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‘Keeps me up at night’: Legal battle with landlord leaves Blue Ash special needs family with ‘nowhere’ to go

Last Updated 3 days by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

Betsy McNally Laouar is a mom of two special needs kids. Both are developmentally delayed while her 10-year-old is autistic and non-verbal. She juggles a lot already.

But lately, something else has caused her sleepless nights.

“When your ceiling is falling in and you have to move your kids out of the room, because you’re afraid it’s going to fall on them that’s a problem,” Laouar said.

Laouar showed us around the 3-bedroom home she and her family have been renting since 2018. She said in the beginning, her landlord was responsive and attentive, but since 2022 problems have only been piling up.

“With the plumbing, with the piping, with the electrical hookups, the HVAC,” she said. “We live here, we pay rent on time…but (our landlord) hasn’t replied or she’ll send people that aren’t qualified so we’re stuck.”

The family has dealt with frozen and broken pipes that burst and left the garage and piping uninsulated for a year, Laouar said. The home has several pipe and plumbing issues where tree roots have grown into the clay pipes creating at least two Category 3 sewage backups.

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In both cases, Laouar said they had to clean the sewage and pay for the services out of pocket to temporarily fix the problem.

Laouar sent us health violation notices issued to her landlord by both the City of Blue Ash and the Hamilton County Public Health. We also put in our own requests, which provided us with additional citations dated over several months in the past year.

Her landlord has failed to fix the issues laid out by the city and subsequently failed to appear in court two times now, Laouar said.

“We are emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted as our rent has been in escrow since February, meeting with Legal Aid, missing work in preparation for a court case that is landlord friendly, paying for filing motions, subpoenas for our supporting witnesses and our court date keeps getting pushed back,” Laouar said.

We reached out to Laouar’s landlord, Ronda Stone, but she did not answer the phone. As of end of day Tuesday, Stone did not respond to our message.

Laouar said while she’s desperate to move out of their current home, she’s finding that nearly impossible right now.

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Since putting their rent in escrow earlier this year, she’s applied to nearly half a dozen rentals in the city. Every application has been denied.

“I have great credit. I have great work history, income, but we can’t get a reference because our landlord has failed to take care of problems in the home,” Laouar said. “The landlord looks at us and says, ‘This family — I don’t want them in my house. They have litigation going on right now. No. That’s not an attractive person to me to live in my home.’ One of them up front told me, you know, ‘I can’t go into this situation. It’s not safe for me as a landlord.'”

Laouar said the home rental market in Blue Ash is extremely competitive right now, with few options that meet her family’s needs, but the last thing she wants to do is leave the city. Her family moved there because of the Sycamore Community City Schools District, which Laouar said has an excellent record with special needs children.

Both her boys have Individualized Education Programs. Lenny, her 10-year-old, has specific outside resources that the district has contracted in, which includes behavioral therapy for his conditions, Laouar said.

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“For special needs parents, we work tirelessly to get our kids in the right situation and I’ve worked so hard to get them in this district, getting them what they need, and now there’s nowhere to move, we have nowhere to go,” she said. “I feel bad for anybody who’s going through this. Who cannot find a home, who has kids that are special needs — that need to be in a specific school district — and they can’t find a place to live. It’s terrible. It’s horrible. It keeps me up at night. It’s sad.”

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