How to report a problematic house in Akron

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When it comes to housing complaints in Akron, residents usually have two options: go to the city’s 311 call center or go to the police.

The two have different ways of getting homeowners to comply with the rules, either through education or by touching their wallets.

Criminal activity should be directed against the police, while housing code issues, such as tall grass or garbage in the yard, should be reported to 311. Residents should only call 911 in the event of a problem. ’emergency.

City spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt said the best way for residents to file complaints about a nearby house or residence is to use 311.

To report, dial 311 or 330-375-2311. People can also go online and submit complaints to akronohio.gov/311, where they can track the status of their complaints.

How the city deals with housing complaints

She said the city generally has three avenues for dealing with a violation: fines, lawsuits or the Housing Appeal Board.

In 2020, Akron received 1,846 complaints related to housing conditions and over 4,000 for tall grass and weeds.

Typically, homeowners have time to fix the problem before these things happen, but the looming financial cost adds an incentive.

If the city fixes the problem, such as mowing the grass, it fines the landlord for the labor and expenses, and can assess property taxes if the costs are not paid.

There is no easy way for the city to appropriate a vacant or abandoned house, Nischt said. If he becomes a home or land owner, he usually does so through the Summit County Land Bank.

However, the city does not need to own a house to raze it or condemn it.

“The city can order a house condemned or the Housing Appeal Board can order it to be demolished (and demolished) without the city having any ownership rights, and in fact, we almost never own the property. property / home, ”Nischt said.

Residents can also report vacant homes to the county tax agent as fiscaelofficer.summitoh.net.

Jack LaMonica, chief of staff at the Summit County tax office, said that when citizens report a property, the office will do a field check to see if it is vacant or abandoned. If the property is vacant or abandoned, the tax office will notify the land bank and verify if the city is interested in acquiring or recovering the property.

Municipalities have the first right of refusal, LaMonica said.

According to data from the finance office, there are more than 1,000 homes in Akron confirmed to be vacant or abandoned.

The neighborhoods with the most vacant or abandoned properties are West Akron, East Akron and South Akron.

When do the police intervene?

Police often step in when complaints become criminal in one way or another, although sometimes they get calls for things that should be addressed to 311.

Akron Police Captain Michael Yohe said the department typically steps in when citizens complain or if officers notice a property is generating multiple calls for service.

Once it’s on the radar, area commanders can assign a Neighborhood Response Team (NRT) officer to investigate the problem.

NRT agents don’t run appeals, Yohe said, and have time to dig into an issue and speak with residents, neighbors, agencies and landlords.

Officers then try to negotiate the situation and educate when possible. Most of the time, problem solving puts an end to the problem, Yohe said. But in many cases the situation is complicated.

Many 911 calls to a house are for someone who is not turning the music down. Others involve people with mental illness, addiction, a mean neighbor, or even a simple misunderstanding.

“Even if there are repeated calls to one location, it might not tell the whole story,” Yohe said. “You have to take a closer look to see what’s going on.”

In one case at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, neighbors were complaining about noise from a local church, Yohe said. As it turned out, the church was using loudspeakers to have services in the parking lot so that they could be socially distanced.

“Things usually get complicated because things are complicated in society,” Yohe said. “People want enforcement action, but there are always two sides to the story. ”

If there’s a problem, Yohe said officers try to use incremental measures, warning people first, and then – if the warnings don’t stop the problem – issuing citations.

Complaints can result in financial costs

When there are several infractions, the city nuisance ordinance may come into play.

There are 17 criminal offenses in the ordinance which range from loud music and assault to criminal damage or gun related offenses. If there are three or more violations in a six month period, a property may be declared a nuisance.

Homeowners or landlords then receive a letter warning them that if they do not take action to stop the annoying calls, they may be billed for whatever it costs the police department to respond to the property.

Yohe said owners will usually receive a soft letter, then a formal letter, before finally being billed if the issues persist. But he said it rarely goes that far.

According to police records, only three homeowners were billed for nuisance in 2021. The previous year, two had been billed; in 2019, only one case resulted in an invoice.

He said NRT officers are often able to sort out problems before the nuisance ordinance kicks in. The goal, he said, is always to achieve voluntary compliance. .

NRT agents often strive to get residents to the right resources in the city. They also work with the Summit County ADM Council, community support services, local schools, and city council members.

If the complaints relate to the activity of the drug, it becomes more complicated. Yohe said officers need to monitor the house to make sure these complaints are correct. If they are, it takes time to build a survey.

Sometimes what looks like drug-related activity, like many people walking in and out of a house, can be something as simple as teenagers walking in and out to see friends.

Often drug traffickers are passing through and do not stay in a house for long, he said.

It may take hours, months or even a year for an investigation to result in a search or arrest warrant, but every situation is different, he said.

Yohe said he welcomes calls from residents, saying they can point police in the right direction if something goes wrong. But he also wants residents to understand that the issues police face are complex and that they aren’t doing much to fix them, especially if the issue isn’t criminal.

“… There must be a reasonable expectation of what we can and cannot do, and a reasonable use of the resources at our disposal,” he said.


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