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Cincinnati landlords have to accept late rent under new 'pay to stay' ordinance

cincinnati city hall
Becca Costello
/
WVXU

Cincinnati Council unanimously passed a "pay to stay" ordinance Wednesday aimed at preventing evictions in the city. The new law requires landlords to stop an eviction if the tenant can pay all past due rent and late fees.

Council Member Greg Landsman has been working on the legislation for over a year.

"There's money out there…either through the Community Action Agency, St. Vincent de Paul, Project Lift, our own eviction prevention fund that the city established several years ago," Landsman says. "Even if you can't secure the money by the time you end up in court, as long as you get the letter saying that they will pay, you will be able to stay in your home."

The Community Action Agency has more than $41 million available in rental assistance. City officials are working with CAA to speed up distribution of those funds.

Nick DiNardo, managing attorney for the housing and consumer practice group at the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, says families shouldn't be evicted for nonpayment of rent with so much financial help available.

"But frankly, it's a win-win situation because the landlords are being made whole," DiNardo says. "They're getting all the back rent that's owed, late fees, and court costs."

DiNardo says he's in eviction court most mornings and sees up to 75 evictions a day — the majority, he says, are for nonpayment.

Under Ohio law, a landlord can evict a tenant for being just one day late on rent; they are not obligated to accept a late payment. Other Ohio communities have enacted "pay to stay" laws, including Toledo, Dayton, Akron, and Yellow Springs.

Council passed a temporary version of "pay to stay" in April but voted down an earlier version of a permanent law. Some council members and groups representing landlords objected to the length of time it would allow tenants to halt an eviction with full payment.

The updated ordinance requires a landlord to accept full payment — or proof that an organization will pay the full amount — until the initial eviction hearing.

Don Brunner, president of the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association, says the ordinance has support from both landlords and housing advocates.

"I think it's the first time we've all worked together and everybody's came to the table worked hard to get this across the finish line with the goal of housing stability," Brunner says.

Cincinnati's temporary ordinance expired soon after it passed, once Ohio was no longer under a state of emergency because of the pandemic. The new ordinance goes into effect in 30 days.