Posted March 27, 20222:26 pm
By: Joe Pagonakis
CLEVELAND — Lakisha Thomas of Cleveland and her family know what it's like to face a quick eviction, and a landlord who she says wouldn't give her any flexibility in paying the monthly rent.
Thomas told News 5 her landlord filed eviction proceedings just a few days after she was late, even though he knew she was going through a family crisis and told him in advance she would be short just a couple of weeks.
“From the day that I moved in he was headache," Thomas said. “He would always complain, he would always pop-up, I would come home and he would be in my backyard.”
“I was like $200 short on my rent, and I told him I would be late because I had to take up the collection, so he was not okay with that. He knew that I had just buried my brother and then my dad, so he knew that I needed the help. I mean I had rent for him, but he didn’t take partial payment.”
Thomas said despite her experience, she understands most landlords will give tenants extra time to get current, but unfortunately, not all landlords are willing to work with renters.
Molly Martin, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Director of Strategic Initiatives, told News 5 "pay-to-stay" legislation would give tenants more time to get current with their rent payments, since Ohio is just one of five states that allow landlords to file for an eviction, even if the tenant is just one day late with their rent.
“We live in a city where 60% of people are renters," Martin said. "And under Ohio law tenants who are just a day late on rent can receive an eviction notice, and landlords have the right to refuse and not accept that rent.”
“In Cleveland, one in three houses are purchased by out-of-state real estate investors, and I think we need to be doing what we can locally to protect renters from being evicted. Because that has a huge cost, not only on our homelessness system but in our communities," Martin said. "Pay-to-stay legislation would help reduce homelessness, because if that person gets kicked out, even if they attempt to pay late, then they are forced to go to a shelter, or double up with family and friends, or find housing elsewhere with an eviction on their record."
Demari Muff, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Housing Department staff attorney, said pay-to-stay legislation has already been made law in several northeast Ohio cities, like Lakewood, Maple Heights and Euclid.
“Pay-to-stay leads to housing stability; it does decrease homelessness by giving people another bite at the apple and other opportunities to stay housed," Muff said. “In Ohio, even if a tenant is a day late, there is no automatic obligation for a landlord to accept rent. Pay-to-stay kind of accommodates for that, it allows a tenant to make a landlord whole at the time of the hearing.”
News 5 has learned the Cleveland Law Department is currently drafting pay-to-stay legislation, presumably to have it ready to present to Cleveland City Council for a vote before the end of 2022.
Dee McCall with the Freedom BLOC said another law under consideration locally is "source of income" legislation.
McCall said the legislation would essentially prevent a landlord from denying a renter a housing unit solely on the basis of a renter using a voucher as a source of rental income. McCall said the practice of denying vouchers is clearly a source of rental discrimination.
"We just are holding the landlords and the property managers accountable, because they are really neglecting the tenants and the tenant's rights," McCall said.
Meanwhile, Thomas and her family applauded the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland for representing them in housing court, stopping the eviction and getting them more time to find another rental home.
Thomas is also calling for a change in Ohio law, so the families statewide don't have to wait for improvements in city law and deal with quick eviction notices that could leave them homeless.
“I just hope that they would change the law, so people could have a fair chance because sometimes you never know when you’re going to get down and out," Thomas said. "Anyone who is in the situation where they need help should reach out to legal aid so that they can get the help that they need.”
Original story can be found at News 5 Cleveland: CLE family facing eviction calls for pay-to-stay legislation (news5cleveland.com)