In Ohio, a landlord can force a residential tenant to move from their house or apartment only by filing an eviction action and getting a judgment from the court. Tenants are entitled to a hearing on the landlord’s eviction claim, at which the tenant can present evidence. If the landlord wins the eviction case, the judgment can be enforced only through a court-ordered move out.
from Ideastream Public Media: NEO Housing Advocates Concerned About Eviction Spike As Moratorium Ends
An emergency moratorium on evictions ended this past weekend. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it in place last year to keep people safely in their homes during the pandemic. Housing advocates worry the end of the moratorium will cause a spike in eviction cases around Northeast Ohio.
In Akron, some renter protections the city put in place during the moratorium, including pay-to-stay legislation and source of income protections, could help stem eviction rates, said Fair Housing Contact Service Associate Director Lauren Green-Hull.
“Those are things that we hope will be impactful for residents living in the city of Akron,” she said, “but outside of those areas, there’s still concerns around both of those matters for us.”
The best thing someone facing an eviction can do is seek out rental assistance and legal aid, Green-Hull said, but much of the current aid options are strictly limited to people financially impacted by the pandemic.
“We hope that that rental assistance funding is what will be a big factor in lowering the eviction rate during the pandemic,” she said. “But because those are solely pandemic-related dollars, for other folks who may not be able to pay rent for some other reason, there is still not assistance.”
“We’re hopeful that coming out of this pandemic there will be a recognition of the deep need for general rental assistance, and hopefully that will continue,” she said.
In Cleveland, the city and Cuyahoga County worked together with agencies including CHN Housing Partners to deliver rental assistance through a combined platform. That platform has issued roughly $35.1 million to about 9,000 residents since July 2020, according to CHN Executive Director Kevin Nowak.
The agency saw a spike in applications whenever the moratorium neared a possible expiration, Nowak said, and it is expecting a similar trend this month.
“We’re constantly committed to that outreach and trying to make sure that everyone is aware of the availability of that rental assistance,” he said.
Programs like Cleveland’s right to counsel are helping connect residents with aid, but housing advocates remain concerned about an eviction spike in the coming months. There’s a lack of affordable housing in and around Cleveland, Nowak said. The issue existed before the pandemic, he said, and it still needs to be addressed.
“As a community, we really need to think about what investments we need to make to increase the amount of affordable housing that’s available in our community,” he said, “and support for those people who have trouble maintaining those homes.”
The pandemic and moratorium have pushed people to investigate what assistance is available, said Andrew Neuhauser, managing attorney for Community Legal Aid Services based in central Northeast Ohio.
“One of the designs of the moratorium was that it required tenants to be seeking assistance,” he said. “A lot of people who have been proactive in finding assistance have already received those funds and should be in better shape going forward.”
Anyone facing an eviction will need to prepare themselves for the ways courts have shifted to accommodate the demands of the pandemic, Neuhauser said, including possible virtual steps to the process and other changes.
Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law: The Basics
Learn about Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law through this new brochure published by Legal Aid.
In Ohio a Landlord has a duty to:
- Keep the property in livable condition.
- Keep the common areas clean and safe.
- Comply with building, housing, health, and safety codes.
- Keep in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation equipment.
- Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied by the landlord.
- Provide running water, hot water and heat (unless the hot water and heat are controlled entirely by the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up).
- Provide garbage cans and 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 and 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.
In Ohio a Tenant has a duty to:
- Keep the property clean and safe.
- 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 property 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 property and require household members and guests to do the same.
I need technology for a virtual meeting or court hearing – what do I do?
Are you in need of virtual meeting space?
Do you have a court hearing and need technology access for a virtual hearing?
Or, are you already a Legal Aid client and need a way to connect with your attorney for a virtual meeting?
Libraries across Northeast Ohio are providing study rooms equipped with tools for you to conduct virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom, MS Teams, and WebEx. This page contains information regarding public libraries with study rooms that enable private video conferencing, along with instructions for how to reserve a room.
Andover Public Library
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-293-6792 and indicate interest in reserving a room to schedule an in-person visit. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting options when visiting the library. The Andover Public Library has recently expanded services, including a video conferencing station.
Cleveland Public Library
Select Cleveland Library branches will soon have virtual meeting rooms, thanks to support from the NFL Foundation! Check back to this page to learn more.
Rooms can be reserved 1 week in advance for up to 2 hours, during regular library hours. Each room features: a computer, speakers, microphone, webcam, and keyboard. A library account is required to use the video conferencing equipment. For more information, including a complete list of the qualifying libraries, click this link to view a downloadable PDF.
The County library also has virtual Zoom Rooms. If you are connected to a computer but not a Zoom license, you can book a “room” using the County library license. Click here for info, and visit this link for an instructional video: https://youtu.be/H4QDOdZW3XM
Lakewood Public Library – Main Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 216-226-8275, ask to speak with the reference desk, and then a supervisor. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology once they attend the room.
Westlake Porter Public Library
To reserve meeting space for a virtual meeting, first call 440-871-2600 and ask to speak with adult services. From there, you will be able to register to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology once they attend the room. Walk-in reservations are also available, but space may be limited.
Geauga County Library – Bainbridge Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-543-5611, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.
Geauga County Public Library – Chardon Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-285-7601, and ask to speak with the reference desk ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.
Geauga County Public Library – Geauga West Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-729-4250, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.
Geauga County Public Library – Middlefield Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-632-1961, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.
Geauga County Public Library – Thompson Station
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-632-1961, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.
Madison Public Library
The library has 13 Chromebooks and 6 Windows laptops available for use. The computers are available on a first-come, first-serve bases at the circulation desk and are available to any library member. The member must sign an equipment waiver.
To reserve virtual meeting space, fill out an online application. The meeting rooms are available for up to two hours at a time and must be reserved by an adult. Once the application is filled out, the attendee will receive meeting information for a Zoom room.
The library has Chromebook bundles available including the computer and an internet hotspot. The bundles can be checked out to adult library members for 14 days with a library card and photo ID.
Lorain Public Library System – Main Branch
The library meeting rooms can be booked by calling 440-244-1192 or through an online form. Rooms can be reserved by library members 18 years or older. Conference rooms have WiFi, but users will need a personal device. Walk-in reservations are accepted, but space may be limited.
Lorain Public Library System – North Ridgeville Branch
The library meeting rooms can be booked by calling 440-244-1192 or through an online form. Rooms can be reserved by library members 18 years or older. Conference room C has a laptop with webcam and microphone for meetings. Walk-in reservations are accepted, but space may be limited.
Lorain Public Library System – South Branch
The library meeting rooms can be booked by calling 440-244-1192 or through an online form. Rooms can be reserved by library members 18 years or older. Conference rooms A and B have laptops with webcams and microphones for meetings. Another conference room has WiFi, but users will need a personal device. Walk-in reservations are accepted, but space may be limited.
I have fallen behind on my rent. Can my landlord change the locks or cut off my utilities to make me move?
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 uninhabitable in order to force a tenant to move. This is sometimes called “constructive eviction.” It is also unlawful for your landlord to set your personal property out without a court order. This is sometimes called a “self-help eviction.”
If a tenant has missed a rent payment, violated the lease agreement or failed to meet their duties under the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law, the landlord must serve the tenant a notice to vacate, then file an eviction action in the local court. The tenant may appear in court at the hearing, and present any defenses or explanation they wish. The court will decide whether the tenant will be evicted. The landlord then must follow court procedure for a court-ordered move out. It is unlawful for a landlord to attempt an eviction outside of the court system.
Do I have to move out 3 days from when my landlord gives me a notice to vacate or 3-day notice?
A landlord must deliver a 3-day notice to vacate to a tenant before filing an eviction. The 3-day notice does NOT mean the tenant must move out of the property within 3 days. It does mean the landlord may be preparing to file an eviction action in court. If a tenant chooses to move out within 3 days, then the landlord may not also file the eviction. A landlord cannot force a tenant out of the property. Only after a court grants judgement for the landlord can the landlord seek assistance from the bailiff to forcibly remove a tenant.
How does a landlord legally evict a tenant?
A landlord must file an eviction action in court to legally evict a tenant from their home or apartment. A landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant when the tenant has:
- Failed to pay rent on time;
- Violated the lease agreement; or
- Not moved from the unit after the rental agreement ended.
To start an eviction action, the landlord must first give the tenant a 3-day notice to vacate. The landlord can give the notice to the tenant in person, by leaving it at the rental property, or by certified mail.
If the tenant does not move within the 3-day period, the landlord then files an eviction complaint with the court in the city where the property is located. Eviction actions are sometimes called “Forcible Entry and Detainer” cases.
After the complaint is filed, the Court schedules a hearing and sends the tenant a copy of the complaint, with a summons, about seven days before the hearing. The complaint tells the tenant the specific allegations the landlord is making against them. It usually includes the reason for the eviction.
The landlord may sue the tenant for a money judgment in the same complaint. This could be for back rent, property damage, or other money owed. These allegations also will be in the complaint, and are usually called the “second cause of action.”
The summons tells the tenant where and when the eviction hearing will be held, and gives the tenant some information about their rights and how to dispute the landlord’s claims.
What happens at an eviction hearing?
Eviction hearings are civil court proceedings held by a judge or a magistrate. The hearing may be held in a courtroom, or, sometimes, in an office.
The landlord must be present for the case to proceed. The tenant is not required by law to appear, but should if they want to present evidence, argue the case, or even just ask for more time to move. The landlord, the tenant, or both may be represented by an attorney. The parties may bring witnesses, too.
The judge or magistrate will have everyone who is going to testify swear or affirm that they will tell the truth. Next, the judge or magistrate will listen to testimony and take evidence. The landlord speaks first. The tenant may cross-examine the landlord and the landlord’s witnesses. Then, the tenant presents their evidence, which may include documents, testimony and witnesses. The landlord has the right to cross-examine the tenant and the tenant’s witnesses.
After the evidence is presented, the judge or magistrate usually will tell the parties the decision in the case right away. If the case is complicated, the judge or magistrate may say the case is “heard and submitted,” and issue a decision by mail. If the case is heard by a magistrate, the magistrate issues a recommended decision, which is sent to the judge for review and approval.
If the landlord wins the case, the landlord may schedule a court-supervised move out. The amount of time allowed for a tenant to move following an eviction depends on the city, but generally ranges from 7-14 days (could be even faster in some places).
Do I have to have an attorney with me to go to my eviction hearing?
Most landlords and tenants can go to eviction court without a lawyer. The exception is for landlords or tenants that are businesses, like a corporation, a partnership, or a trust. Those businesses must be represented by a lawyer.
While most landlords and tenants are not required to have a lawyer, lawyers can provide valuable assistance in presenting your case to the Court, negotiating with your landlord or tenant, and explaining the legal process.
Am I entitled to a court-appointed attorney in my eviction case?
Evictions are not criminal cases where the defendant can be sent to jail, so, in general, the tenant does not have the right to a court-appointed attorney. Except, tenants who qualify for the new Right to Counsel – Cleveland (RTC-C) program do have the right to a lawyer.
Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance saying that some tenants in Cleveland have the right to be represented by an attorney in their eviction case. Tenants who have at least one child, and income at or below the federal poverty guidelines qualify. If you received eviction papers from Cleveland Municipal Court and believe you qualify for RTC-C program, visit FreeEvictionHelp.org for more information.
Landlords and tenants may hire a private lawyer to represent them. Some tenants who are low income, but do not qualify for RTC-C, may qualify to be represented by a lawyer through the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Legal Aid offices are closed to the public. Tenants can apply by calling 1-888-817-3777 during most business hours or online anytime at https://lasclev.org/contact/.
What is mediation? Is it something I might want to try?
Many courts now offer parties mediation to try to resolve their dispute without a trial. In mediation, the parties sit down with a neutral third party, usually a member of the court staff, to try to reach an agreement to resolve their case. The agreement could involve a payment plan to catch up on rent, a modification of the parties’ lease, or an agreement that the tenant will move at some specific, future date.
The third party usually will write up the agreement. It will be signed by the parties and, in most cases, submitted to the Court for the Judge’s signature. The parties each will receive a copy. The parties may agree to one or more status hearings, to make sure both sides are following the agreement.
Mediation gives the parties more flexibility in reaching their goal and more control over resolving their case. If the court decides the case, most often one party will win and one will lose; in mediation both parties can win, by getting at least part of the outcome they want.
If parties try to reach an agreement through mediation but cannot, they still can go forward with their court hearing. Let the court know if you are willing to try mediation to resolve your case.
What happens to your personal property when you are evicted?
If the landlord is granted the judgment in the eviction case, the landlord schedules a court-supervised move out. In Ohio, there is no law saying how the move out is to be done, so court-ordered move outs vary from city to city.
The tenant may be told the actual move out date, or just the date by which the tenant must move, with the set out taking place a day or two later.
In most cities, the court requires the landlord to have an agent at the property for the move out. The court’s bailiffs remove any tenants and other occupants from the house or apartment and keep the peace. Some courts, like Cleveland, require the landlord to hire licensed, bonded movers to move the tenant’s personal property, furniture, and other belongings. Others may permit the landlord or the landlord’s agents to move the property.
Most courts, including Cleveland, have the movers place the tenant’s property on the tree lawn. Others require the landlord to put the tenant’s property in storage; the tenant usually must pay the storage company a fee to retrieve their belongings.
The bailiffs may change this process if setting out the property may cause a health or safety issue, for example, if bedbugs or roaches are present. The bailiffs normally take items like weapons, cash or drugs, that cannot be set out safely, back to the court for safekeeping. The tenant can contact the court about retrieving those items.
The landlord eventually can dispose of tenants’ property left on the tree lawn as trash.
Where can I find my public eviction record? Can anyone see it?
There is no single, official place to find eviction records in Ohio. Eviction cases usually are filed in the municipal court of the city in which the rental property is located. A person interested in locating eviction records can look in the court’s case index in the individual municipal court. For example, eviction cases filed regarding property located in Cleveland, Ohio, can look in the Cleveland Municipal Court’s case index, on the Clerk of Court’s website. Records for evictions from properties in Euclid will be on file with the Euclid Municipal Court, etc. Some small cities share a court; the shared court for the city will keep its records.
The fact that an eviction has been filed against a tenant may show up on a tenant’s credit report. The credit report companies check the dockets of many municipal courts to report anyone who has a case filed against them. So, someone who reviews your credit report may see that an eviction has been filed against you.
There also are some private companies that a landlord, or others, can pay to search public records for information about you. Those companies could check the records of all municipal courts in the county or the state, and report back the courts in which cases were filed against you.
How can I have my eviction record sealed?
When an eviction case is filed, it becomes part of the court’s public record. Many landlords screen potential tenants by searching their eviction case history. An old eviction case, no matter the outcome, can make it hard for a tenant to find housing.
In Ohio, there is no state law that gives a tenant the right to have their eviction record sealed. The court in which the eviction case was filed decides whether to seal the record.
The Cleveland Housing Court has a process for sealing eviction records. If the court dismissed the eviction or ruled in favor of the tenant, the case qualifies for sealing immediately. If the landlord won an eviction judgment against the tenant, the tenant must wait at least five years to ask for the record to be sealed, and the tenant must explain any unusual or mitigating circumstances that led to the eviction. The Cleveland Housing Court has forms on its website tenants can use to file a motion to seal: http://clevelandmunicipalcourt.org/docs/default-source/cleveland-housing-court/housing-court-forms/motion-to-seal-eviction-record-instructionsdfe0246cc4f76bf3972fff0000463da2.pdf?sfvrsn=e2174f3d_2
Other courts can order eviction records sealed but may not have a defined process for doing so. Tenants with eviction cases in courts other than Cleveland may file a motion to seal with the court that heard the case, explaining why the record should not be public. The court may hold a hearing, or rule on the motion without a hearing.
Sealing the record only means that it is less accessible to people looking at court. Even if the record is sealed, the tenant still must disclose the eviction if asked by a prospective landlord whether they have ever been evicted.
New Program Benefits All in Community
The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly hard on renters who have lost income and jobs. The threat of eviction and homelessness looms large for thousands of families across Northeast Ohio. Meanwhile, landlords are struggling, too. Landlords rely on their tenants’ rent for their own bills and financial stability.
Recently, Legal Aid attorney Lauren Hamilton secured a positive outcome for both her client and his landlord, Ms. Harris (name changed to protect privacy). Ms. Harris was so pleased with the respect and consideration that was shown to her throughout the entire process that she emailed Legal Aid leadership to express her gratitude.
In her note, landlord Ms. Harris described feeling frustrated when she first found out that the eviction hearing would be postponed because her client was entitled to an attorney through Cleveland’s new Right to Counsel law, which provides free access to an attorney for certain tenants facing eviction.
Ms. Harris was representing herself pro se because she could not afford an attorney herself. The tenant had missed several months of rent payments at this point, and further delays in the case created an added burden for Ms. Harris. However, after the second hearing date, Ms. Harris spoke with Attorney Hamilton on the phone and found out that, “all this time the tenant thought that I had received rental assistance, because he was working with a nonprofit organization that he thought had helped him.” Ms. Harris explained that she had not received any rental assistance funding, and Lauren reassured her that she would figure out what had happened.
The tenant Legal Aid represented was a dedicated father who had just welcomed back his five children into his home after they spent some time in foster care. Injuries he sustained from a gunshot wound to the head had made steady work difficult, but he was doing his best to provide for his family. He had applied for rental assistance funds through CHN Housing Partners, but missed an email, and his application was declined. Attorney Hamilton connected with CHN and arranged for the application to be reconsidered. Soon after, Ms. Harris says she received notice from CHN that the rental assistance funds were approved.
“This was all due to Attorney Hamilton,” Ms. Harris writes “Not only did she represent my tenant, but she also was able to help me to get the funding I needed to be able to keep this property. I can honestly say that Attorney Hamilton is an excellent attorney; she has the passion to take care of all people and she is trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Ms. Harris shared further “I am happy to say that my tenant is able to stay in his home. He has stable employment now and Attorney Hamilton has made herself available for us to facilitate any future problems. But, I don’t see that happening because she created a new foundation for us to better communicate… there are not enough words to say about how much Attorney Hamilton is appreciated.”
Marissa’s Story: Having Attorney by her Side has Been a Lifeline During COVID-19
Frontline healthcare workers are essential to public safety during a pandemic – but many still lost hours and significant amounts of income when COVID-19 began ravaging the globe earlier this year. Marissa Patawaran is one of those workers.
“When everyone is told to stay home as much as possible, people don’t seek out as much medical care,” says Marissa, a Certified Nursing Assistant in Cleveland, Ohio. “My hours were reduced in March, and now I am working PRN, or as-needed. It’s just not enough.”
Marissa is raising her one year-old daughter on her own, and rents an apartment with help from a Section 8 housing voucher. In early September, just weeks before her daughter’s first birthday, her landlord filed for eviction. Even though Marissa offered her landlord a late rental payment, he refused to accept it. On top of everything, the roof in one of her apartment’s bedrooms fell while in while Marissa and her daughter were out one day. The landlord made no repairs and has not evaluated the rest of the building for safety issues.
“I got a packet from Cleveland Housing Court with information about my hearing date and my rights,” says Marissa. The packet included a pamphlet from United Way describing Cleveland’s new Right to Counsel law, with the phone number for Legal Aid. “I was hesitant to call at first,” says Marissa, “but I’m so glad I did.”
“Marissa called Legal Aid on a Friday, and by Monday she had a safe and virtual meeting with Legal Aid attorney Anastasia Elder.
“With Cleveland’s Right to Counsel law, anyone living in the city with an income at or below 100% of the federal poverty limit and children in the household has the right to an attorney in eviction cases,” explains Anastasia.
Anastasia prepared Marissa’s case for the hearing in Cleveland Housing Court and helped the family serve the landlord with a Declaration under the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Eviction Moratorium. She also counseled Marissa about available rental assistance funds, which she secured.
The landlord, perhaps concerned that Marissa was now represented by an attorney, never appeared for the virtual hearing, and the eviction portion of the case was dismissed. Anastasia continues to work to remedy the home’s safety and condition issues.
Safe from eviction, Marissa is currently looking for a new residence for herself and her daughter. Anastasia is advocating for her to be compensated for the trouble of living in a home with unsafe conditions.
“I’ve loved working with Anastasia,” says Marissa. “I can send her a text whenever I need anything. If I hadn’t contacted Legal Aid, I wouldn’t have known about the rental assistance programs, and I would have lost my case.”