Mayor Bibb talks with residents facing eviction in joint effort to highlight expanded housing rights in Cleveland
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 – Cleveland – On Tuesday evening, Mayor Justin M. Bibb knocked on doors in Slavic Village, Union-Miles and Lee-Harvard and talked directly with residents facing eviction to highlight expanded housing rights in Cleveland.
Mayor Bibb was joined by housing partners from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, and United Way of Greater Cleveland in a joint outreach effort to encourage eligible residents to seek Right to Counsel, request emergency rental assistance, and use Pay to Stay protections as a defense in court.
"A 2018 study revealed more than 60 percent of Cleveland residents facing eviction do not attend their eviction hearing, underscoring the importance of education and outreach,” Mayor Bibb said. “I am committed to meeting people where they are to make sure residents understand their housing rights and can access the free services our city has to offer. This is housing justice in action.”
The City of Cleveland is among the first in the country to lead targeted outreach to educate residents about their housing rights.
Cleveland’s housing partners have been working together since June 1 on a hyperlocal outreach strategy, targeting neighborhoods with high rates of eviction but low rates of service utilization including accessing Right to Counsel–which offers free legal representation to low-income individuals with children in their household–and now, Pay to Stay protections.
“Our work to better protect tenants in the City of Cleveland through Pay to Stay and Right to Counsel must include direct outreach,” said Cleveland’s Director of Building and Housing Sally Martin. “We are working closely with our partners in this space to make sure residents have awareness because you can't exercise a right that you don’t know you have.”
Each week, the NEOCH outreach team receives a list of residents issued eviction notices from Cleveland Housing Court to be contacted and connected to support services.
“Right to Counsel-Cleveland is already seeing significant results since we launched this unique outreach with our partners at NEOCH, including a 30 percent increase in engagement, an uptick in Right to Counsel caseloads, and greater awareness of rental and other assistance available by contacting vital community support services and organizations, including United Way’s 211,” said Augie Napoli, president and CEO at United Way of Greater Cleveland.
In 2020, federal and local moratoriums temporarily halted evictions across the city of Cleveland, but recent data shows an increase in eviction filings.
“Block by block, we are walking these communities, talking to tenants about their rights and hearing their concerns,” said NEOCH Executive Director Christopher Knestrick. “This work is about building relationships and understanding how Cleveland residents are struggling to survive. This work is not only about stopping an eviction but also about changing the balance of power between landlords and tenants.”
Pay to Stay
According to the Cleveland Eviction Study, around 9,000 evictions are filed each year. Of those, about 80 percent are for non-payment of rent. In most cases, tenants missed one or two rent payments.
Earlier this year, Cleveland City Council passed the Pay to Stay ordinance (Ord. 484-2022), which provides tenants a possible defense against eviction if they tender (or offer to pay) rent and legal fees.
Tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent are given the chance to pay their rent, late fees, and court costs by the time of eviction hearing.
The ordinance limits the amount of late fees Landlords are allowed to charge—they may not exceed $25 or 5% of the monthly rent, whichever is larger.
Finally, Pay to Stay protects renters who are waiting for funds to come through from Emergency Rental Assistance Programs (ERAP). Letters showing that payment is approved but still being processed will be accepted as tender of rent (or offering to pay rent).
Right to Counsel
As of July 1, 2020 – the City of Cleveland became the 4th city in the United States to legislate a Right to Counsel in eviction cases.
Right to counsel is now a legal right for tenants in Cleveland with one or more children living at or below the federal poverty line who are facing eviction.
Through Right to Counsel-Cleveland (RTC-C), a partnership between The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and United Way of Greater Cleveland, eligible tenants facing eviction can receive access to free legal help.
Results from a 2021 report show:
- 93% of clients avoided an eviction judgment or an involuntary move.
- 83% of clients who desired rental assistance were able to obtain it.
- Of the 21% of clients who were unaware of rental assistance at the time they contacted Legal Aid, approximately 98% wanted rental assistance and Legal Aid helped 81% of those clients obtain it. In other words, Legal Aid played a key role in both awareness and securing of rental assistance.
- 92% of clients who wanted additional time to move, and 97% who sought monetary relief, were able to get it. Important context for this stat is that 42% of clients did not want to remain in their home, perhaps because 79% of clients reported defects in their homes.
- Clients were disproportionately female and Black - 79% of clients reported conditions issues with their units, and 92% had reported those conditions to their landlords. 86% had "circumstances (either personal circumstances or case characteristics) that would make their cases complex."