Two Four Seasons residents in Kent allege discrimination and retaliation

Photo by Wendy DiAlesandro/The Portager

Two residents of a Kent independent senior living complex allege the building manager and owner are discriminating and retaliating against them on the basis of their disabilities.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission has investigated their claims and agreed that discrimination probably occurred. At least one of the cases is headed for court.

Amanda Killum and Laurie Kamps live in two separate apartments at Four Seasons at Kent Apartments on Horning Road. The apartment complex, owned by Kent Elderly LP and managed by Tricia Stranman for her employer AGPM Ohio, is a senior building “for those 55 and better,” according to its website.

Both women contacted Vince Curry, executive director of the Akron-based nonprofit Fair Housing Advocates Association, after their alleged troubles began.

In Killum’s case, after a December 2022 fire and flood in her apartment forced her to relocate to an area hotel for five months, she said she returned home to even more problems: mold, water and property damage that remain unresolved to this day.

Kamps said her problems began after she objected to the Four Seasons’ plan to move its dog park area to a hilly area she could not access.

Both women allege the apartment manager retaliated against them by entering their homes without lawful notice, lodging false accusations, threatening eviction, raising their rent and more.

After Kamps and Killum filed their complaints, Curry said he received additional calls from “two or three” other Four Seasons tenants and conducted his usual investigations. None of the complaints went to the OCRC because all the tenants were fearful they would be retaliated against or even evicted, he said, declining to provide their names.

Curry said he told the tenants that fair housing laws prevent such retaliation, but the tenants still chose not to proceed.

Curry’s FHAA investigation into Killum’s and Kamps’ complaints determined that the women’s rights had indeed been violated, so he forwarded his report to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which investigates cases on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

After conducting its investigation, the commission issued letters of determination supporting the tenants’ claims and asked Four Seasons’ representatives to schedule the matters for conciliation.

Instead, Curry said Four Seasons’ representatives have indicated their desire to head straight to Portage County Common Pleas Court in Killum’s case, where a judge or judge and jury will decide. Curry had not yet heard from Four Seasons regarding the Kamps case, but he said he anticipates it, too, will head straight to court.

Flooding and mold

According to the OCRC’s Jan. 11, 2024 Letter of Determination:

  • Four Seasons initially denied Killum’s request to pay rent when she received her Social Security disability check and only approved the lawful accommodation when Curry became involved.
  • Four Seasons allegedly retaliated by interfering with scheduled on-site tenant group meetings, including a meeting featuring Curry as a speaker for the purpose of educating tenants regarding fair housing laws. To keep residents from knowing when meetings might be held, the apartment manager removed a community board located in one of the building’s common areas, the OCRC letter stated.
  • In December 2022, Four Seasons failed to respond in a timely manner to flooding in Killum’s apartment and to her request for accommodation for mold abatement due to respiratory disability, including repairs to her apartment and removal of the mold.

Killum’s insurance company installed her in an area hotel for five months, but Killum said the mold was still evident in her apartment when she returned and remains evident to this day.

Four Seasons also allegedly engaged in retaliation against Killum when it failed to provide required notice of entry to her apartment, damaged her possessions while moving them, forced her to stay in an apartment with mold spores, left the apartment without hot water or heat for an extended period of time, harassed her and threatened to have her evicted.

Killum said a fire started after a contractor sprayed something meant to abate a mold problem that had become evident in her unit’s utility closet, which housed her furnace and water heater. The blaze triggered the apartment’s sprinkler system, which then allegedly malfunctioned and could not be turned off.

“It was horrible,” Killum said. “Here I am after 21 years. I had a fire in my apartment. I lost every single thing that I owned. I lost the jewelry my husband gave me, and the only pictures I had of him.”

According to the OCRC’s determination letter, Four Seasons denied all of Killum’s allegations.

When The Portager reached out to Four Seasons, Stranman directed all media inquiries to AGPM’s Florida headquarters. The company did not respond to The Portager’s request for comment.

Retaliation for mentioning fair housing

On July 19, 2023, Kamps filed an affidavit with the OCRC, also alleging discrimination.

In Kamps’ case, the OCRC determination letter dated March 21, 2024, stated that Killum had objected to Four Seasons’ proposal to move a dog park to a hilly area that was not accessible. When Kamps mentioned the phrase “fair housing,” the letter indicates that “Stranman instantly got upset and refused to speak with [Kamps],” who then told the property manager she would speak with Curry.

At that, the letter indicates that Stranman became even more upset, told Kamps she’d hear from her lawyers, and “shut down the discussion” by allegedly telling Kamps she “did not want to hear it.”

Kamps was then “targeted for made up infractions and lease violations,” the letter states, further reporting Kamps’ allegations that Four Seasons agents forced entry into her home without having given proper 24-hour notice.

Four Seasons denies those charges and say they had no knowledge of Kamps’ disability. However, the determination letter states that Kamps provided Four Seasons with verification of her disability for handicapped parking. Kamps said she provided Four Seasons with this proof well before her troubles with Stranman began.

The determination letter outlines a number of additional infractions alleged by Four Seasons, including a charge that Kamps damaged her apartment by using a window as an exit and ran a garden hose from her bathroom sink to a window.

Despite Four Seasons having produced photographic evidence to support its allegations, the determination letter says the photographs only show Kamps watering her flowers.

Shortly after Kamps filed with the FHAA, she also alleges that Stranman raised her rent 29.5% when everybody else’s went up 8.7%. (Because Four Seasons did not respond to The Portager’s request for comment, this aspect of Kamps’ allegations could not be independently confirmed.)

Kamps said her Section 8 benefit only covers part of her rent, so her personal obligation increased by 50%: a difficult burden for a person who lives on Social Security benefits.

As with Killum, the OCRC determined that “it is probable that Four Seasons engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice.”

Should Four Seasons be found wholly or partially guilty in court, financial penalties could be awarded, and presumably Four Seasons would alter its behavior, Curry said.

“We would hope they would stop and bring their practices into compliance with fair housing laws. What it seems is that anybody who brings up fair housing and attempts to exercise their fair housing rights suffers the wrath of Stranman. That’s real,” he said.

Curry says Killum’s troubles with Stranman continue. She alleges that Stranman is supplying other residents with new appliances while withholding them from her and states that she only got a new stove after her old one caused a carbon monoxide detector to activate.

The entire process could take another year, he predicted. Meanwhile, though both women say they are reluctantly eyeing a move, Killum and Kamps remain in their apartments.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Four Seasons’ insurance company paid for Killum’s hotel stay. In fact, it was Killum’s insurance that paid. The article has been updated.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.