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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.

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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