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County courts won't enforce Cincinnati's eviction protection ordinance. That could soon change

Bill Oxford

Cincinnati’s pay-to-stay ordinance has yet to be enforced, but an upcoming court ruling could change that.

Cincinnati Council passed pay-to-stay last year. It’s supposed to force a landlord to stop a nonpayment eviction if the tenant can pay all past due rent and fees. Hamilton County magistrates announced their decision not to enforce it on the day it went into effect in December, saying they think the local ordinance conflicts with state law.

It was an unusual move, considering there was no legal challenge to the law; nor is there one now.

Legal Aid is challenging that decision in one particular eviction case, where the tenant has a voucher from the Community Action Agency for rent assistance from federal stimulus funds.

At a hearing on Friday, Municipal Court Judge Dwane Mallory said he can’t find any conflict in state law.

“Only the executive branch, that I'm aware of, has discretion to enforce a law or not. The judicial branch does not do that,” Mallory said. “Also, there's been no declaration that this ordinance was unconstitutional … There's no law on the books that conflicts with this one. And if there is, please let me know. I've looked."

That seems to agree with what Legal Aid attorney Zach Frye has been arguing in court.

“Pay-to-stay is straightforward, it's common sense, it makes sense, and the court should enforce it,” Frye said.

Judge Mallory’s final ruling is expected by July 15.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.