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What are my rights as a tenant during the COVID-19 pandemic?



Can I be evicted during COVID-19?

Eviction cases can still be filed and move forward in Ohio.  However, many courts in northeast Ohio have temporarily stopped allowing evictions to be filed or cancelled scheduled eviction hearings.  To find out if your court has stopped evictions, visit the court’s website or click here.  If you have a court date or deadline coming up, call the court directly to find out if evictions are currently stopped and how long they will be postponed.  Court policies change frequently.

What properties are covered by the federal law delaying evictions?

Federal law prevents landlords at some properties from filing an eviction at this time.  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) prevents a landlord from evicting a tenant from a property subsidized by the Federal government.  This includes all residents in the following properties:

  • public housing,
  • buildings receiving Section 8 rental assistance vouchers or subsidies,
  • buildings receiving USDA rental housing assistance,
  • buildings that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
  • where the owner has a loan backed by the FHA, USDA, VA, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Owners of these properties cannot file eviction until after July 25, 2020. After July 25, 2020, these owners must serve a tenant with a notice to vacate the property thirty (30) days before an eviction can be filed.  Then, the owner must still give the tenant a 3-day notice.

Do I still have to pay my rent?

Yes.  Even if evictions are temporarily stopped in your area, you are still responsible for paying your rent.  If you are unable to pay your rent, you should contact your landlord and ask if your landlord will accept late rent.  If your landlord agrees to take rent late, ask your landlord to put the agreement in writing. A text message from your landlord is good enough.  But, be sure to screenshot the message and save it on a computer, email it to yourself or send it to another electronic database so you can get it even if you no longer have your phone.

Where can I get rent assistance?

If you are unable to pay your rent, you may be eligible to receive rent assistance. You should tell your landlord that you are not able to pay your rent, but that you are looking for rent assistance. Call 211 (available 24 hours a day) or go online to 211oh.org and use the chat feature. You can also call the Tenant Information Line at (440) 210-4533 or (216) 861-5955.

Can my landlord shut off my utilities or lock me out of my property if I am unable to pay my rent? 

No.  The only way a landlord can force you to leave the property is by filing an eviction and getting a court order saying you have to leave.  A landlord is not allowed to shut off your utilities or lock you out of your rental property even if you have not paid your rent.  If a landlord is changing locks, shutting off utilities or removing your belongings from the rental property during this time you should consider calling law enforcement to report this illegal activity and call Legal Aid for assistance in enforcing your right to remain in the property.

What should I do if I need something repaired during COVID-19?

Landlords are still required to maintain your rental property so that it’s safe for you and your family.  If you need something repaired, you should make your request to your landlord in writing and save a copy of the written request.  Your landlord should make the repair in a reasonable amount of time, no later than 30 days after you make the request.  If your landlord fails to make the repair you’ve requested, you may have the right to pay your rent into the court using the rent escrow process.  You can find more information about that process at https://lasclev.org/my-rental-unit-needs-repairs-what-do-i-do/.  However, you should contact the court to see if they are allowing tenants to escrow rent under their COVID-19 policies. If the repair is an emergency, like a utility shout off or a condition that impacts your health and safety, the courts may make exceptions to their COVID-19 policies.

Can my landlord refuse to rent to me because someone in my household was sick with coronavirus?

Probably not.  The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects people with disabilities against discrimination in housing.  A person diagnosed with coronavirus is likely a “disabled” person under the FHA.  If a tenant is protected by the FHA, then a landlord cannot treat the tenant differently because of the disability, i.e. deny housing they would otherwise provide.  Tenants with questions about possible housing discrimination should call The Fair Housing Center at 216.361-9240.  Click here for more information about fair housing.

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