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. It depends on 1) where you live in Ohio; or, 2) if you qualify for the new federal eviction moratorium.
Why does where I live matter?
Your home's location determines the court that will hear your eviction. Ohio does not have a statewide moratorium on evictions, but, several courts have delayed eviction hearings due to COVID-19. Some courts are holding eviction hearings, but delaying the set out during the emergency. If you have received court papers, you should check the court's website or call to see if they have delayed your eviction hearing or set out. To find your local court go to the Local Government and Community Resources on this page.
How do I know if I qualify for the federal eviction moratorium?
A new federal law called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides for a 120-day eviction moratorium (March 27, 2020 through July 24, 2020) for tenants who are facing eviction. The moratorium does not apply to evictions filed before March 27, 2020.
To qualify for the moratorium the eviction must be for non-payment of rent or other fees or charges and one of the following must apply:
- You live in public housing;
- You get federal help to pay your rent, like through a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher or Rural Development Voucher;
- You live in multifamily housing (5 units or more) supported by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Treasury (Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties);
- You live in multifamily housing (5 units or more) covered by a federally-backed mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; or,
- You live in single family housing (1 to 4 units) that is covered by a federally-backed mortgage through the FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
You can find the detailed list of all covered housing under the CARES Act here.
If you live in public housing or multifamily housing the National Low Income Housing Coalition has a look-up tool to see if your home is covered by the moratorium.
If you live in single family housing, you may need to ask your landlord. Your landlord will know the type of mortgage they have. For FHA, VA and USDA mortgages, you may be able to look up the original mortgage online at your County Recorder's website. The mortgage may state that it was backed by FHA, VA or USDA. Some older USDA mortgages will state Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) instead of USDA. For mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, only your landlord can use their look up websites to see if your home is covered by the moratorium.
If you get federal help to pay your rent and are unsure if the moratorium applies, you can check with the agency that issued your voucher. For example, for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher you should check with your public housing agency.
How does the federal eviction moratorium help me?
If you qualify for the moratorium your landlord can’t evict you for non-payment of rent or other fees and charges during the moratorium period (March 27, 2020 through July 24, 2020). On July 25, 2020, your landlord can serve you a notice to leave. But, the notice to leave must give you at least 30 days to move from your home.
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.
Where can I get help with paying my rent?
You may be able to get rental assistance from an agency through 211/United Way or your 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?
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?
The answer is no. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has asked all utility companies in Ohio to suspend disconnections during the state of emergency. In response, Ohio utilities have agreed to temporarily suspend disconnections. But, you may still get a disconnect notice during the suspension. If you have questions, you should contact your utility company. You can also contact the PUCO Consumer Call Center.
The State of Ohio has also prohibited public water disconnections during the state of emergency.
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.