Cuyahoga County Considering Pay-to-Stay Legislation That Could Protect Renters from Evictions

Under current laws, landlords can evict tenants who are just a day late on rent

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Cuyahoga County Considering Pay-to-Stay Legislation That Could Protect Renters from Evictions
Dennis Carr/FlickrCC

Councilmember Dale Miller at Tuesday's county council meeting introduced a ‘Pay-to-Stay” ordinance, which, if passed, could help residents avoid evictions.

“The legislation is patterned after legislation that's already been passed by eight Cuyahoga County municipalities,” Miller told Scene. “And it provides that if a person is late on their rent, but they put down what they owe and pay reasonable late fees before their case goes to court or, if it goes to court, before the case is completed, then they get to stay.”

Ohio is one of five states where landlords can file evictions the day after rent payments are due, along with Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota. And although Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance entitling some tenants to a lawyer in housing court, evictions are not criminal cases, and because of that, most people are not entitled to mandatory legal counsel.

Miller says the issue was brought to his attention by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which he’s worked with on the ordinance.

Although several Cuyahoga County municipalities have already enacted similar legislation, Miller admits the path forward is uncertain.

“There's some legal questions. [The proposed ordinance] relates to state preemption. The state passed a bill, House Bill 430, which was not related directly to pay-to-stay, it was legislation designed to prevent local governments from engaging in rent control,” Miller said. “But some legal people feel that the way the legislation was drafted that it would also preempt legislation. So we have to look into this more deeply and get a good understanding of where we are in relation to the state of this legislation.”

Another potential hurdle comes in the form of municipal rule versus county rule. In Ohio, municipal “home rule” is more powerful than county “home rule." As a result, despite the municipalities that have pay-to-stay legislation, if cities in the county reject the idea, the ordinance won’t affect as many people.

“If we pass the legislation and a number of communities opt out, well, then it wouldn't help very much and so we don't want that to happen. We're going to invite all the mayors and municipal leaders to come to a future committee meeting and discuss their thoughts about the legislation and see what they think about it and so that what we hear from the municipalities is going to help shape what we do going forward,” said Miller.

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