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Up to 3 million renters in Ohio could be facing eviction

Many landlords are not giving breaks after COVID-19 layoffs. Here’s what you can do.

CLEVELAND — According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households pay more than 50% of their annual incomes for housing.

It’s considered a cost burden if a family pays more than 30% of their income for housing. Now, with so many people out of work and not able to pay their rent, many are facing eviction.

At his daily news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an emergency relief bill to ease the economic burdens caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Ohio. According to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, "The goal behind it is to stop the economic spread of the virus of foreclosures."

But for the "real" little guy, that virus is still spreading. That’s because the governor's bill mostly protects small businesses, including landlords who can't pay their mortgages.

While the Federal government is helping its renters, everyone else is on their own. One of them is Edwin Costa, who says his landlord refuses to help.

"There's people that have sent emails to corporate directly, with no response," he said. "But when they call in to the front office, they say it’s business as usual and they're still taking rent."

In fact, after my Facebook question about rent, my inbox was flooded with people also saying they weren't getting any breaks.

"We're going to create a pipeline of people waiting to be evicted," Bill Faith, Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, said. "So we need to help them pay their rent, remain in place, help them ride out this storm until they could get back to work and take over their own rent payments."

More than half the states in the country have some sort of temporary halt on evictions, but not Ohio. While the state Supreme Court and the governor have urged local courts to suspend evictions, it's not the law.

So what do you do if you're facing these problems? You need to talk to your landlord and see if they'll work with you. If they don't, you have some time; it could take months before you end up in court. In the meantime, landlords can't change the locks.

"That would be considered an emergency case," Abigail Staudt of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland explained. "The tenant should seek out either legal assistance in order to get a temporary restraining order to be allowed to stay in their unit, or to pursue that through the court themselves.”

But that doesn't mean renters are in the clear. Eventually you will be evicted for non-payment, and the landlord will go after you for what you owe.

"If [we're] late, we're going to have to also pay late fees," Costa said. "If you get an eviction notice, that's $300 on top of your rent as well. So that's just outrageous."

Which begs the question: Are we really "in this together"?

Because of the President Donald Trump's emergency declaration, some federal money has been freed up to help those who can't pay the rent, but not nearly enough to cover everyone. There's also no plan in place yet as to how it will be distributed.

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