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Council Approves Temporary Eviction Protections, Votes Down Permanent Change

cincinnati city hall
Nick Swartsell
/
WVXU
Cincinnati City Hall

Temporary eviction protections are now in place in Cincinnati, but council voted against a proposal Wednesday to make the change permanent. Council Member Greg Landsman introduced both ordinances after the Hamilton County Municipal Court decided to no longer enforce a national eviction moratorium.

The measure with temporary "pay to stay" protections will be in effect only as long as Ohio's pandemic state of emergency is active. It allows tenants facing a lack-of-payment eviction to halt proceedings if they can pay all back rent and fees.

"This is obviously one of the most significant things we can do to protect our children, to protect our families, to protect our neighborhoods, and ultimately ensure that landlords are made whole," Landsman said.

Landsman says with more than $60 million in rent assistance available through Hamilton County, this ordinance will give tenants more time to access the help and pay back rent in full.

Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney voted in favor of the ordinance.

"We're protecting the tenant and the landlord, which is appropriate because we care about both," Kearney said.

The measure passed 8-1 with Betsy Sundermann as the only opposition.

"The point at which they should not be able to pay to stay in their place anymore is after the initial court hearing," Sundermann said. "The way it's written right now is, they have until the final judgement entry is written before they can basically get kicked out for non payment. That can take months to get to, specifically if someone files for a jury demand."

Nick DiNardo, Managing Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, says tenants do have a constitutional right to deman a jury trial, but it's extremely rare. Tenants who do choose that option are required to pay current rent until the final judgement. 

Landsman's second ordinance would have made the "pay to stay" defense permanent in city code. It failed on a 5-4 vote, with most Democrats on council voting in favor (Landsman, Kearney, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach). David Mann joined the three Republicans (Sundermann and Interim Members Steve Goodin and Liz Keating) and one Independent (Christopher Smitherman) in opposition.

"I think the law is what it should be right now," Goodin said. " I do have some misgivings about our wading in through the municipal code into landlord/tenant law in this way."  

Landsman says the permanent change is important for long-term tenant protection.

"They system right now is so lopsided in terms of the power dynamic and what tenants are dealing with," he said. "They're under water financially, they don't have access to attorneys, this gives them a little bit of breathing room."

Landsman says he'll keep working on the permanent ordinance and bring it back to council for another vote.