The COVID-19 emergency has created uncertainty for many Ohio renters. However, federal and local authorities have taken steps that may help you.
Can I be evicted during the COVID-19 emergency?
The answer is maybe. On September 1, 2020, HHS and the CDC announced an order to temporarily halt evictions in the United States. The temporary halt or moratorium is effective September 4, 2020 through March 31, 2021 and applies to evictions for non-payment of rent.
Eligibility for the moratorium
To be eligible for the moratorium you must be facing eviction for nonpayment of rent and you must declare that:
- You have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing. If you have not applied for rent help, you should seek assistance (see where can I get help with paying my rent?)
- You are income eligible. You qualify as income eligible if:
- You expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return)
- You were not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service
- You received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check)
- You are unable to pay your full rent or make a full housing payment due to:
- Substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs
- Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expense (greater than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year)
- You used best efforts to make timely partial rent payments as your circumstances might permit
- You have no other available housing options and if you are evicted you would:
- Likely become homeless
- Need to move into a homeless shelter
- Need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because you have no other available housing options
If you have had an eviction filed against you in court, you should file a declaration form with the court where your eviction case has been filed. You must also provide a copy to your landlord. If your landlord has filed against you in court, you will have received an official document called a "Summons and Complaint."
If your landlord has not filed for eviction with the court, but you are behind in rent, you should fill out the declaration form and send a copy to your landlord. Keep the original for your records. Do not file with the court if an eviction has not been filed against you.
How to stop your court eviction
If you think you are eligible for the moratorium, and your landlord has filed an eviction against you in court, take these actions to stop your eviction:
- Download, fill out and sign the required declaration form. Make at least four copies. If you have already sent a declaration form to your landlord, file a copy of that declaration with the court, see the next steps for how.
- File the declaration form with the court where your eviction case has been filed. The clerk will time stamp the original and copies. The clerk will keep the original and give back the copies they don't need.
- Next, you need to "serve" one of the copies on your landlord or your landlord's attorney. If you have enough time before your hearing, you can "serve" the form by sending it in the mail. If you are filing on the day of your hearing, you can hand it to your landlord or their lawyer before the hearing starts.
- Keep at least one time-stamped copy of your declaration form for your records.
- Go to your eviction hearing.
- Please note that some courts in Ohio are automatically staying the eviction hearing if a tenant files the declaration. If your eviction hearing is stayed you will be notified. However, some courts are holding hearings. Make sure you attend any hearing scheduled by the court. If you want help with your eviction, you may qualify for legal aid. Use our Find Your Legal Aid tool to locate your legal aid.
At the hearing
- Make sure you take a time-stamped copy of the declaration form with you to your hearing.
- Wait for your eviction case to be called.
- When your case is called, tell the judge that you have filed your declaration.
- Your landlord might dispute the statements in your declaration form. In case this happens, you should bring:
- Copies of your applications for rent assistance
- Pay stubs, bank statements or proof of receipt of a stimulus check
- Documentation showing you lost your job, were laid off or had a cut in your hours
- Proof, like receipts, of any rental payments you have made since your income was lost
Where can I get help for my eviction?
It can be hard to fight an eviction on your own. If you have received an eviction notice or court papers you should contact your local legal aid immediately. Not from Ohio and need information about eviction protections in your state? You can find COVID-19 eviction information for your state at LegalFaq.org.
Where can I get help with paying my rent?
The state is allocating $50 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to 47 Community Action Agencies to provide rent, mortgage and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need. This assistance will help Ohioans pay outstanding balances back to April 1, 2020. Ohio households behind on their bills with an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines will be eligible for assistance. Starting November 2, 2020, Ohioans will be able to apply for assistance through their local Community Action Agency.
If you get federal help to pay your rent, like through a section 8 housing choice voucher or live in public or subsidized housing, you should ask for an "interim recertification" to reduce your rent.
Even if you qualify for the moratorium or if your eviction has been delayed, your past due rent still needs to be paid. You should use this time to negotiate with your landlord to see if you can arrange a payment plan. Get any agreement in writing.
Can my landlord lock me out of my home or turn off my utilities?
The answer is no. A landlord is not allowed to change your locks or shut off your utilities to force you out. It doesn’t matter how far behind you are in your rent. It doesn't matter what kind of fight you’re having with your landlord. In Ohio, it is illegal for a landlord to change your locks or shut off your utilities as a way of forcing you to leave. It’s against the law for them to even threaten to do these things. Instead, if your landlord wants you out, they must follow the eviction timeline and process of the court.
Read more about what to do if your landlord locks you out of your home.
Can my utilities be shut off for non-payment?
The answer is maybe. Most utility shut-off moratoriums in Ohio have ended, but you may be able to avoid having your utilities shut off if you communicate with your provider. If you can't pay your utility bill, reach out to your provider to ask for a payment plan.
If you need help paying for heating your home, you may be eligible for HEAP benefits. Contact your local Community Action Agency for assistance with applying for these benefits.
Does my landlord need to make repairs?
The answer is yes. Even if you are behind in rent, your landlord must continue to make repairs during the COVID-19 emergency. If repairs need to be made, make sure that you and any maintenance personnel take appropriate safety precautions. For instance, wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet away. Read more about the types of repairs your landlord is required to make here.
Can my landlord show my apartment?
The answer is yes. Ohio law allows a landlord to show your apartment after giving you at least 24 hours notice. If you are worried about having people in your home because of COVID-19, offer to take pictures of your apartment and/or film a virtual tour of your home. Here are some tips:
- Make sure to put away anything with personal information like mail or bills, and valuables like cash or jewelry;
- Tidy up and open your blinds; and,
- Email or text the images and/or video to your landlord.
If there is a model apartment or empty apartment, ask your landlord to show that unit instead.
If your landlord refuses and you have an underlying health condition that makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19, you may have a right to request a reasonable accommodation. Learn more about reasonable accommodations here.