Cuyahoga County Holds Off On ‘Pay-To-Stay’ Eviction Prevention Law!


CUYAHHOGA COUNTY LAW DIRECTOR GREG HUTH, By Abbey Marshall, Posted March 30th 2023

Cuyahoga County’s ‘pay-to-stay’ legislation, which would give grace to renters who paid past-due rent ahead of an eviction hearing, is indefinitely on hold over concerns of its legality.

The legislation was first introduced by District 2 Councilman Dale Miller at last week’s county council meeting as a way to prevent unnecessary eviction filings in Ohio, which allows landlords to evict tenants just one day after a missed rent payment.

If approved, it would extend a countywide legal defense to dismiss eviction hearings for tenants able to back pay rent and reasonable late fees.

But an hour ahead of the Monday committee meeting to further discuss the legislation, council members heard concerns from the county’s law director over a 2022 state law he said might preempt the ordinance.

Law Director Greg Huth raised concerns that the “pay-to-stay” legislation may run afoul of Ohio House Bill 430, signed into law in 2022, as an area of concern, Miller told Ideastream. Huth did not make the opinion public, citingclient-attorney privilege.

It’s not clear how that law, which specifically prohibits rent control and stabilization regulations, affects the “pay-to-stay” ordinance already active in eight Cuyahoga County cities, including Cleveland.

Cleveland’s Housing Court Judge Moná Scott issued her own legal opinion on the matter in September after the passage of the state law, saying it does not affect eviction actions, rendering it “inapplicable” to the city’s pay-to-stay protections.

Councilman Miller and housing advocates involved with the legislation point to rulings by judges in other Ohio counties they say bolster their position that state law would not interfere with their hopes of advancing the proposal.

“We have passed legislation before that might be challenged,” Miller said. “Just because there is a threat of a legal challenge doesn’t kill it from the outset.”

Even still, the legislation is on hold indefinitely while the county council awaits further advice from the law director. Even if the law director advises the council not to pass the ordinance, they could approve the measure and risk a court challenge. But Miller notes a history of “strong deference” to the law department’s opinion.

Miller said he is determined to move the ordinance forward but did not give specifics, saying it will “take as long as it takes” to find a solution, even if that means tweaking the language.

“We’re going to do our best to find a way forward,” he said.

Molly Martin, a community organizer at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, who worked with Miller and other municipalities on pay-to-stay programs, said she’s “frustrated” because she believes the argument has no merit. She hopes the law director changes course after further research.

“We need to rely on our elected officials in urban environments to protect tenants,” she said. “I think it would be ridiculous that we’re just going to let our state legislature dictate how we can take local measures to protect low-income people from really harsh, anti-tenant laws.”

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