Posted January 3, 20223:29 pm
By Thomas Jewell, special to cleveland.com
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- In one of its final pieces of legislation, the outgoing City Council last month enacted additional safeguards for renters facing eviction during the pandemic.
The new “Tenant’s Right to Pay to Stay” ordinance was passed unanimously at the outgoing council’s final meeting Dec. 20 after being introduced back in June. The legislation received continued backing by Councilman Mike Ungar, its sponsor, along with Council Vice President and Mayor-elect Kahlil Seren.
Seren said one of the tests of a society is “do we endeavor to protect the people who need protection, or do we abandon them? And I think this is a way we can add protection for people when they need it most.”
As the outgoing chair of council’s Administrative Services Committee, Seren then turned the legislation over to Ungar, whom he said has “led the charge in this particular policy change, to read it into the record.”
Ungar is also a member of the board of directors for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which endorsed the policy a few days prior to council’s 6-0 vote, noting that Ohio is one of five states that allows landlords to file for eviction “almost right after” a tenant misses a payment.
Under state law, “landlords must give tenants a three-day notice to vacate the property for non-payment,” a Dec. 16 news release from Cleveland Legal Aid stated. “Then, the landlord is not required to accept rent. But citywide ‘pay to stay’ ordinances could help tenants who are facing eviction for non-payment of rent to stay in their homes.”
Ungar, who commended Seren as well for “working side by side and being a driving force in pursuing what I think is important and helpful legislation,” also read some key passages from the Cleveland Heights version:
“WHEREAS, the public health crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial and continuing negative impacts on residents and the economy, internationally and nationally, including within the State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland Heights; and
WHEREAS, as a result of the public health emergency and the precautions recommended by health authorities, many residents and businesses in the city experienced and will likely continue to experience material loss of income; and
WHEREAS, the public health crisis has caused multiple adverse economic impacts for numerous people, including loss of employment, reduction in income and loss of healthcare coverage, leading for many to the inability to pay for housing and basic needs, and placing increased demands on already-strained regional and local health and safety resources, including shelters and food banks; and
WHEREAS, further adverse economic impacts are anticipated, leaving residential tenants vulnerable to eviction; and
WHEREAS, notwithstanding COVID-19 and its deleterious effects, it is essential at all times to avoid unnecessary housing displacement and evictions to protect the city’s housing stock and to prevent housed individuals from falling into homelessness; and
WHEREAS, although unemployment compensation, rental assistance and other programs have been made available to Ohioans so they can meet their basic needs, the city wishes to provide additional safeguards to residents and tenants concerning their ability to pay to stay in rental properties located within the city.”
The ordinance, prepared by City Law Director Bill Hanna and the legal department, also outlines procedures for tenants and landlords, noting that the payment of all past-due rent and reasonable late fees will provide an affirmative defense against eviction.
“Reasonable late fees” are not to exceed either $25 per month or 5 percent of the monthly rent, whichever is larger.
New fire truck
In other business Dec. 20, council approved a 10-year, $1.2 million tax-exempt lease and purchase agreement for a new 100-foot E-One aerial ladder fire truck, which will move the department’s 16-year-old, 110-foot model to reserve status.
Cost of the truck, to be acquired through the state’s cooperative purchasing program, came in at $1.1 million (another bid price for a comparable Seagrave truck was $1.3 million) and interest payments will not exceed 2.5 percent.
Council had asked for further documentation from Fire Chief Dave Freeman and Assistant Chief John Bryan on the bidding process.
City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil said the need for a new ladder truck did not result from any damage caused May 2, 2020, when a fire engine returning from a call collapsed rear-axle deep into a sinkhole that had been developing for some time on Cleveland Heights Boulevard.
Democracy Day moved
Council also moved the general date for the city’s annual public hearing on “political influence by corporate entities,” also known as “Democracy Day,” from January to June.
“This simply adjusts the timing of Democracy Day to boost attendance and ensure that weather does not become an impediment for people to come and speak their minds to council,” Seren said.
Back in 2013, Cleveland Heights voters overwhelmingly passed “Issue 32″ in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision three years earlier in “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission,” declaring that corporations had the same free-speech rights as individual people and further opening the floodgates on campaign spending.
The “Move to Amend” organization has been fighting to overturn that decision, and the annual Democracy Day is a part of that effort toward a proposed 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Read more from the Sun Press.
Read the story at cleveland.com: Cleveland Heights council enacts ‘Tenants Pay-to-Stay’ eviction protections during pandemic - cleveland.com