State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) introduced a bill Monday to postpone evictions and foreclosures in Ohio amid the ongoing pandemic. The bill adds additional protections and plugs many of the well-documented gaps in the existing Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) moratorium, which expires on January 31, 2021. The bill also extends the moratorium for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency at the state level since the extension of the CDC's moratorium beyond January is dependent on additional federal action.
Eviction courts across Ohio have continued to operate their “cattle call” proceedings, even as recently-passed federal legislation extended the CDC’s moratorium through February 1st and allocated $25 billion in rental assistance to be distributed to the states. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates Ohio will receive $778,101,000 in Emergency Rental Assistance funds.
“This legislation is a tool to help keep people in their homes during this pandemic— when people are struggling to pay their bills through no fault of their own,” said Rep. Crossman. “The bill requires the parties to a foreclosure or eviction work together to find solutions that don't involve families losing their housing during this pandemic. Beyond the straightforward mechanics of the bill, there are good long term policy goals, because forcing people from their homes could cause another housing crises similar to the one in 2009 that hurt communities across Ohio.”
There were 50 eviction filings in Cleveland during the week of Dec. 27 – Jan. 3 alone.
The current CDC moratorium ignores foreclosures, places the burden on the tenant to file a declaration that they meet a series of technical qualifications, and has failed to prevent the loss of housing as some landlords have argued successfully that tenants do not meet those criteria, resulting in their removal from their homes in spite of the moratorium.
The current CDC moratorium allows eviction proceedings to continue, but it does prevent the actual set out of qualifying tenants until the moratorium expires. This still gives landlords the opportunity to pressure tenants who are behind on their rent into vacating their homes sooner. It also subjects these tenants to in-person hearings in crowded eviction courts as COVID-19 cases continue to sit at dangerous levels in Ohio.
“Being evicted is a catastrophe for families under the best circumstances – but right now, it’s a public health crisis as well,” said Rep. Leland. “Ohio is about to get upwards of $750 million in rental assistance, but it takes time to get that money out to people. We can’t let families be forced out on the street while they’re just waiting for paperwork to process.”
The legislation also addresses financial difficulties Ohioans may face due to job losses during the emergency and gives them time to fix monetary defaults that occur during the emergency.
The Ohio House of Representatives was gaveled in on Monday, January 4th, but no word has yet been given as to when committees will convene or House session will be held.