The process of moving 10 section eight tenants from rental properties in Felicity to new housing is expected to be completed later this month after a contract dispute between Bullock Rental Properties and the Clermont Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) ended in a breach of contract ruling.
At issue is the rental of a house and separate shed that CMHA says is in violation of federal rules. That shed was rented by Bullock Rentals to a tenant for an additional $90 more than the agreed upon price as specified by CMHA. That, said Sarah Kincaid of CMHA, is a violation of the law.
“There is a contract agreed upon for the rental of the unit,” said Kincaid. “They can’t pay anything above and beyond that unless it’s already in that agreement. That’s considered a violation of federal regulations.”
The board governing CMHA met with Bullock Rentals on July 28 to discuss the matter. A few months ago, CMHA had issued a ruling to terminate all section eight housing contracts with Bullock Rentals. Section eight housing is a federal housing assistance program that helps low income families pay for their housing. Due to what CMHA said was a breach of contract, however, all contracts with Bullock Rental for section eight tenants would be cancelled.
Bullock representatives, however, argued that existing families should be allowed to stay where they were and continue to receive section eight funding rather than be forced to move due to what they called a simple contractual error.
“We’ve been working with the Clermont Metro Housing Authority for well over 20 years,” said Theresa Bullock. “We’ve never had a conflict like this, and I don’t understand why something wasn’t said to us when the contract was written. We didn’t know that we had done something wrong. If we had, we would have corrected it. We weren’t trying to do something illegal or underhanded.”
The property in question is a house, which sits on one plot of land, with a small shed located just behind it which sets on a second plot of land. According to Bullock Rentals, that shed is a separate rental property. According to CMHA, that line is somewhat blurred. CMHA claims that the shed was added to the contract without their knowledge after the monthly rent for the house had been agreed to. In essence, the $90 monthly rent for the shed constitutes a charge in addition to what CMHA agreed to pay for use of the property. That, said Kincaid, is a violation of federal laws governing how CMHA can operate.
“If you look at it, it looks like one piece of property,” said Kincaid. “Basically, there is the house, and then a few feet beyond it, there is this shed. If you look at it, you’d say it’s one piece of property. They are saying that and you can look it up on the auditor’s website. They are on separate lots. You can have a shed and charge for a washer or pet, but that has to be up front. You can’t find out down the road. This was not a part of the original agreement that we were made aware of.”
In fact, Bullock Rentals has admitted that placing the shed on the contract was a mistake, noting that it should have been placed on a separate contract. In essence, a landlord makes a contract with CMHA for a property and then leases that property to a tenant. In this case, the house was the property contracted for by CMHA. However, the $90 shed was also attached, and according to the contract written by Bullock Rentals, “one can not be separated from the other.” That, said Kincaid, means that, two pieces of land or not, the property becomes one and the contract with CMHA is then in violation.
“If we’ve done something wrong, I’m very sorry,” said Bullock. “We would have corrected the problem when we sent it over in October. I don’t know why there wasn’t any communication. We’ve done this for 20 years, we would have worked things out. We’re here for the people. If they want to move, we have no problems with that.”
Bullock said that, overall, she didn’t care to write any additional contracts with CMHA, but was concerned over tenants, some of 15 years, who were unwilling to leave their home behind. She argued that they should be allowed to keep their home and section eight housing assistance. In fact, she said that her business would be better off without it.
“We didn’t go asking them to write more contracts,” said Bullock. “We were just asking about the people who are here. That wasn’t even addressed in the letter. It’s really better off for us of we’re not dealing with them. We can (make more money without them) and we don’t have to deal with the inspections and paperwork and all of the stuff that goes along with it. All of our rents, they keep trying to knock the price down. We were just trying to help those people.”
Kincaid, however, said that three of the 10 tenants had already relocated and two more were in the process. Two more had moved out of state and a another had chosen to give up their section eight assistance in favor of staying. The rest, she said, would have until the end of September to find a new place under their current voucher.
“Quite a few of their tenants have already found housing within our program,” said Kincaid. “There are a few more we’re working with, and a few did decide to stay. One chose to go off the program. Our main concern was helping the clients. One even called in to say ‘thank you’ because he really liked his new apartment. He said it was nicer than where he lived before. This isn’t something we take lightly. We spend the money so we make sure we follow the regulations.”