Rental saga over, tenant moves out

One chapter in the year-long legal battle between a tenant fighting for safety and maintenance upgrades and the property landlord who opted not to renew her lease has closed with the tenant moving.

Former Marietta resident Trish Landsittel had previously tried to stop eviction proceedings against her by River Point Properties, LLC. She argued that the property managers and owners Harold and Janet Cranston were not renewing her lease and trying to evict her as a means of retaliation because of Landsittel’s persistence in arguing for safety and maintenance upgrades at the Fort Street property.

However, the book was closed on eviction proceedings last week as Landsittel agreed to voluntarily move out of the apartment at the center of the controversy and the property managers agreed to give Landsittel two months rent, said Landsittel’s attorney Anthony Touschner, who handled the eviction case pro bono.

“The problem with the law in Ohio is…you can’t raise retaliation defense in an eviction case…if the term of your lease has expired,” said Touschner.

Landsittel’s one-year lease expired at the end of March. She was given notice March 1 that her lease would not be renewed, according to court documents.

Landsittel could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Touschner said she was “reluctantly satisfied” with the outcome.

While retaliation would have not worked as a defense in legal evictions proceedings, the retaliation complaint can and is still being considered civilly, said Touschner.

In a separate case filed March 28 in municipal court, Landsittel seeks damages from River Point Properties for “emotional stress damages suffered as a result of this retaliation” and for other damages.

That trial is set for July, said Touschner, though he is not currently scheduled to represent Landsittel in that case.

The discrimination complaint is also being investigated by Marietta’s Fair Housing Board, he said.

That complaint also delves into the fact that Landsittel was denied the opportunity to move into an open first-floor apartment. Her doctor recommended she be moved to a first-floor unit because of a disability, said Touschner.

Landsittel also has complaints pending with several civil liberties organizations, such as the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Attorney Colleen Cook, who represents River Point Properties and the Cranstons, said she can not comment on the pending suits, but added her clients are glad to have reached a resolution in one case.

“My client is satisfied at this point…My clients will be very happy to have all of this behind them,” she said.

The Fair Housing Board last met June 24 in an effort to mediate a reconciliation between Landsittel and her landlord. However, the mediation was unsuccessful and the board must next meet with the city law director to determine how to move forward in investigating Landsittel’s claim of discrimination and retaliation, said board member Andy Coleman.

The board has the authority to investigate claims of discrimination and retaliation based on city ordinance. If either wrongdoing is found, the board would present its findings to Marietta City Council, which could ultimately order the law director to file a civil suit in the city’s name on behalf of the complainant, explained Coleman.