Ohio law gives rights and responsibilities to tenants and landlords. Oral and written lease agreements also control what tenants and landlords must do. Additional rules apply to public and subsidized housing. Landlords must follow the rules related to repairing conditions, evicting tenants, and resolving other problems with tenants.
- Housing Discrimination
- Private Landlords (Market rate rent)
- Public & Subsidized
How to Rent Deposit when Housing Conditions are a Problem
In Ohio, if a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs within a reasonable amount of time, a tenant can “rent deposit.”
“Rent deposit” or “rent escrow” means a tenant can pay rent to a court, instead of the landlord.
The tenant must be very careful to follow certain rules when paying rent to a court. If a tenant stops paying rent because the property needs repairs, the tenant risks an eviction for non-payment of rent. Instead of refusing to pay the rent, a tenant should follow the rent deposit procedure.
Lead Poisoning: Rights, Remedies & Resources
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. There is treatment for lead poisoning, but taking some simple precautions can help protect you and your family from lead exposure before harm is done.
Legal Aid can help! Click here for an informative brochure about Lead Poisoning: Know Your Rights, Remedies & Resources. You can also browse other Legal Aid articles related to lead poisoning and related FAQ’s and brochures by clicking here.
Get Tested for Lead
Young Children at Risk
Children 6 years old and under are at most risk for damage from lead poisoning. Children may be at risk of lead poisoning if:
- They live in or visit a home built before 1978.
- Paint is peeling on windows or doors.
- Large patches of bare dirt are exposed around their home.
Have your child’s doctor test your child’s blood lead levels. If you are covered by Medicaid, the lead screening will be covered. If the blood lead level is above 5 μg/dl there is cause for concern.
If the blood lead level is above 10 μg/dl, Ohio law requires the Ohio Department of Health or a local health department to inspect the child’s home for lead hazards. Update your contact information with the child’s doctor to ensure the Department of Health can inspect.
Call the Ohio Department of Health at 877-532-3723 to get more information on having the place a child lives or visits tested for lead. Cleveland residents should call 216-664-2175. Other Cuyahoga County residents should call 216-201-2000.
Get the Lead Out
If you live in a rental unit built before 1978, notify your landlord in writing if there is any peeling paint, large patches of bare dirt on the premises, or if your child has lead poisoning and request that your landlord make repairs. Date the letter and keep a copy for your records. If your landlord fails to make repairs within 30 days, under Ohio law you may:
- Deposit your rent in escrow at the court. You must be current in rent payments to use this process. See step by step directions for rent depositing at: https://tinyurl.com/LegalAidRentDeposit.
- Apply to the court to order the landlord to make repairs to lead hazards.
- Terminate your lease and move.
- Depositing rent may waive your rights to sue your landlord for any injury resulting from the lead poisoning. To consider any claims against your landlord, consult with an attorney before depositing rent.
Call Legal Aid if your landlord files an eviction or raises your rent after you have provided notice of a lead condition or because you have contacted the Health Department because of lead conditions.
Contact your local public health authorities for information on assistance programs to make your home lead-safe. Federal law requires disclosure of any known lead hazard at the time of sale.
Help Your Child
Lead poisoning may have long term effects including attention difficulties, behavior problems, or learning challenges. A nutritional diet early on may help. For more information see: www.epa.gov/lead.
A child under the age of 3 years old that has been lead poisoned may qualify for early intervention Help Me Grow services, even if they are not showing signs of delay. Call Help Me Grow at 800-755-4769.
If a child has learning or behavior problems in school, ask the school to evaluate the child for special education services. Let the school know the child was lead poisoned, and it is impacting the child’s education.
- Put the request in writing.
- Date the request and keep a copy.
- If you are not given a written response within 30 days, contact Legal Aid.
Personal Injury Suit
You may have claims if your child has been lead poisoned. Lawsuits based on lead poisoning may be difficult to prove. Call your local bar association to consult with an attorney who handles personal injury claims.
Legal Aid’s Brief Advice Clinics
Want to talk in-person with an attorney? In addition to in-person and phone intake, Legal Aid offers Brief Advice Clinics in neighborhoods throughout Northeast Ohio. At the Clinics you can talk in-person with an attorney and ask questions about your legal problem.
Text 216-242-1544 with the message LAS CLINIC for date and location of next clinic or visit www.lasclev.org for a complete schedule.
Contact the Bar Association
Contact your local bar association for a referral to a private attorney.
- Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association: 216-696-3532
- Lorain County Bar Association: 440-323-8416
- Lake County, Ohio Bar Association: 440-350-5800
- Geauga County Bar Association: 440-286-7160
- Ashtabula County Bar Association: 440-415-4503
Lead Poisoning – Know Your Rights!
Click here for a helpful info card which briefly highlights your rights related to Lead Poisoning.
First steps to prevention
- The most common sources of lead are peeling paint and bare soil.
- Contact your landlord in writing to request a repair of these conditions.
Test your Children
- Ask your pediatrician to test your child for lead poisoning.
- If your child’s blood lead level is above 5 μg/dl there is cause for concern.
- If it is above 10 μg/dl the Department of Health should inspect your home.
- If your child is falling behind in school, ask the school in writing to evaluate them for special education and mention their lead
poisoning. Contact Legal Aid if you do not receive a response within 30 days.
- If your landlord refuses to repair lead hazards, contact Legal Aid.
Text FAQ LEAD to 216.242.1544 for a link to more information, including resources for homeowners.
How will the public housing authority’s smoking bans affect me?
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.
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. 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. Some housing providers may provide a Designated Smoking Area (DSA). 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!
 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).
 Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing, 80 Fed. Reg. 71,762 (Nov. 17, 2015)
 324 CFR §965.653(c)
 324 CFR §965.653(b)
How can I enforce my rights if I have been discriminated against based on LGBTQ status?
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. Elizabeth Bonham, a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, filed a complaint with the Fair Housing Board, as provided in the ordinance. 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!
 See City of Cleveland, Code of Ordinances, Part Six, Title V – Discrimination, available at http://www.clevelandcitycouncil.org/legislation-laws/charter-codified-ordinances.
 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
What happens to your personal property if you’ve been evicted?
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!
Is rent deposit an option to get my landlord to make repairs?
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!
What must owners tell tenants/buyers about lead paint?
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!
Can my application for housing be denied because I have a criminal record?
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
What impact could smoking bans have on your housing?
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.
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 Ellen 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_
4 “Mission & Values”, www.clevelandtenants.org (2015).
5 Change Is In The Air, p. 63
By Abigail Pink
What do I need to know about lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning has long been a problem in Northeast Ohio. Children are exposed to lead through paint chips, lead in the soil, and lead in toys. Exposure to high amounts causes lead poisoning, which impacts how our children learn, behave, and develop.
Who is at risk?
Children ages 0-6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts renters, minorities, and low-income residents who have less access to affordable, quality housing. Certain zip codes are at higher risk for lead hazards because of the age of their housing and the number of other children who have been poisoned there.1
Where is this problem?
Anywhere children may be exposed to lead. Common sources include old homes with peeling paint, the yard around such homes, outside near high traffic areas, old school buildings, and other buildings where children spend time (e.g. relatives, babysitter, and day care).
What are the signs?
Lead poisoning can cause many negative health impacts but children may not immediately present any symptoms of lead poisoning. Some long term consequences of lead poisoning in children include behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and trouble learning. High levels of lead poisoning can lead to hospitalization. Housing inspections don’t routinely check for lead so parents must spot potential lead hazards in the home and insist on having their child’s lead level’s tested.
When do I need to address this?
Immediately. If your child has not been tested for lead poisoning, talk to your pediatrician. Medicaid pays for lead testing.
What can you do if you’re concerned?
In addition to having your child’s lead levels tested, you can take some steps to limit their exposure to lead. Use HEPA vacuum filters and vacuum windowsills, wipe surfaces periodically, keep shoes at the front door to not track in lead, wash your kids’ hands and faces routinely, clean toys, watch where they play (avoid areas near peeling paint), feed them three meals a day with plenty of iron and calcium (greens, protein, milk). If your child’s lead levels are high,
try to identify the source of the exposure and if necessary, talk with your landlord or explore moving to a new home.
My child has been poisoned, what are my options?
• Get your house inspected. Contact your local health department to request an inspection.
• Request that your landlord remedy the lead paint problem.
• Discuss your options for suing your housing provider with an attorney.
• Seek early intervention. Talk to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Help Me Grow program for enrichment services that can help mediate the impact of lead poisoning.
• Inform the school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services to address cognitive or behavioral problems.
1 For a list of high risk zip codes, see : https://www.odh.ohio.gov/-/media/ODH/ASSETS/Files/eh/lead-poisoning—children/2014/Updated-Brochures-Forms/BloodLeadTestingRequirementsandZipCodes.pdf?la=en
For information about resources to address lead poisoning, visit https://lasclev.org/leadpoisonresources
By Lauren Roberts
What Resources are there for Lead Poisoning?
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:
- Help Me Grow (http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/)
- For a list of Help Me Grow providers in your area, go to http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/aboutus/Finding%20Help%20Me%20Grow/Find%20Help%20Me%20Grow.aspx
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
Lead Hazard Control Program: 216.651.0077
- If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:
Cuyahoga County Board of Health: (216) 201-2000
- If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:
Ohio Healthy Homes 1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)
For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:
- If you live in the City of Cleveland, 216-651-0077
- If you live in the City of Cleveland or anywhere else in Cuyahoga County, 216-263-5323
- If you live in Lorain County, 440-892-7873
- If you live in Ashtabula, Geauga or Lake Counties, 614-728-3105 http://www.odh.ohio.gov/odhprograms/eh/lead_ch/lhcgp.aspx
What rights do people with disabilities living in subsidized housing have?
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
• 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
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!
I was denied public housing because of my criminal record. Can I appeal the decision?
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.
Apartment complex bills $2800 in sprinkler damage to grieving daughter: Euclid woman finally able to mourn mother’s passing without threat of frivolous suits
After Ingrid Perry’s mother passed away two years ago, the manager at the housing complex where they both lived gave Perry 15 days to get hermother’s unit cleared out.
“I was cleaning her apartment, and all of a sudden the fire alarm and sprinkler system went off. Nobody knew how to turn it off, so it was on for 15 minutes or more,” Perry said, “Everything was soaked, all my mother’s photos, everything.”
The loss of precious keepsakes was painful enough, but then Perry got a $1,500 bill for water damage and a threat to evict from her landlord.
Perry called Legal Aid, where attorney Maria Smith took her case and negotiated an agreement with the apartment complex that prevented her eviction if she agreed to vacate her apartment. The landlord also agreed to provide a neutral reference as Perry prepared to move into subsidized housing.
Keen to avoid both the fine and an eviction record that could jeopardize her new housing, Perry moved out by the deadline, received back her mother’s security deposit, and found a new home without incident. For the time being, Perry had some closure to a painful chapter.
But two years later, the young woman received another invoice from the corporate headquarters of the complex — this time for $2,800 in damages.
“It felt like they were tearing the scar off an old wound,” Perry said. “Didn’t I already go through enough?”
Perry had left her own unit in fine condition, with a housing inspection report to prove it. Yet the corporate headquarters were taking advantage of the way the previous court case had settled – “without prejudice,” meaning the plaintiff could file a future lawsuit for damages.
Perry called Legal Aid for the follow-up help and staff attorney Callie Dendrinos was her advocate. The corporate office alleged that she had hit the sprinkler head while cleaning out the apartment. At a petite 4’11’’ it was unlikely any part of Perry could have set off the sprinkler.
Dendrinos knew Perry had a strong case and issued a written discovery outlining the many holes in their complaint.
“It seemed they were hoping she wouldn’t show and they’d get a default judgement against her,” Dendrinos said. “When it was clear we were going to litigate this, they lost their appetite.”
With Legal Aid’s representation, Perry received her second favorable outcome as the plaintiff dropped the suit. “The news lifted such a weight off me,” Perry said. “I was finally able to move forward in my life.”
Did you know most eviction cases are over in only 5-7 minutes? Having an attorney by your side in court makes all the difference when your home is at risk. Yet, people lose their housing every day because they don’t know or understand their rights as a tenant. Special thanks to the Bruening Foundation, First Federal of Lakewood, Higley Fund, KeyBank Foundation, Murphy Family Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation, Ulmer Berne, and United Way of Greater Cleveland: all groups helped underwrite Legal Aid’s housing advocacy over the past year. Ms. Perry’s case would not be possible without their support.