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Some landlords taking unofficial "evictions" into their own hands before courts open

For Rent
Posted at 12:23 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 19:38:25-04

Some landlords are taking unofficial evictions into their own hands when tenants fall behind on their rent during the coronavirus outbreak.

More than a million Ohioans are out of work because of the coronavirus and many more are struggling to pay their rent.

"It's hard especially with right now, not working," said renter Robert Miller.

Some residents are returning home to find the locked changed if they've fallen behind on their rent.

He lost his job as a welder at the end of March. He pays his $1,050 per month rent with unemployment benefits and some belt-tightening.

"I can't go out as much as I'd like," said Miller. "You can't do all the fun stuff, entertaining stuff. It's like my mom always said, 'We have food at the house.'"

Miller knows he's one of the lucky ones who has enough money to get by at least for now.

closed sign
Closed businesses have made it challenging for many renters to make payments each month.

"I know there are people out there that are struggling," said Miller.

Those tenants often have to turn to lawyers like Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Housing Group Managing Attorney Abigail Staudt. She says she's heard from restaurant industry workers and people who have other jobs that rely on parts of the economy that have shut down."

While many landlords are working with their tenants, Staudt says other aren't waiting for court to reopen to start the eviction process if tenants fall behind on rent.

Legal Aid: CLE lead abatement needs to be faster
Lockouts might be illegal, but The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland says it could still take a lawyer to get you back in your home.

"With courts not accepting filings, some landlords are taking it into their own hands," said Staudt.

Those steps are called a lock out and Staudt says some tenants have returned home to see new locks on the doors.

Staudt says that's not legal, but you may need a lawyer to help get back into your home.

The good news is that there are local non-profits and federal programs that are focusing on helping residents pay rent.

"Rent assistance is coming," said Staudt. "Some of it is here but there's a lot more coming."

If you're having trouble paying rent right now:

  • Pay whatever you can manage right now even if it's not the full amount
  • Communicate with your landlord about what your situation is and when you think you'll be able to pay what you owe
  • Look for rent assistance through organizations like EDEN

Have the 5 On Your Side Investigators confront your issue. Click Here.

Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.