The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland represents individuals and groups to:

  • Help low-income tenants secure and retain decent, affordable housing
  • Preserve and increase the supply of decent, affordable housing for low-income tenants
  • Enforce, preserve and expand the rights of low-income tenants

Legal Aid, along with other advocates, also engages in policy advocacy in multiple forums, and it publishes the Ohio Eviction and Landlord-Tenant Law, a leading book on these subjects.

Housing Matters We Handle

  • Public housing
  • Housing choice voucher program (aka Section 8 voucher program)
  • HUD subsidized housing
  • Rural Development subsidized housing
  • Low-income housing tax credit program
  • Shelter plus care program
  • Private landlord-tenant
  • Tenants residing in property in foreclosure

FAQs

Am I responsible for the conduct of my children and invited guests at my rental unit? Close

Yes. You must prohibit your children and invited guests from damaging the property and from disturbing your neighbors. You are not responsible for the conduct of uninvited persons who are on the property without your permission or the permission of a family member.

Next Steps

Visit a brief advice clinic, contact Legal Aid directly, or contact one of the following partner agencies.

Cuyahoga County residents:
The Cleveland Tenants Organization
Rental Information Center
(216) 432-0609

City of Cleveland residents:
Cleveland Housing Court
The Justice Center
1200 Ontario Street, 13th Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 664-4295

Lake County residents:
The Fair Housing Resource Center
(440) 392-0147

Other Resources

“Know Your Rental Rights in Cleveland”
“Know Your Rental Rights”

Am I required to permit my landlord to enter my rental unit, if my landlord gives me 24-hours (or more) advance notice of the entry? Close

Yes. Your landlord is only permitted to enter your rental unit for certain purposes, which include inspecting the property, making repairs, and showing the property to potential purchasers or future tenants. Your landlord may not make repeated demands for entry that have the effect of harassing you.

Next Steps

Visit a brief advice clinic or contact one of the following partner agencies.

Cuyahoga County residents:
The Cleveland Tenants Organization
Rental Information Center
(216) 432-0609

City of Cleveland residents:
Cleveland Housing Court
The Justice Center
1200 Ontario Street, 13th Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 664-4295

Lake County residents:
The Fair Housing Resource Center
(440) 392-0147

Other Resources

“Know Your Rental Rights in Cleveland”
“Know Your Rental Rights”

Is my landlord permitted to change the locks, or terminate a utility service, at my rental unit to make me move? Close

No. It is unlawful for a landlord to change the locks, terminate a utility service, take a tenant’s property, or do anything else to make the rental unit uninhabited in order to force a tenant to move. These are called “self-help evictions.”

Self-help evictions are unlawful. If a tenant has missed a rent payment, violated the lease agreement or failed to meet obligations under the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law, the landlord must serve the proper notice and file an eviction action through the local court. It is unlawful for a landlord to attempt an eviction outside of the court system.

What steps must my landlord take before my landlord may force me to leave my rental unit? Close

To force you to leave your rental unit, your landlord must file an eviction action and obtain an eviction order. This requires your landlord to:

• Give you a written notice to leave and, in some cases, also a notice of termination
• File an eviction complaint with a court
• Prove the landlord’s right (if any) to evict you, during the eviction hearing
• Obtain a court order for eviction

The court will send you two documents: (i) the eviction complaint and (ii) a document called a “summons,” which tells you the place, date, and time of the eviction hearing. During the eviction hearing, you may present your facts (witnesses, documents, photographs) and your position on your right to stay in the rental unit.

Next Steps

Visit a brief advice clinic, contact Legal Aid directly, or contact one of the following partner agencies.

Cuyahoga County residents:
The Cleveland Tenants Organization
Rental Information Center
(216) 432-0609

City of Cleveland residents:
Cleveland Housing Court
The Justice Center
1200 Ontario Street, 13th Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 664-4295

Lake County residents:
The Fair Housing Resource Center
(440) 392-0147

Other Resources

“Know Your Rental Rights in Cleveland”
“Know Your Rental Rights”

What do I do if my apartment has bed bugs? Close

Northeast Ohio and many places across the country are experiencing a significant increase in bed bug complaints. Bed bugs were once thought to be pests found only on bedding in homes, apartments, and rooming houses. Now bed bugs are found in office buildings, retail stores, hospitals, dormitories, nursing homes, office buildings, libraries, movie theaters, buses, and any other place where people gather. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and are easily spread by moving beds, furniture, luggage, or clothing from one location to another.

Identifying Bed Bugs

• Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown, wingless insects that feed primarily on the blood of humans.

• Adult bed bugs are approximately  ¼ inch long, about the size of an apple seed. Young bed bugs (nymphs) are quite small and when unfed they appear lighter and almost clear in color.

• Bed bugs do not fly or jump. However, they can crawl very fast.

Bed Bug Bites

• Bed bugs bites often occur on the arms, shoulders, neck and legs.

• The bite can usually be seen as a red bump, up to a centimeter in size and without a red puncture mark in the middle.

• The bites may occur in lines or as a cluster of three or four.

• The bite may appear within hours or delayed up to a week.

• Bed bugs are primarily a nuisance to humans and are not known to transmit disease. Some people have no reaction to bites while other people may experience itchiness and irritation. Try to avoid scratching bites. Questions about bite marks should be directed to a medical provider.

Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation

Usually the first sign of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of red itchy welts on any bare skin that is exposed while sleeping. Next, look for small black or rusty-colored spots on bed linens, pillows, or mattress. These are blood spots and bed bug droppings. Also, look for live bed bugs, eggs, and cast skins.

Inspecting for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs hide close to where people sleep. They prefer fabric, wood, and paper surfaces over metal or plastic. Look for live bed bugs, eggs, cast skins, and blood or fecal spots in these locations: mattresses, box springs, head boards, bed frames, upholstered furniture, recliners, baseboards, behind pictures, under loose wallpaper, draperies, electrical outlets, telephones, radios, televisions, stacks of books, piles of papers, back packs, luggage, futons, gym bags, draperies & curtains, stuffed animals, hollow furniture legs, door frames & hinges, wall / ceiling junction.

Treating Bed Bug Infestations

Complete elimination of a bed bug infestation can be a difficult process and may require the services of a knowledgeable and licensed pest control operator. It may take several treatments to gain control over an infestation. If a “do-it-yourself” method is chosen, only use pesticide products that are labeled to kill bed bugs. Remember to always read and follow the label directions before applying any pesticide product. Here are some additional tips to help eliminate bed bugs.

• Reduce and eliminate clutter. Don’t keep piles of clothes, boxes, toys, shoes, etc. on the floor, under the bed, or in closets. They are prime hiding places for bed bugs.

• Wash infested bedding and clothing in hot water and then dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes.

• Encase an infested mattress and box spring in a zippered cover that is labeled and certified “bed bug proof”. Leave the covers on for at least one full year.

• Vacuum bedrooms thoroughly and often. Pay particular attention to the area around the bed and the bed itself. Place the vacuum cleaner bag or contents in a zip-lock plastic bag and discard it in the trash outside.

• Getting rid of bed bugs is a cooperative effort. Follow all recommended preparation guidelines provided by the pest control company prior to each treatment.

• Pesticides labeled to kill bed bugs are available over the counter and may provide effective control. However, if the problem persists or is heavily entrenched, contact a knowledgeable, experienced, and licensed pest management professional for assistance.

• Since bed bugs are difficult to control, plan on several extensive treatments to eliminate an infestation.

• DO NOT USE “Bug Bombs”. These products may kill on contact but they are ineffective against hidden bed bugs. They may make the infestation worse by scattering the bugs throughout the home or apartment.

• If an infestation is suspected in a rental unit, contact the building manager or landlord about the problem. Property owners should contact a professional pest control company for advice and assistance. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health (at (216) 201-2000) is also available to assist.

Preventing Future Infestations of Bed Bugs

• Do not bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture into the home.

• Carefully inspect used or rented furniture prior to bringing it into the home.

• When traveling, inspect the bed, headboard, and furniture upon arrival. Keep suitcases off the floor and bed and inspect them before leaving. Wash and dry all clothing thoroughly after returning home.

• Caulk and seal any cracks and crevices throughout the home, especially in rooms where people sleep.

• Be careful of who stays overnight or sleeps at the house.

Bed Bugs in Nursing Homes

Although no residence is safe, certain populations are particularly prone to bed bug infestations. A troublingly high incidence of bed bug infestations has been reported in nursing homes throughout the country.

Bed bug infestations are a concern for many seniors living in senior housing. Seniors living in a nursing home may be exposed to bed bugs through shared laundry facilities or common sitting areas, or by staying in a room near someone who may have bed bugs.

Bed bugs are attracted to heat and chemicals emitted by humans and survive on human blood. Therefore, nursing homes act as a breeding ground for bed bugs due to the high rate of residents, staff and family members moving about the facility. Furthermore, residents stay in bed for prolonged periods of time and live in close proximity, making it easy for bed bugs to survive.

Recommendations for Residents in Senior Housing

• Keep any living space clutter-free. Clutter provides great hiding spots for bed bugs.

• Bites that appear after sleeping may be an indication that bed bugs are present, even if they do not itch.

• Report a bed bug infestation to the property manager or facility administrator within 24 hours of the pest sighting.

• Do not attempt to control a bed bug infestation alone. Never self treat with pesticides, especially “bug bombs”, which drive bed bugs into adjacent rooms or units.

• Do not remove anything from an infested room until after the room is treated by a pest management professional (PMP).

• Cooperate fully with the recommendations provided by the PMP to prepare rooms for bed bug inspection and treatment. Ask the property manager or administration for help if there are preparation steps that cannot be accomplished alone, such as disassembling or moving furniture. Disabled and elderly individuals should request assistance with preparation.

• Prior to treatment, place all clutter and garbage from infested rooms in sealed plastic bags. Bagged items should remain in the infested room for treatment by a PMP prior to disposal.

• The day of the pesticide treatment, all bedding and clothing should be bagged in plastic, transported to the laundry and laundered using hot water. Dry the items for at least 30 minutes on high heat. Bags used for transport should not be re-used, but should be sealed and disposed with other infested refuse.

Bed bug infestations are a problem that affects everyone. Do not be reluctant to discuss a possible infestation because of embarrassment. It is important to report the infestation to management. The earlier the infestation is addressed, the more likely it will be quickly controlled.

What can I do if my landlord won’t do anything to help with my mental or physical disability? Close

Sometimes there is a connection between a tenant’s physical or mental  disability and a lease violation. When this occurs, the tenant may ask the landlord for a reasonable accommodation that will allow the tenant to keep their housing. A tenant may make this request in connection with an eviction action or at any time before eviction.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • using a power of attorney to pay the rent on time,
  • having a cleaning service clean the apartment, or
  • moving from a one bedroom to a two bedroom apartment fora live-in aide.

Many older people benefit from a companion animal, based on a doctor’s note that the animal helps with depression or other illnesses.

If there is a connection between the health problem and the lease violation, generally the landlord may not evict for the lease violation. The landlord may deny the reasonable accommodation request if:

  • it would impose a large financial or administrative burden;
  • it would change the nature of the housing provided; or
  • it would not eliminate the direct physical threat to the health and safety of other tenants.

These reasonable accommodation rules apply in both private housing and subsidized housing. When a reasonable accommodation is granted, the tenant must then remain in compliance with the lease. A tenant may also make more than one reasonable accommodation request.

A tenant may also request a reasonable modification to their rental dwelling or to common areas of the building such as wheelchair accessible entryways to both dwelling units and common areas.

If a tenant needs a modification in order to use the apartment or house, the landlord must allow the modification if it is reasonable. In private housing (including section 8 voucher housing), the tenant is required to pay for the modification if it is reasonable.

Tenants who have either a physical or mental disability should consider using a request for reasonable accommodation or modification to obtain or keep affordable housing.

My landlord hasn’t responded to my requests for repairs. What can I do? Close

If you are a tenant, your landlord is required to make certain repairs to your rental unit, when they are needed, including:

  • Repairs to keep the property in a livable condition;
  • Repairs to meet housing and building codes that affect health and safety; and
  • Repairs required by the terms of the lease.

In Ohio, a rent deposit (or rent escrow) process allows tenants to pay their rent to a court, instead of the landlord, to get the landlord to make these repairs.

Before a tenant may rent deposit, the tenant generally must:

  • Be current in rent;
  • Give the landlord written notice of the repairs needed, by sending the notice to the person or place where the rent is normally paid; and
  • Then give the landlord a reasonable time (usually 30 days) to make the repairs.

If the landlord does not make the repairs during this reasonable time, the tenant generally may rent deposit.   This means the tenant may deposit the monthly rent with the Clerk of Court of the municipal court for the tenant’s community.   Each month, the tenant must continue to deposit the rent with the Clerk of Court by the date the rent is due.   The Clerk of Court may have rules for depositing the rent, which the tenant must follow.

Some non-profit groups help tenants with the rent deposit process, at no charge to the tenant, such as:

  • In Ohio (all counties):   Rental Housing Information Network in Ohio, (888) 485-7999.
  • In Cuyahoga County:   Rental Information Center of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, (216) 432-0609.
  • In Lake County:   Fair Housing Resource Center, Inc., (440) 392-0147.

Also, some courts help tenants with the rent deposit process.   For example, Cleveland Housing Court specialists explain the rent deposit process to tenants.   The specialists are located on the 13th Floor of the Justice Center, 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, OH 44113.   They are available for drop-in visits, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.   The Cleveland Housing Court phone number is (216) 664-4295.

This article was written by Legal Aid attorney Peter Iskin and  appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.

I was denied public housing because of my criminal record. Can I appeal the decision? Close

What to Do When a Landlord Denies Public Housing Based on a Criminal Record

When you apply for Section 8 or public housing, you may be asked whether you or a family member have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

If is the answer is yes, then the landlord may deny your application. But you may still qualify for the housing. If you want to challenge the denial, you need to ask for an informal appeal right away. The number of days you are given will be stated in the rejection letter. You count the number of days from the date in the letter.

You will need to write a short letter to ask for a meeting about the denial. Take your letter to the landlord’s office and ask the receptionist to date-stamp a copy of your request for a meeting.   Keep the stamped copy. In the letter, you should ask for:

  • a copy of your application;
  • the information used to deny your application; and
  • a copy of the Tenant Selection Plan (TSP).

The TSP will tell you how long the criminal conviction will count against you. Federal law requires the time to be reasonable. The time may count either from the date you were convicted or from when you completed your sentence. Different landlords will look at criminal convictions for different lengths of time.

At the meeting with the landlord, you need to show that you will be a good tenant. You could show that your conviction should not count against you because it is from a long time ago. Also, you could show that your behavior has improved since you were convicted. Bring letters from teachers, mentors, pastors or others that say how you have changed. Certificates showing you completed courses or programs can also be helpful. You may want to consult with an attorney before the meeting. To find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid, please contact intake at 216.687.1900 or attend a free Brief Advice Clinic.

This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Maria Smith and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

Can I get assistance with utility bills? Close

Fuel Funds Provide More Utility Assistance to Low Income Electric Customers.

Electric customers of First Energy, Illuminating Company, and Ohio Edison (not Cleveland Public Power) can apply NOW (March 2014) for additional assistance paying their electric bill.  Individuals must have income below 200% of the federal poverty level and owe no more than $300 on an old account (if trying to start new service) or on disconnect notice (if trying to avoid shut off) .  Required documents include utility bill or disconnect notice, social security numbers for all household members and income verification.

  • Residents of Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties can contact the Consumer Protection Association at 216-881-3434 to request help or in the event of an emergency, can walk in for help at 3030 Euclid Avenue, Suite 105, Cleveland, OH  44115.
  • Residents of Cuyahoga County can also contact the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland at 216-263-6266 or Cleveland Housing Network at 216-912-2211.  Call for location and hours when walk-in applications are accepted.

What are some tips for preparing for a housing case on my own? Close

What is Housing Court?  In Ohio, three courts have divisions that specialize in housing-related issues:  Cleveland, Toledo, and Franklin County.  These courts were created to allow judges to develop expertise in these areas of law and use a problem-solving approach to cases.  In other cities, the municipal court typically hears cases related to housing issues.

What types of cases are heard in Housing Court?  The courts hear civil and criminal cases related to real property.  The civil cases include landlord tenant matters, like evictions, rent deposits, and actions to compel repairs.  The criminal cases involve the failure to maintain property, and include building, housing, health, fire and zoning code violations.

What should you know about going to Housing Court on your own?

You are not required to have an attorney to appear in Housing Court (unless you are appearing on behalf of a company you own).  If you are in Court on a criminal case you may be entitled to a court-appointed attorney.  Ask the Judge about your right to counsel when you appear for a criminal case.

  • Read your court papers carefully!  They will tell you when and where you are to appear, and whether you need to file anything in writing with the Court.
  • Look at the Court’s website.  Most websites post basic information, including local rules, and have a list of “frequently asked questions.”
  • Read the rules.  A court’s local rules tell you how individual courts handle cases.  Also, all parties must follow the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, whether they are represented by an attorney or not.
  • Evictions are summary proceedings.  This means that cases move quickly, and usually are heard and decided at the first hearing.  In Cleveland, if you are ordered to move, you may have as few as seven days to do so!  If you have special circumstances you would like the Court to consider, bring related paperwork to the hearing.
  • Consider mediation.  The Cleveland Housing Court now offers community mediation, in which court staff  meet with landlords and tenants in their neighborhoods to try and resolve problems and avoid future lawsuits.  For more information, please contact the Court at 216-664-4295.  In other communities, check with the municipal court to find out if mediation is available.
  • Questions?  Many organizations offer help to tenants.  Call 2-1-1 for resources in your community.  In Cleveland, see a Housing Specialist for information about court procedure and landlord-tenant law, Monday through Friday, from 8:00AM – 3:30PM, on the 13th floor of the Justice Center.  The Specialists are not attorneys, and cannot represent you, but can answer general questions.

 

This article was written by Cleveland Housing Court Senior Staff Attorney Jessica M. Weymouth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Is Financial Assistance Available for Seniors to Help Pay Property Tax? Close

A new wave of foreclosures hitting greater Cleveland is the result of the county selling property tax debts to institutions that then file foreclosures against the homeowners when they cannot pay the taxes owed.

Seniors on a fixed income sometimes face particular hardship in trying to pay even a small arrearage.  Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP) offers a small loan program (up to $6,500) for Cuyahoga County residents over age 55 who need a loan to pay back property taxes and avoid foreclosure.  See more information at by clicking here.

Are there housing protections for victims of domestic violence? Close

Victims of domestic violence are often forced to choose between abuse and homelessness. If a victim of abuse does not have any other place to live, victims many times will stay with their abuser.  Victims also face loss of housing and housing discrimination because of their abuser’s behavior.

The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA 2013”) protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. In 2013, the law was expanded to provide more protections.

More People are Protected: VAWA 2013 covers victims of sexual assault in addition to victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.  Also, VAWA 2013 now specifically protects Native American women, immigrants, LGBT victims, college students and youth.

Protections from Evictions: Under VAWA 2013, victims cannot be denied housing in federal housing programs because of being a victim of violence.  Victims also cannot be evicted from federal housing programs due to their status as victims or due to the actions of the abuser.

VAWA 2013 also created emergency housing transfer options in all federal housing programs.  Victims should be able to transfer to a different unit to have safer housing.  Plans for these options are being developed by local housing authorities.

College Students

VAWA 2013 also protects college students.  Schools must create a recording process for incidences of dating violence and report the findings. Schools also must create plans to prevent dating violence and educate victims on their rights, including the right to contact law enforcement.

Preferred Waiting Lists

Some public housing authorities and subsidized housing providers provide a preference to domestic violence victims on their waiting lists.  Victims may be able to secure subsidized housing more quickly than if they were on the regular waiting list.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking, and you believe that you have been denied housing or that you are being evicted due to your abuser’s action, you should seek legal counsel.  Legal Aid provides assistance in some housing cases.  Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.

 

This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Abigail Staudt and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What are my rights as a tenant of a rental property in Ohio? Close

Ohio law governs the relationship between tenants and landlords. When the arrangement no longer benefits one of the parties, they must take certain steps to end it. For example, they must give notice to the other side. A landlord CANNOT resort to “self-help” in order to remove a tenant from his property. The following examples are sometimes used or threated by landlords, even though doing so is against the law:

1. Physically forcing the tenant out of the property
2. Threatening to hurt the tenant if the tenant does not leave
3. Removing the tenant’s things without permission
4. Turning off utilities (gas, electric, water) at the property
5. Changing the locks
6. Altering the property to make it unlivable

The only way to evict someone in Ohio is through the court system. Before the court proceeding, the landlord must deliver all proper notices to the tenant. All landlords must serve tenants with a 3 day notice to vacate. Landlords for subsidized housing have additional notice requirements.

The landlord can then go to the municipal housing court to file a complaint against the tenant if the tenant does not move out. The court then schedules a hearing, where both the landlord and tenant can present their case. If the landlord is able to prove the grounds for eviction, the Court will order the tenant to move. Usually the courts allow tenants 7 to 10 days from the eviction to prepare to move. Tenants and landlords can call the Cleveland Housing Court at 216-664-4295 for information about eviction proceedings.

Emergency assistance and shelter can be found by calling 211 if a landlord illegally evicts a tenant. Tenants who are illegally evicted may also be entitled to money damages for property lost as a result of the landlord’s actions. Some things tenants can do if facing an illegal eviction are:

1. Call the police and make a police report immediately.
2. Take pictures of where the landlord put personal property, and anything that was damaged, as soon as possible.
3. Identify any witnesses. If anyone observed the landlord’s actions, ask for their name and contact information.
4. Notify utility companies and request utility records for the time at issue to prove the amount of the charges that should not be charged to the tenant.
5. Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for assistance or call the Cleveland Housing Court 216-664-4295 to seek information about the legal process.
If a landlord threatens an illegal eviction, there are organizations that can try to help prevent it. Call the Cleveland Tenant Organization at 216-664- 0617 or The Cleveland Mediation Center at 216-621-1919. Legal Aid can help with some evictions. Call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for assistance.

This article was written by Lukas Padegimas and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What are the duties of a landlord? Close

In Ohio a landlord has a duty to:

  • Put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.
  • Keep the common areas safe and sanitary.
  • Comply with building, housing, health, and safety codes.
  • Keep in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems and fixtures.
  • Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied or required by the landlord.
  • Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat, unless the hot water and hear are supplied by an installation that is under the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up.
  • Provide garbage cans and arrange for trash removal if the landlord owns four or more residential units in the same building.
  • Give at least 24 hours notice, unless it is an emergency, before entering a tenant’s unit, and enter only at reasonable times in a reasonable manner.
  • Evict the tenant when informed by a law enforcement officer of drug activity by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest of the tenant occurring in or otherwise connected with the tenant’s premises.

What are the duties of a tenant? Close

In Ohio a tenant has a duty to:

  • Keep premises safe and sanitary.
  • Dispose of rubbish in the proper manner.
  • Keep the plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.
  • Use electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.
  • Comply with housing, health, and safety codes that apply to tenants.
  • Refrain from damaging the premises and keep guests from causing damage.
  • Maintain appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order.
  • Conduct yourself in a manner that does not disturb any neighbors and require guests to do the same.
  • Permit landlord to enter the dwelling unit if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given.
  • Comply with state or municipal drug laws in connection with the premises and require house-hold members and guests to do likewise.

My rental unit needs repairs – what do I do? Close

Landlords are required to make certain repairs to their rental units, when they are needed, including:

  • Repairs to keep the property in a livable condition;
  • Repairs to meet housing and building codes that affect health and safety; and
  • Repairs required by the terms of the lease.

In Ohio, if a landlord fails to make repairs, a rent deposit (or rent escrow) process allows a tenant to pay the rent to a court, instead of the landlord, to get the landlord to make these repairs.

Before a tenant may rent deposit, the tenant generally must:

  • Be current in rent;
  • Give the landlord written notice of the repairs needed, by sending the notice to the person or place where the rent is normally paid; and
  • Then give the landlord a reasonable time (usually 30 days) to make the repairs.

If the landlord does not make the repairs during this reasonable time, the tenant may rent deposit.   At the time the monthly rent is due, the tenant deposits the monthly rent with the Clerk of Court of the municipal court for the tenant’s community.   Each month, the tenant must continue to timely deposit the rent with the Clerk of Court.   The Clerk of Court may have rules for depositing the rent, which the tenant must follow.

When can a landlord evict a tenant? Close

A landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant when the tenant has

  • Failed to pay rent on time
  • Occupied the unit after the termination or expiration of the rental agreement
  • Breached the lease agreement

How can a landlord legally evict a tenant? Close

To bring an eviction action, the landlord must first serve a 3-day notice to vacate the premises in person, by mail, or at the premises. If the tenant does not move within the 3-day period, then the landlord must file and action in Forcible Entry and Detainer at the court in the city where the property is located. The Court will schedule a hearing and the tenant will receive a summons and complaint at least 10 days before the hearing.

At the hearing, the landlord may present evidence in support of the eviction and the tenant may present a defense to the eviction action. A tenant may raise the issue of bad conditions as a defense or a counterclaim at the eviction hearing. If an eviction is ordered, the landlord will make arrangements with the Court to have the tenant’s belonging removed from the unit if the tenant does not move. Local procedures may vary, check with your municipal court or an attorney.

How do I end a lease? Close

For a month-to-month lease, either a landlord or a tenant may terminate a month-to-month agreement by giving a full thirty days notice to the other party. The thirty days begins on the next rental due date and runs with the rental period.

For a longer term lease, such as a written lease, the rental agreement (lease) normally specifies the method for termination or renewal. If termination or renewal is not specified, then the agreement ends on the date in the agreement.

If a tenant breaks a lease by moving before the lease is up, or if a tenant has had a lease terminated because the tenant is in violation of the Law, the tenant may be held liable under the agreement until the unit is re-rented.

My landlord is keeping my security deposit – what do I do? Close

The landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days of the time that the tenant gives up occupancy (i.e., moves out and turns in the key) and terminates the rental agreement. The tenant must provide the landlord with a forwarding address in writing.

The Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law permits a landlord to apply a security deposit to cover the costs of unpaid rents or charges, and any repair of tenant-caused damages to the property, in excess of normal wear and tear. If the landlord makes a deduction from the security deposit, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a written itemized accounting of the money that is withheld.

If, after 30 days, the landlord has not returned the deposit or the itemized accounting, or if the tenant disagrees with the landlord’s decision to withhold some or all of the security deposit, then the tenant may sue for double the amount which the tenant believes was wrongfully withheld.  If the tenant’s claim is for less than $3000, the tenant may file in the Small Claims Court in the city where the property was located.

I am worried my landlord is retaliating against me – what can I do? Close

Ohio Landlord Tenant Law forbids a landlord from retaliating against a tenant by increasing the rent, decreasing the services, evicting or threatening to evict the tenant because the tenant has:

  • Complained to a public official
  • Complained to the landlord
  • Joined with other tenants to bargain collectively over the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.

A tenant can file a claim or assert a defense to an eviction for retaliation. A landlord who engages in retaliation may be held liable for any actual damages to the tenant and for reasonable attorney’s fees.

Can my landlord enter my apartment whenever he wants? Close

No. A landlord may enter a tenant’s unit only after giving a 24-hour notice, except in case of emergency. Landlords may not enter at an unreasonable time or in an unreasonable manner. Landlords may not make repeated requests for entry that have the effect of harassment. Tenants may seek injunctive relief from the courts when landlords abuse their right of access. The Ohio Landlord Tenant Law does not prohibit a tenant from installing her/his own locks on the rental premises, although this may be prohibited by the lease. A tenant has the duty under the law to not unreasonably restrict the landlord’s right of access.

What are tips for people who are renters? Close

  • Before you move in, determine who pays for utilities
  • On the day you move into a rental unit, take photos of the condition of the unit
  • Document your requests for repairs; for example, keep a log with the date and repair request
  • Always pay your rent, unless you are depositing it at the Court.
  • Always maintain proof of your rent payment; keep the money order stub, or get a receipt
  • On the day you move out, take photos of the condition of the unit

What rights do people with disabilities living in subsidized housing have? Close

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law, protects people with
disabilities from discrimination in housing. Landlords cannot treat
tenants with disabilities worse than other tenants because of their
disabilities. Also, tenants with mental or physical disabilities can
ask for changes to make it easier to live in their units and follow
the rules of their leases. These changes are called “reasonable
accommodations.” The FHA requires most landlords to provide
reasonable accommodations to tenants.

A reasonable accommodation can be any change to management
rules, policies, practices or the way services are provided. The
reason for the change must relate to the tenant’s disability. An
example of an accommodation is permission to have a service
animal in an apartment complex that does not allow pets. Another
example is providing an assigned parking space for a disabled
tenant who cannot walk very far. An accommodation can be
requested for almost anything a tenant has to do as part of a lease.

Tenants in subsidized housing must follow many rules. For example,
they must prove their income, pass background checks, turn in
paperwork, and attend appointments. Tenants with disabilities can
request accommodations for any of these rules.

Some examples of accommodations tenants in subsidizing housing
may request are:

• A chance to get back on a waiting list if removed for a reason
related to a disability
• Mail-in recertification if a tenant cannot make it to any
accessible locations
• Reminder letters or copies of letters sent to someone else if a
disability makes it hard for a tenant to remember things
• Not getting evicted if the reason for the eviction is related to
a disability

For more information, see https://lasclev.org/accomodations/,
or the John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Support
Center at http://www.jmls.edu/clinics/fairhousing/resources.php.

If you receive a notice of termination, a 3-day notice or eviction
complaint, call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are
eligible for assistance.

This article was written by Callie Dendrinos and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Do you know a young adult whose criminal activity has jeopardized the family’s public housing? Close

Do you know a young adult whose criminal activity has jeopardized the family’s public housing in Cuyahoga County?

Legal Aid can help resolve past juvenile and adult criminal records issues for people under 25 whose CMHA public housing was lost or is currently threatened due to the prior criminal activity.

Call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for this assistance.

What Resources are there for Lead Poisoning? Close

Lead poisoning in children is a serious condition with long term negative consequences.  The following resources may help families in northeast Ohio trying to cope with lead poisoning:

For medical advice for a child with an elevated blood level, contact:

  • Your child’s pediatrician
  • MetroHealth Pediatric Lead Clinic
    Referral by pediatrician or call (216) 778-2222

For education resources and support, contact:

For information on lead testing of your home, contact:

  • If you live in the city of Cleveland:

City of Cleveland Lead Safe: (216) 664-2175
http://www.clevelandhealth.org/network/environment/lead_safe_living.php

Lead Hazard Control Program: 216.651.0077
http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/Government/CityAgencies/CommunityDevelopment/DivisionofNeighborhoodServices/LeadHazardControlProgram

  • If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:

Cuyahoga County Board of Health: (216) 201-2000
http://investinchildren.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/lead-poisoning-prevention.aspx

  • If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:

Ohio Healthy Homes  1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)

Lake County
http://lake.oh.networkofcare.org/ph/library/article.aspx?hwid=hw119898

For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:

 

 

 

What impact could smoking bans have on your housing? Close

Housing providers have started banning smoking in residential buildings. The bans prohibit residents smoking in their units or outside of designated smoking areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development supports these bans in the interest of residents’ health and minimizing repair costs.1

Public housing authorities (PHAs) in the five counties served by the Legal Aid Society may soon implement a smoking ban given HUD’s proposed “Smoke Free Public Housing” rule from November 2015.2 Even in regions with relatively low smoking rates, such as Cuyahoga,3 many citizens may be exposed to the health risks associated with smoking if they live or work in a smoking building.

If you live in a building considering a smoking ban, you may have the opportunity to voice your opinions about the ban. Look for signs or notices of a residents’ meeting within your building regarding a smoking ban. A residents’ meeting may be your best opportunity to speak directly to the PHA about the ban.

Another option for Cleveland residents to express their opinion is to contact the Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO). CTO advocates for affordable and fair rental accommodations.4 Tenants’ groups will be interested in working with PHAs to draft the ban because violations by tenants or tenants’ guests may result in a lease violation or even eviction. If you would like to speak with someone at CTO regarding a smoking ban, call (216) 432-0617.

Finally, if your building creates a smoking ban, be aware of your responsibilities. You may be asked to sign a lease addendum regarding the policy during a recertification meeting.5 Read all documents carefully and ask your property manager any questions you have during that meeting. You may also request copies of the paperwork to review later or to discuss with a tenant advocate. Clarify when the new policy takes effect, and what is expected of tenants. You should also know the potential penalties for violating the ban so you can be sure to follow the new rules once effective.

1Change Is In The Air: An Action Guide for Establishing Smoke-Free Public Housing and Multifamily
Properties, Department of Housing and Urban Development, p. 10-17 (2014).
2Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing, 80 Fed. Reg. 71,762 (Nov. 17, 2015)
3Ellen Jan Kleinerman, “Cuyahoga County smoking rate is lowest in Ohio.” The Plain Dealer,
September 15, 2010. http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2010/09/cuyahoga_smoking_
rate_lowest_i.html
4“Mission & Values”, www.clevelandtenants.org (2015).
5Change Is In The Air, p. 63

By Abigail Pink

Does Lakewood offer protections to LGBT population? Close

On June 20th, the City Council of Lakewood passed an ordinance that extends the city’s non-discrimination laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Ohio is one of 28 states which do not currently have statewide protections for the LGBT population. However, the passage of Ordinance 1-16 will make Lakewood one of 15 cities in the state to adopt such legislation.1

Prior to the passage of this law, there was no protection against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in Lakewood in the areas of housing and employment. However, with the enactment of this ordinance, no citizen of Lakewood can be fired, evicted from their home, or denied government services based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Employers can only fire, promote, or hire employees based
on job performance. The ordinance was spearheaded by City Councilman Dan O’Malley and supported by a great number of city council members.

The ordinance also created a three member human rights committee to hear complaints about violations of the new law. The committee will hear complaints of discrimination based on age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or physical characteristics. The committee will have some enforcement powers, including the option of requiring
employers to rehire fired victims of discrimination, and instituting fines of up to $500 for damages.

Similar legislation in the City of Cleveland was debated and passed in July 2016. In 2009, Cleveland passed protections against discrimination for LGBT citizens in the areas of public services (such as bathrooms), but lawmakers amended the language to exclude private businesses from the requirements. Due to the passage of this new legislation, private business owners cannot legally deny public accommodations on the basis of perceived gender or gender identity. The new law, Ordinance 1446.13,2 allows people who are transgender to use the bathroom, locker room, and
dressing room of their choosing. Similar legislation in other Ohio communities such as Columbus and Bexley has already passed.3

1Lakewood Ordinance 1-16: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2891261-Lkwd-Human-
Rights-Ord-Draft-as-Adopted-06202016-1.html#document/p1
2Cleveland Ordinance 1446: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/1354865/restroomord.pdf
3See http://www.equalityohio.org/cleveland-city-council-to-vote-on-closing-discrimination-loopholes-inlocal-
ordinances/

By Olivia Milne

Can my application for housing be denied because I have a criminal record? Close

Housing providers can no longer automatically deny applications for housing based on a person having a criminal record. On April
4, 2016, the United Stated Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a decision saying that such practices can be discriminatory. This change should help more families get the housing that they need.

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. HUD observed that nearly one-third of all people living in the US have a criminal record. HUD observed that African Americans and Hispanic Americans are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at higher rates than the general population. Further, HUD found that many landlords will not allow people to rent if they have a criminal record-sometimes based only on an arrest record.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on: race or color; religion; national origin; familial status or age—includes families with children under the age of 18 and pregnant women; disability or handicap, or sex. HUD decided that using blanket rules that exclude tenants with criminal records has a discriminatory effect. Thus, HUD has decided that the discriminatory effect can violate Fair Housing Laws. A recent U. S. Supreme Court opinion supports this position, stating that a rule with a discriminatory effect (called “disparate impact”) can violate the Fair Housing Laws even if the landlord did not intend to discriminate.

Based on HUD’s decision, housing providers make individualized determinations about whether a person’s criminal record may disqualify him or her for housing, and cannot use blanket exclusions. A person denied admission to federally subsidized housing based on a criminal record should request a hearing to challenge the decision. People can also call Legal Aid to apply for help at 1-888-817-3777.

By Maria Smith

Can I save money with Ohio’s Homestead Exemption? Close

Ohio’s Homestead Exemption protects the first $25,000 of your home’s value from taxation. For example, if your home is worth $100,000, you will be taxed as if the home were worth $75,000. On average, those who qualify for the exemption save $400 a year.

Who is eligible? A homeowner who is:

1. 65 years old (or who will turn 65 this year), or
2. Permanently and totally disabled as of the 1st day of the year in which they file, or
3. The surviving spouse of a person previously enrolled in Homestead and who was at least 59 years of age when the spouse died.

What property is eligible for the exemption?
1. The property must be where you usually live, and
2. You must have been living there as of January 1st, and
3. You must be on the deed, or if the property is held in a trust, you must give the Auditor a copy of the trust.

How do you apply?
1. Fill out application form DTE105A—you can get the form at your county Auditor’s office, at your county Auditor’s website, or at the Ohio Department of Taxation’s website (tax.ohio.gov).
2. File form DTE105A with your county Auditor—you must file the original form that has your ink signature (not a copy). You cannot electronically file the form.

In September 2016, the law changed to allow real property (land and buildings attached to the land) applications to be filed any time before December 31st. If you are applying for the exemption on a manufactured or mobile home, you have to apply on or before the first Monday in June. If you were eligible for the exemption last year, but did not apply, you can file a late application for the previous year at the same time that you file your application for the current year.

If your eligibility is based on AGE, you must submit PROOF OF AGE with your application. You can prove your age with a copy of your driver’s license (current or expired), State of Ohio ID card, birth certificate or passport (current or expired).

If your eligibility is based on DISABILITY, you must submit PROOF OF DISABILITY with your application. You can prove your disability by getting the Auditor’s Certificate of Disability form signed by your doctor OR by giving the Auditor a copy of a statement from Social Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Railroad Retirement Board, or the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation that says you are totally and permanently disabled.

If you are approved for the Homestead Exemption, you do not have to re-apply in future years.

If your application is denied, or you think the reduction amount is less than what you should get, you can file an appeal with the County Board of Revision using form DTE106B. Instructions for appealing the decision will be in the denial letter you receive.

To get an application form, or if you need help or have questions, call your county Auditor’s Homestead Department:

In Cuyahoga County, call 216.443.7010
In Ashtabula County, call 440.576.3445
In Lake County, call 440.350.2536
In Geauga County, call 440.279.1617
In Lorain County, call 440.329.5207

By Kristen Nawrocki

What must owners tell tenants/buyers about lead paint? Close

Lead poisoning is one of the leading public health hazards in the U.S. today. The Ohio Department of Health recently tested Cleveland children under 6 and found almost 14% had elevated blood levels. One of the most common sources for child lead poisoning is lead paint hazards from homes built prior to 1978. Low-income individuals are especially vulnerable to having to live in old housing where lead paint is still an issue.

Some protections exist for those purchasing or leasing housing built before 1978. The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, covers all housing offered
for sale or lease built prior to 1978. This includes private housing, public housing, federally owned housing, and all housing that receives federal assistance.

Under this act, a landlord must provide a tenant with an approved Environmental Protection Agency pamphlet on how to identify and control lead hazards. The landlord must disclose all known
lead hazards in the unit and in all common areas a tenant may use. A landlord must also provide a prospective tenant with any lead hazard reports related to the unit. Finally, the lease must include terms stating that the landlord has complied with all the notification requirements in Title X.

Renters and buyers who did not get the required information should call The National Lead Information Center hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD(5323). Callers can request a general information packet, and ask any questions concerning lead. If it turns out the home has a lead hazard, tenants should seek legal assistance. A tenant may sue a landlord if the landlord doesn’t provide the required information. The City of Cleveland’s lead hazard control ordinance declares lead hazards a public nuisance and the Commissioner of Health may order the landlord to abate, or clean up, the nuisance.

Lead poisoning can have long-term, irreversible effects on children. Homeowners and renters moving into a new dwelling should be sure that the seller or landlord provides all required information related to lead in the property.

This article was written by Luke Condon and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Is your criminal record causing problems with housing, employment, or other issues? Close

The problems associated with having a criminal record do not end with the penalties imposed by the court. Numerous collateral consequences – including the inability to secure affordable housing, obtain gainful employment, or seek higher education – often harm those with a criminal record. The Juvenile Reentry Assistance Project (JRAP) helps people with criminal records that live in or used to live in Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) public housing avoid these collateral consequences.
If you or someone in your household:

  • Has a criminal record that is causing problems with housing, employment, or other issues;
  • Lives in CMHA public housing, participates in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), or used to live in CMHA public housing and can no longer live in CMHA public housing due to a criminal record;
  • And is under 25 years old

Then you may be eligible for assistance through JRAP.

One of the main ways that the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland helps clients who qualify for JRAP is by assisting them in filing an application to seal their criminal records. In general, a person may be eligible to seal an adult criminal conviction if they have no more than one felony conviction, two misdemeanor convictions, or one felony and one misdemeanor conviction. The law requires a person to wait three years after final disposition in the case of a felony and one year in the case of a misdemeanor before applying. A person may not have any criminal cases pending, and must have been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court. For more information about sealing criminal records, CLICK HERE.

Legal Aid may also be able to assist in the sealing of juvenile criminal convictions. For juvenile cases, a person must wait six months from the end of the court proceedings if under 18 years old, or at any time after turning 18 years old if no longer under an order from the juvenile court. In addition, Legal Aid may be able to assist in the sealing of adult and juvenile cases that were dismissed. For more information about sealing juvenile records, CLICK HERE. To apply for assistance through Legal Aid’s JRAP program in having your criminal record sealed or addressing other barriers you may be experiencing, please call 1-888-817-3777.

This article was written by Zachary Frye and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Is rent deposit an option to get my landlord to make repairs? Close

If you are a tenant, your landlord is required to make certain necessary repairs to your rental unit, including:
• Repairs to keep the property in a livable condition;
• Repairs to meet housing and building codes that affect your health and safety; and
• Repairs required by your lease.

In Ohio, a tenant can pay rent to a court, instead of the landlord, after a landlord has refused to make necessary repairs within a reasonable amount of time. This is called “rent deposit” or “rent escrow.” However, the tenant must be very careful to follow certain rules in order to deposit rent to the court properly.

Before a tenant can deposit rent into the court, the tenant generally must:
• Be current on rent;
• Give the landlord written notice of the repairs needed by sending the notice to the person or place where the rent is normally paid (the tenant should keep a copy of this notice); and
• Give the landlord a reasonable time (usually 30 days, unless it’s an emergency) to make the repairs.

If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs during this reasonable time, the tenant generally may deposit the next month’s rent with the Clerk of Court of the municipal court for the tenant’s community. Each month, the tenant must continue to deposit the rent with the Clerk of Court by the date the rent is due according to the tenant’s lease. The Clerk of Court may have additional rules for depositing the rent, which the tenant must follow. The rent will remain on deposit with the court until the tenant and the landlord agree on how and when it should be released, or the court decides to release it.

Some non profit groups help tenants with the rent deposit process, at no charge to the tenant:
• In Ohio (all counties): Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), (888) 485-7999.
• In Cuyahoga County: Rental Information Center of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, (216) 432-0609.
• In Lake County: Fair Housing Resource Center, Inc., (440) 392-0147.

Also, some courts help tenants with the rent deposit process. For example, Cleveland Housing Court specialists can explain the rent deposit process to tenants. The specialists are located on the 13th Floor of the Justice Center, 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, OH 44113, and are available for drop-in visits, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Cleveland Housing Court phone number is (216) 664-4295.

This article was written by the Legal Aid Housing Practice Group and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

I have questions as a renter. Who can I call? Close

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is excited to announce we are now staffing the Tenant Information Line for rental housing questions (formerly staffed by Cleveland Tenants Organization).

Renters can call 216-861-5955 during business hours if they need information about their rights and responsibilities. The line is open to anyone in Legal Aid’s service area, which includes Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties.

This is an information line only, and those with legal questions may be referred to Legal Aid’s intake or a neighborhood legal advice clinic.

Click here for a printable flyer about this helpful resource!

What to do about blighted properties? Close

Is there a house on your street that nobody is taking care of? Is a house being used for criminal activity? Or maybe a neighbor is living in a house that isn’t safe? There are things you can do to address a blighted house on your block.

The first step is to call the City of Cleveland (216-664-2000) and enter a complaint. (This article focuses on what to do in Cleveland, but you can take a similar approach in any city). When you call, have the address of the property and the full list of information you would like the City to know. When you call, ask for a reference number. The reference number will allow you to call back and check up on what the City has done in response to your complaint.

What the City does next (and how quickly) depends on the nature of the complaint. If nobody is living at the house, and the issue is related to the physical condition of the house, the Department of Building and Housing is called. Building and Housing tries to send an inspector within 2-4 weeks. The Inspector will inspect the property to see if the complaint is accurate. If so, the City will issue a violation notice. If the City has to do anything – like cutting the grass or boarding up the house – the owner of the property will be charged the fees. If the nature of the complaint involves the health and welfare of people, the City may send out the Health Department, the Police, and even emergency services. If the owner of the property does not resolve the issue, the City of Cleveland can refer the case to the Law Department to begin legal proceedings against the owner.

Concerned neighbors have little control over this referral process. Your involvement may be limited to making the initial phone call and following up. Because of this, another good option is to call the Councilperson in your ward and work with them to resolve the issue.

There are a lot of blighted homes in Cleveland, so sometimes property issues take a long time to resolve. Persistent and creative engagement by you and your neighbors can help make your block better.

This article was written by Rebecca Maurer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Can paying property taxes on time help avoid foreclosure? Close

Property taxes can be confusing to many people. But understanding them will make you a more secure homeowner.

You must pay your property taxes every year. Property taxes are usually split up into two bills that cover six months each. Many people do not realize they are paying property taxes. If you have a mortgage, your bank may be collecting what you owe for taxes each month and holding it “in escrow.” The escrow money is included in your monthly mortgage bill. The bank then pays the bill for you every six months, which makes it easy for people to forget about property taxes. But it’s important to remember them.

If you do not have a mortgage (or have paid off your mortgage), you have to pay your property taxes directly to your County Treasurer. (See the Homestead Exemption article that explains how you can lower your tax bill, if you are over 65 or disabled). It is important to set aside money each month to pay your twice-yearly property tax bills. Some County Treasurers have programs where you can pay your taxes over 12 monthly payments, instead of making larger payments twice per year.

Importantly, the County can take your home from you if you fail to pay your property taxes. This is called a property tax foreclosure. If you get notices that you are behind on your property taxes, start paying as much as you can right away! The longer you wait, the more late fees and additional charges you will owe. The longer you wait, the more at risk you are of losing your home.

You might be able to work out a payment plan if you talk to your County Treasurer:
Ashtabula County–(440) 576-3727
Cuyahoga County– (216) 443-7420 (Taxpayer Services)
Geauga County– (440) 279-2000
Lake County– (440) 350-2516
Lorain County– (440) 329-5787

Sometimes the county sells an overdue property tax debt to a private company such as Woods Cove or TaxEase. These private companies can also foreclose on your home if you do not pay the old property tax bills that they purchased.

If you are contacted by a private company about your property taxes, you should always check with your County Treasurer before paying a company that claims to own your old taxes. You want to make sure that the private company really does have the right to collect your property tax money. If a private company does own your old tax debt, you should ask that company about a payment plan to pay off the old taxes and avoid foreclosure.

Remember, even if you send money to a private company to pay off old taxes, you are still responsible for paying your current and future property taxes directly to your County Treasurer.

Paying your property taxes on time each year will help you keep your home and avoid foreclosure.

This article was written by Rebecca Maurer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What happens to your personal property if you’ve been evicted? Close

Ohio law prohibits your landlord from taking or disposing of your property after an eviction, unless the court specifically gives the landlord permission to do so. Landlords also cannot take your belongings for the purpose of recovering unpaid rent unless the landlord gets a court order. If your landlord takes your property without a court order and will not release it to you until you have paid back owed rent, you have the right to sue your landlord under Ohio law, specifically Revised Code §§ 5321.15(B) and (C).

If you make these claims, your landlord may argue that you “abandoned” your property, which would give the landlord the right to take it. Your landlord must prove that you:
(1) gave up all rights to your personal property and
(2) demonstrated your intent to never again reclaim your property.

Ohio law does not specify what a landlord is required to do with property left behind by a tenant who was evicted. However, in order to avoid liability for damages, your landlord should not dispose of any personal property left behind after an eviction and should instead store it and make it available to you. Landlords may charge you a reasonable cost for moving and storing the property.

If you were evicted and left behind personal property that you want, your former landlord may not require you to pay back rent owed in order to get your belongings back unless the landlord has a court order. Remember you may have to pay for the moving and storage of your property.

This article was written by Sara Bird and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

I am a Tenant – Can I call/text my questions about my rights & responsibilities? Close

Tenants can now call Legal Aid’s Tenant Information Line at 216.861.5955 with questions about their rights and responsibilities.  Tenants can call between the hours 9am-5pm and leave a brief message with their housing question and someone will call them back within 24 business hours.

Tenants can text Legal Aid at 216.242.1544 for info about responding to an eviction, requesting return of a security deposit, problems with housing conditions and lead poisoning.

  • For help responding to an eviction complaint text FAQ EVICTION.
  • For information on how to request a return of a security deposit text FAQ DEPOSIT.
  • For information on how to rent deposit text FAQ REPAIRS.
  • For lead poisoning information text FAQ LEAD.

How can I enforce my rights if I have been discriminated against based on LGBTQ status? Close

In Ohio, 20 cities have laws protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (“LGBTQ”) from discrimination. See http://www.equalityohio.org/city-map/. In many instances, the local ordinances create a board or committee charged with hearing complaints under the law. Unfortunately, the process for filing a complaint and addressing discrimination is not always clear.

In February 2016, the ACLU of Ohio learned about discrimination two transgender women faced at a store in Cleveland. The women were protected under Cleveland’s anti-discrimination ordinance.[1] Elizabeth Bonham, a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, filed a complaint with the Fair Housing Board, as provided in the ordinance.[2] The Fair Housing Board issued its findings in favor of the women on December 12, 2016.

People who experience discrimination based on LGBTQ status in Cleveland, whether in housing or in public accommodations, can enforce their rights through filing a complaint with the Fair Housing Board. For information about the process, call the Fair Housing Board at 216.664.4529. In other cities that have passed anti-discrimination or human rights ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community, individuals have to contact each city’s law department to learn the appropriate process for filing a complaint.

The ACLU of Ohio has provided trainings on, and continues to provide information on, LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances, including enforcement options. For more information visit http://www.acluohio.org/archives/blog-posts/lgbt-advocacy-in-real-time or call the ACLU of Ohio at 216.472.2200. For information on how to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission contact Equality Ohio at 216.224.0400 or visit
http://www.equalityohio.org/ehea/.

This article was written by Chloe Sudduth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

[1] See City of Cleveland, Code of Ordinances, Part Six, Title V – Discrimination, available at http://www.clevelandcitycouncil.org/legislation-laws/charter-codified-ordinances.

[2] ACLU case Doe vs. Family Dollar, Inc. and CityWide Protection (Administrative Complaint): http://www.acluohio.org/archives/cases/doe-v-family-dollar-inc-and-citywide-protection

How will the public housing authority’s smoking bans affect me? Close

By July 30, 2018, public housing providers will all be required to implement smoke-free policies in residential buildings. The smoke-free policies prohibit residents from smoking in their units or outside of designated smoking areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) supports these bans in the interest of residents’ health and minimizing repair costs.[1]

Public housing authorities (PHAs) in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties have begun to implement smoking bans based on HUD’s proposed “Smoke-Free Public Housing” rule from November 2015.[2] Some PHAs may implement their smoke-free policies sooner than the July 30, 2018 requirement.

The smoking bans include all lit tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Smoking will be prohibited in all public housing residential units, common areas, offices and the first 25 feet from the outside of the building.[3] Some housing providers may provide a Designated Smoking Area (DSA).[4] However, this is not required and the housing providers may choose to make the entire property smoke-free. All leases must include the smoking policy by July 30, 2018.

If a resident has a disability, a reasonable accommodation may be made to make it easier for the resident to access the area where smoking is allowed (i.e., the DSA or 25 feet from the building). However, the reasonable accommodation cannot allow a resident to smoke in the residential unit.

The goal of the smoke-free policy is to provide residents and staff with a healthier and safer environment. PHAs are encouraged to partner with their local and state health departments and tobacco control organizations to help residents who want to quit.

Each PHA has discretion on how to enforce its smoke-free policy. HUD recommends gradually increasing the consequences for violations, starting with verbal warnings, then a written warning, followed by a final notice. After repeated violations, enforcement of smoke-free policies could result in evictions for tenants that do not adhere to the policy or continue to smoke in their unit.

PHAs should be providing notice to all tenants in advance of this change to policy and to lease agreements. Residents should speak with their property manager about any questions or concerns in advance.

This article was written by Abigail Staudt and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

[1] Change Is In The Air: An Action Guide for Establishing Smoke-Free Public Housing and Multifamily Properties, Department of Housing and Urban Development, p. 10-17 (2014).

[2] Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing, 80 Fed. Reg. 71,762 (Nov. 17, 2015)

[3] 324 CFR §965.653(c)

[4] 324 CFR §965.653(b)

 

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