The City of Cleveland is suing the owners and managers of a run-down set of apartment buildings blocks from Shaker Square that have frustrated tenants and public officials for months.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cleveland Housing Court, marks a significant escalation in the city’s enforcement of housing codes against corporate owners. The city is asking Judge Moná Scott to hand the buildings over to a receiver who could authorize repairs.
Law Director Mark Griffin said the suit was part of a new effort to take on commercial real estate owners who flout city housing laws. While the city has sought receiverships in the past, the step was unusual and part of a “new energy” being put into code enforcement, he said.
“Frankly, we are fed up with landlords who don’t follow our laws, particularly when they’re out of state,” Griffin said.
Attorneys for the city accuse the owners of “negligent management,” writing that there are more than 100 violations of city housing code at the buildings. Tenants have reported faulty heating systems, leaking pipes, mold, water damage, out-of-service elevators and substandard repairs, according to the complaint.
The owners’ attorneys have not yet responded to the suit in court. A message seeking comment was left with a law firm that represents the owners in other housing court cases.
Last month, one of the buildings’ owners and the property management team met with tenants to promise that maintenance work was underway.
Yaacov Amar, who told attendees that he was a part owner of the properties, said that the buildings were in poor condition when he and his co-owners bought them. The new property managers told tenants they were working through a lengthy list of repair work orders.
“We are here to work together, and we are trying to do our best,” Amar said at the time.
The city’s lawsuit names Amar as a defendant. Among the other defendants is Michael Chetrit, whom the suit alleges has ultimate control of the buildings.
According to property and mortgage records, the limited liability company that holds the title to the buildings shares a New York address with the Chetrit Organization. The suit does not name the organization as a defendant.
At issue in the lawsuit are three apartment towers spread across two properties located at 12701 and 12500-12600 Shaker Boulevard. The current owner purchased them in January 2022 for $12.4 million, records show.
Cleveland’s relatively low property prices have made it attractive to real estate investors looking to buy multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Last month, the city’s director of building and housing said officials would soon unveil a slate of housing code updates to contend with investor owners.
The administration has faced pressure to step up housing code enforcement in the face of this wave of corporate buyers. Cleveland City Council this month pushed to add $600,000 to the Department of Building and Housing budget to pay for building inspectors.
This story has been updated to reflect the fact that company holding title to the buildings shares an address with the Chetrit Organization, not the Chetrit Group.