The State Of Evictions In Ohio
Frankie Grijalva Golden Gate University School of Law 2L
There are over one million people who rent apartments or other types of housing in Ohio.
Franklin County, which includes Columbus, has over 230,000 renters.
Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, with a little over 220,000 renters.
Hamilton County, which surrounds Cincinnati, has over 140,000 renters.
Nearly 31% of renters did not pay their April rent.
With the unemployment rate in Ohio reaching a record 16.8%, since 1976, many landlords fear this number will rise in the coming months.
If you live in Ohio and have not paid your rent, or are worried you will not be able to do so soon, here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions we have received from tenants.
Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19?
The CARES Act, passed by Congress on March 27th, placed a 120-day eviction moratorium on all housing that receives government subsidies or federally-backed loans.
Note the key words here: government subsidies or federally backed loans.
According to the National Housing Law Project, over 70% of all US mortgages are federally backed or owned.
The federal moratorium expires July 25. At that point, landlords can legally provide tenants with 30-day notice to vacate a property.
It’s important to note that 30% of property owners don’t have a federally backed mortgage (meaning they outright own the property or have another type of loan).
That means those landlords don’t have to abide by the CARES Act.
Ohio Governor DeWine signed an executive order requesting landlords to not evict tenants and suspend payments, if possible.
This executive order expires on June 29th (90 days after its signature on April 1st).
The order urges compliance and for all to act in good faith. But since it is request rather than a mandate, no city or person is obligated to comply.
If adopted, payment is still required in due time. Although, the order does not state when the payments would need to be due by.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Ohio has provided guidance towards lower courts to temporarily continue eviction filings, pending eviction proceedings, scheduled move-outs, and the execution of foreclosure judgements.
This means, local county courthouses can proceed with eviction filings based on their own county’s discretion.
Check with your local courthouse to determine whether they have begun the process of filing eviction cases.
To find out if you are protected by the CARES Act, please visit the National Apartment Association.
What happens at the end of the 90-day federal moratorium on evictions?
Franklin County began eviction proceedings on June 1st, unless protected by CARES Act.
Between March 2- May 22, there were 1,426 eviction notices filed with the court.
The Franklin county commissioners approved $2.6 million dollars for expanding housing support agencies.
On June 15th, eviction actions started being accepted.
The county allocated $11.3 million dollars from the CARES Act towards a newly created Rental Assistance Program.
Hamilton County began eviction proceedings on June 8th, unless protected by CARES Act.
The earliest eviction hearings could be July 1st.
Judges Charles Kubicki and Heather Russell announced that Hamilton County courts would open to only a handful of case types during the month of June, including
- criminal cases,
- “emergency civil matters” such as requests for restraining orders and
- “matters that cannot reasonably be accomplished remotely through teleconferencing."
The county has set aside $5 million dollars to help families facing eviction.
Can I pay partial rent?
First speak with your landlord.
Providing any kind of documentation that shows you have been impacted by COVID-19 will improve your chances of getting help from your landlord.
Some landlords are deciding to not charge late fees and allowing payment plans.
If they agree to these accommodations, make sure to get it in writing.
Even if you pay part of your rent, remember the entire amount of rent will still be owed.
What happens if I break my lease and just leave?
Your lease is a binding contract.
You are responsible for abiding to the terms and agreements in the contract.
Ignoring notices or requests will only make the situation worse.
A week-to- week lease in Ohio, by law, requires a seven-day notice.
A month-to-month lease in Ohio, by law, requires a 30-day notice.
Ohio law requires landlords to mitigate their damages and find a new tenant, if possible. If one is found quickly, there is a chance you will not have to pay as much.
If you decide to just leave and abandon your lease agreement, your landlord can proceed to try and collect back rent.
Can my landlord charge me late fees?
In Ohio, landlords can charge late fees.
Ohio Law states no late fee may be collected if the tenant makes a full payment by the third day after the due date.
The amount of the late fees is set by your landlord in your lease agreement. Although, it must be reasonable.
However, if you are subject to the federal CARES Act, your landlord cannot charge late fees.
Can my landlord lock me out?
Not until the very last step in the eviction process.
If your rental unit is covered by the CARES Act, you absolutely can’t be locked out until 30 days after July 25th.
If you aren’t covered by the CARES Act, your landlord must take the proper steps before you are locked out.
Under Ohio law, no landlord may take back possession of the rented premises without the permission of the tenant.
The Legal Aid Society of Columbus has created a handbook of rights and duties of tenants in Franklin County.
Cleveland Tenants Organization has also prepared letter templates for self-help evictions to your landlord.
In Hamilton County, the only way your landlord can legally force you to leave and lock you out, is by being granted a court order.
Does my landlord still have to fix things that are broken even if I haven’t paid rent?
Under Ohio law, landlords are required to make all repairs that are reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition. For example, repairs for sewage leaks, roof leaks, etc.
These example repairs must be attended to even if you have not paid your rent.
If your landlord does not repair these necessary repairs:
- Write a letter
- Wait a reasonable amount of time (30 days)
- Terminate the lease if able to
Legal Aid Society of Columbus has prepared a step-by-step guide for Franklin County tenants when landlord is not making repairs.
Cleveland Tenants Organization has also prepared letter templates for repair problems to your landlord.
How will breaking my lease or eviction affect my credit?
Breaking your lease with a remaining balance may affect your credit score.
Some landlords report lease breaks to credit bureaus.
Landlords can also hire collection agencies to get the remaining balance of your lease.
They can also file a claim in small claims court.
If a judgement is ordered against you, debt collection may wind up on your credit report and damage your score.
Negative marks and entries remain on your report for seven years and affect your ability to rent elsewhere, buy a car or sign up for a credit card.
Can my landlord use my security deposit to cover any rent I didn’t pay?
It depends on your landlord and your lease agreement.
In Ohio, landlords can use or store security deposits as they wish.
Normally under Ohio law, upon termination of the rental agreement, landlords are allowed to use the security deposit as past due rent.
This law does not include language of during the rental agreement.
In light of this pandemic, many landlords are allowing tenants to use their security deposit as rent.
That being said, some landlords are requiring for tenants to restore the security deposit to the original amount over a period of time.
Ultimately, this is an issue you need to discuss with your landlord, and decide upon after carefully reviewing your contract.
If you live in Ohio and decide to seek legal advice, Court Buddy is here to connect you with an attorney who can help.
For more information on Rent Relief: Landlord Tenant Issues, visit Court Buddy resources.