson during individual sessions after a question and answer portion of the meeting and confirmed there were two payments that had been issued and mailed within the last few days.

"The checks were literally in the mail," Straub said.

As it turns out, there were a lot of questions from landlords on when they'll get paid at the forum.

Plenty of them hashed out grievances and frustrations to Johnathan Wright, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Director of Housing Stabilization.

"I do not by any means mean this as an excuse, only an honest answer, but this is the largest social service that the city has ever operated," Wright said.

He was referring to the kinks in the rollout and technology.

Starting Aug. 1, it will be up to the landlords to decide whether they'll continue to work with the system, tracking down clients, having them apply and waiting on the money, or go ahead with the eviction process.

The city has more than $29 million in federal stimulus money through the Housing Stabilization Program to pay past-due rent and utilities directly to landlords. They say around $4 million has been paid so far.

Johnson said he just wants people to consider landlords like him also have bills to pay.

"When you don't have any money, it's hard to fix up," Johnson said. "I got code enforcement called on me. Some landlords got utilities in their name. They gotta pay all the utilities too, so it's compounded."

For those who are choosing to stick it out, the urban county government is trying to get through their cases, one-by-one.

Landlords could receive individual help at the forum and check on their application status.

Wright said he would look into hiring a staff member to specifically handle landlord questions on the program after people criticized the already-established all center.

Richard Maloney, Councilman at Large, had a large presence in the discussion, telling one landlord he would talk to the city's finance department on his behalf. The landlord expressed concern about paying property taxes.

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