CLEVELAND — The first of the month has arrived and for so many people that means rent is due. It's the first rent payment that has been due since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and nonessential businesses were ordered to close in the state of Ohio.
"This pandemic, literally overnight, increased the number of people eligible for legal aid," said Melanie Shakarian, of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Many courts around Northeast Ohio have continued eviction hearings for another couple of weeks or even until "further notice."
Shakarian said it's important to remember, it's still the first and rent payments are due. However, if a tenant cannot make their rent payment because of the COVID-19 outbreak, she said it's best to discuss the topic with your landlord.
She fears that because many municipal or housing courts are not accepting eviction paperwork at this time that it's giving people a false sense of security.
"People still need to pay their rent. In this uncertain time, we're encouraging people to have a discussion with your landlord and try to do the best you can because we don't want to see a flood of evictions once we come out of this," Shakarian said.
While there hasn't been a state-wide moratorium on evictions, Shakarian said it's likely someone could get evicted simply because landlords don't have a way to file the paperwork.
This is the case for most evictions, there are some exceptions when there's criminal activity involved.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland said if you're in a position facing an illegal eviction from your landlord to call police and file a temporary restraining order so you can get back into your unit.
News 5 Cleveland also consulted Diane Baird, the executive director of the Lake Erie Landlord Association.
Baird said the group would like more direction from state lawmakers on how to handle missed rent payments and evictions. At this time, LELA is advising members to be smart and safe during these uncertain times and to put health and safety of families first.
Shakarian said the legal office is receiving several calls a day from people all over our area, but she said they're not just asking about housing issues.
"There are calls related to economic security, related to domestic violence, related to housing, questions about unemployment . I think these stories, all told, are going to be able to paint a better picture of what the real impact of the pandemic is and at the end of the day, we want to make sure people are back up on their feet," she said.
For more information on the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, click here.