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Lexington landlords express frustration amid eviction moratorium deadline

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 07:02:40-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — In anticipation of the looming deadline on the eviction moratorium, several Lexington organizations hosted a landlord forum on Tuesday.

The event was hosted and organized by the Catholic Action Center, Greater Lexington Apartment Association, Downtown Landlord Association, and Central KY Housing and Homeless Initiative.

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

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

He says 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. How patient do we have to be?" asked Johnson.

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

"We have refrigerators and stoves, they were missing, washers and dryers. 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," said Johnson.

He says the whole process has left him feeling helpless.

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

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

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

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," explained Wright.

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

Starting Aug. 1, it'll 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 says 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. I got code enforcement called on me," said Johnson. "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 call center.

Richard Moloney, 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.