CINCINNATI — Tenants facing eviction in Hamilton County now have a new defense that could help them stay in their homes.
“Pay-to-stay means that when a tenant pays all their past due rent plus late fees, court costs and reasonable attorney fees, or if they get a voucher from an agency like Community Action Agency or Hamilton County Child and Family Services that that creates a defense for the eviction for non-payment of rent,” said Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati attorney Zach Frye.
The ordinance was passed unanimously by the Cincinnati City Council last December and was supposed to go into effect in December. However, the court didn’t enforce it because they said it was unconstitutional. Tuesday morning, Hamilton County Judge Dwane Mallory ruled the pay-to-stay ordinance is constitutional.
“Our position based on the decision today pay-to-stay should be enforced and applied as soon as tomorrow,” Frye said.
He added the court’s decision not to enforce it was unusual.
“They decide cases and controversies before them. They don’t prejudge cases or decide things that aren’t before them,” he said. “The court without a case before it, without any kind of eviction being hearing held, decided without a case that pay-to-stay was unconstitutional but what Judge Mallory held today is the pay-to-stay is constitutional.”
Frye said there is a time window for pay-to-stay, saying tenants have to pay past due rent and all late fees or present a voucher from an agency before or on the day of the eviction hearing.
In Ohio, Frye said if a tenant is one day late on their rent the landlord can serve them a three-day notice to vacate the premises. After three days the landlord can file an eviction in court, then an eviction hearing can take place two to three weeks after.
Frye is in eviction court most days and said there are about 70-80 eviction cases per day. He said pay-to-say can also help landlords.
“Pay-to-stay helps landlords too because in every single one of those cases where a tenant either tries to pay their rent or has an approval voucher showing their rent is going to be paid by an agency their landlord is being made whole, so this really benefits everybody,” he said.
In an emailed statement, the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association said it “applauds Judge Mallory's ruling that allows the Cincinnati Pay-to-Stay ordinance to be enforced. This is a victory for residents and property owners and managers throughout the City of Cincinnati. Last fall, The Association worked with Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman as part of a coalition that included the Cincinnati Communication Action Commission (CAC), Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services (JFS), Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and others on the Pay to Stay ordinance. The ordinance allows landlords to stop an eviction if a resident can pay their back rent, or even show that they have applied for federal aid.
The Association's work is another example of how our members take the extra steps to, when the opportunity arises, work with our residents to keep them in their homes.”