VineBrook Homes has hundreds of local complaints, evictions
Company owns 15% of homes in Huber Heights, commits to customer service.
Michele Lowe and Tyler Thompson are VineBrook tenants and are having issues with the house and the company. Lowe says multiple reported maintenance concerns weren’t addressed by the company. JIM NOELKER PHOTOS / STAFF
Michelle Lowe shows where mold is present in her home Lowe said she informed VineBrook about the issues when the company took ownership of the home in 2022.
The gutters on Lowe’s home are sagging and may fall. Lowe and Tyler Thompson say the issue with the gutters is one of many problems with the property.
By Aimee Hancock - Staff Writer


Dayton-based VineBrook Homes is one of the region’s largest landlords, managing a huge swath of the Huber Heights rental market after acquiring most of the rental portfolio of the Huber family a decade ago. The company has recently fallen under criticism for business practices in other parts of the state.

The city of Cincinnati in January sued VineBrook alleging the company breached a 2021 lawsuit settlement agreement.

The settlement stems from a July 2021 complaint against VineBrook for unpaid water bills and civil fines totaling more than $600,000.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in December sent a letter to VineBrook Homes Trust, Inc., requesting information about the company and its policies after Brown’s office received reports from multiple Cincinnati residents alleging neglectful ownership practices by the company.

Because of these issues, the Dayton Daily News investigated what experiences local officials and renters have had with VineBrook. Our investigation found:

■From January 2022 to present, the city of Huber Heights has received more than 350 code violation complaints involving VineBrook. City officials say most violations are quickly  brought into compliance and the company doesn’t have a backlog of fines or fees.

■An online Dayton Daily News survey found common complaints among those who had a negative experience with VineBrook cited maintenance issues.

■An attorney who represents low-income tenants with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality says VineBrook assesses unusually high fees on residents, and is aggressive in evicting tenants even if they are in the process of getting rental assistance.

■According to dockets filed in the Montgomery County Municipal Court’s Eastern Division, VineBrook filed 234 evictions in this court alone in the previous two years, which averages out to about two per week. The court covers Huber Heights and Riverside.

Huber Heights officials estimate VineBrook owns roughly 15% of homes in the city. This includes single family homes, as well as apartment and townhome units.

Interim City Manager Bryan Chodkowski said the company isn’t the worst at complying with city housing rules, but isn’t the best either.

“There’s going to be some landlords that are worse than VineBrook and there will be a vast majority that are better,” Chodkowski said. “What makes VineBrook unique is that it’s hundreds of properties.”

VineBrook responds A VineBrook spokesman responded to questions from the Dayton Daily News via email.

“VineBrook Homes is a company with deep Ohio roots that has worked to breathe new life into local properties and provide safe and affordable homes to residents across the community, helping set them on a path toward homeownership,” the statement says. “Our corporate headquarters is in Dayton and our team prioritizes customer service. We are committed to providing a transparent rental process for our residents, with responsibilities and fees dictated by the terms of the executed lease agreement.”

The spokesman says emergency work orders submitted by residents are typically addressed within 24 hours and other urgent maintenance requests are handled within three to five days on average.

“Resident communication is a very important component of our business, and we are constantly seeking ways to enhance our customer service offering, incorporating new technologies and touchpoints to deliver a high-quality experience.

We monitor resident requests and response times in real time and ensure our team is actively working to resolve issues for our residents.”

Cincinnati, senator’s concerns The most recent suit by Cincinnati against VineBrook in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court includes references to multiple reports of “public nuisance, civil conspiracy, and intentional, repeated violations of both the Ohio Landlord Tenant Act and Cincinnati Municipal Code.”

In Sen. Brown’s letter to VineBrook in December, he said VineBrook’s rapid expansion — citing a portfolio increase of 646% in just four years, to nearly 27,000 homes across 20 states — and “systematic neglect” of properties and tenants in the Cincinnati area is having “severe consequences” on local families and the city as a whole.

According to Brown’s office, VineBrook Homes Trust Inc. owns tens of thousands of homes, including nearly 7,900 homes in Ohio.

“VineBrook, and its practices, first came to my attention when a resident in one of your Cincinnati-area homes contacted my office desperate for help to get their heat repaired,” the letter reads.

“Your company failed to respond to the tenant’s multiple maintenance requests, leaving them without heat for several weeks in the dead of winter ... unfortunately,  these tenants’ experiences were not unique.”

Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, is chair of the senate committee on banking, housing, and urban affairs.

One renter’s story

VineBrook tenant Michele Lowe, who lives in a single family home in the 6000 block of Hemingway Road, reached out to the Dayton Daily News in mid-January reporting issues with Vine- Brook.

Lowe said she had lived in her home for more than a decade when VineBrook took over her lease last year.

Since then, Lowe said multiple reported maintenance concerns — some which were apparent prior to VineBrook’s acquisition of the home — weren’t addressed by the company.

One of her main concerns is a roof that leaks in two of the home’s bedrooms, she said. A reporter visited the home after a recent day of rain and saw a bucket with a small amount of water at the foot of Lowe’s daughter’s bed, underneath a visibly drooping ceiling. In Lowe’s room, some spots on her bed remained wet from water she claims dripped from her ceiling fan.

“My daughter came in my room this morning and said, ‘Mom, why are you wet?’ It rains on me when I’m sleeping,” Lowe said. “I can’t use my ceiling fan because the water comes through.”

Lowe said she informed VineBrook about the issues when the company took ownership of the home in spring 2022. She said an employee told her they would put in a maintenance request.

VineBrook officials say the first record they have of a request for roof maintenance at the property was made on Feb. 16, 2023. They say their system requires tenants to put in requests using the online portal.

“Our team was recently alerted to a service request for the roof and dispatched a qualified roofing vendor to the resident within 48 hours,” a VineBrook spokesman said.

“The vendor’s bid has been approved and we are scheduling repair work. VineBrook is working through any additional repairs related to the request and we are committed to fully resolving the issues for the resident.”

VineBrook apologized for what they say may have been a miscommunication.

“We understand that the resident may have attempted to communicate issues prior to their most recent service request and that those attempts did not appear to make it to our work order platform,” the spokesman’s statement said. “We apologize for any confusion, miscommunication, or frustration that may have caused.

As demonstrated in all other service requests submitted by the resident to date, including the February 16 submission related to the roof, we have responded in a timely manner to work order submissions and remain committed to doing so.”

Attorney for low-income renters

Debra Lavey is a senior attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc., an agency which represents tenants in a variety of legal cases, including evictions, subsidized housing proceedings, and grievance hearings.

Lavey said VineBrook is unique compared to other local landlord companies in a couple of different ways.

“One thing that’s noteworthy is their fees,” she said.

“We’ve noticed they charge a pretty significant monthto-month fee in situations where a tenant doesn’t sign a lease for more than a year.

They also charge a monthly administration fee.”

According to Lavey, tenants may be charged $100 or more monthly, on top of the actual rent, to stay on a month-tomonth basis. Administration fees she said are around $10 per month. Lavey noted that the practice of implementing these types of fees is something ABLE doesn’t encounter often.

“We’re representing low income tenants,” she said.

“It might be more commonplace for higher-priced properties to have these month-tomonth fees, but we typically don’t see that very often.”

In instances where a tenant has applied for rental assistance, Lavey said VineBrook is typically “aggressive” in expecting payout of this assistance. The company has also failed in the past to include all applicable fees in its requests for payment, she said, leading tenants to receive rental assistance but still have potentially monthsworth of fees they’d still be on the hook to pay.

“So, tenants would just cycle through one eviction after another,” she said.

Another renter’s story VineBrook tenant Jill Summerville also lives in the 6000 block of Hemingway Road with her mother in a single-family home. In March of 2022, Summerville said the home was without heat for seven days.

In the months prior, Summerville said repairmen on four separate occasions — on Jan. 7, Jan. 10, March 1, and March 2 — responded to the  home to address the tenant’s request for repair of a malfunctioning heater.

“I documented all of this in detail. The week that we were without heat was preceded by several visits and attempts of repairs by repairman who recommended that the heater be replaced,”

Summerville said. “My mom had to take the day off work on March 14, drive to the main Dayton office and sit in the waiting room until the head of maintenance agreed to talk to her. He looked up the history of the repairs and said he’d send someone that day to replace it.”

Summerville said the heater was replaced, but highlighted issues in communication with VineBrook that she believes may have hindered an adequate response.

“A lot of the people you reach when you call work  for an answering service, so they’re disempowered and they don’t have the information that you’re calling about,” she said. “So, that’s not (VineBrook’s) fault, but it does create breakdowns in communication.”

Property maintenance

Of the 60 respondents to an online Dayton Daily News survey about Vine- Brook homes, 10 reported a positive experience. Some said maintenance issues were handled in a timely manner.

The rest reported a negative experience. The most commonly reported concern, according to survey results, was maintenance, with a majority of respondents stating maintenance requests were not properly addressed and/or not done so in a timely manner.

Survey results show a common issue, reported from individuals who live near VineBrook properties but don’t rent from the company themselves, is that of a property’s upkeep and curb appeal, with some claiming the properties become a “nuisance.”

From January 2022 to present, the city of Huber Heights has received more than 350 code violation complaints involving VineBrook. These types of complaints typically involve the state of a property’s exterior and may include issues with trash, parking, unkempt grass, overgrown weeds, and the like.

According to Huber Heights Code Enforcement Manager Don Millard, the city will notify a property owner of a complaint, and that owner has the responsibility to notify the tenant that they are in violation.

Millard said the city has a good relationship with Vine- Brook overall when it comes to code enforcement.

“In my experience, Vine- Brook becomes compliant almost all of the time,” Millard said, adding that this can depend on the compliance of tenants to address the issue in a timely manner.