Cincinnati City Council approves eviction prevention legislation

Cincinnati City Council's "Gang of Five" text messages will be released, a judge ordered...
Cincinnati City Council's "Gang of Five" text messages will be released, a judge ordered Monday. (Photo: Twitter)
Published: Oct. 30, 2019 at 6:05 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council voted Wednesday to approve eight pieces of legislation that aim to reduce preventable evictions in Cincinnati.

“The goal here is to reduce preventable evictions and to keep more children and families in their homes. The number of evictions is staggering — some of those preventable, some of them are not,” said Councilman Greg Landsman, who introduced the legislation last week. “For parents it makes a huge difference to prevent that kind of anxiety and disruption, but also the eviction itself is like a scarlet letter and it follows people, making it even more difficult to find affordable, safe, quality housing.”

The laws aim to reduce the number of preventable evictions for those who rent properties. Council voted 7-1 on each of five laws, with Vice Mayor Chris Smitherson absent. Three motions passed 8-0.

Both tenants and landlords will be affected by the laws.

Among the laws’ key points:

Requiring landlords to register properties: Owners of residential rental properties in the city will enter into a registry their contact information, the address for the property and an emergency contact associated with the building who would be available 24 hours a day.

Requiring landlords to create tenant information webpage: Landlords will be required to create a webpage through the city’s website that accessible that would include information about tenants’ rights and responsibilities under law. That would include information about services offered by the city for eviction relief.

Creating a rental inspection pilot program: Landlords in Avondale, East Price Hill and Clifton-University Heights-Fairview would participate in a rental inspection pilot program, which will require landlords whose buildings are declared a chronic nuisance or buildings who have not met safety and maintenance codes for a year or longer to pay a fee and have their building undergo an inspection. Landlords will have six months before properties would be subject to inspection.

Requiring landlords to adhere to unit entry restrictions: Except in the case of an emergency, if a landlord must enter a tenant’s unit, they would have to give approximately 24 hours notice. If they don’t they could a number of penalties, among them a fine up to $1,000 and termination of the rental agreement.

Imposing a limit on late fees: If applicable, fees for paying rent late will not exceed $50 or 5% of monthly rent price, whichever amount is more. Landlords also can’t charge interest on a late fee or charge it more than once for every rent payment that’s past due.

Renters paying rent during three-day eviction notice: If renters can pay their due rent within the three-day period where they have been given notice of eviction, the landlord will have to accept the rent payment and could not sue the tenant for eviction.

Councilman Wendall Young called the laws a game-changer, noting “everyone has the right to a decent place to live.”

“Many other people have spoken and I agree, most landlords are decent and try to do the right thing,” Young said. “But we are cursed with people who will take advantage of others who are in situations where they are vulnerable and in exchange for the rent they collect they provide absolutely nothing.”

The no vote on the five ordinances came from Jeff Pastor, who among his concerns was privacy violation regarding the rental registry. He added the county already has a rental registry and the law would duplicate something that already exists.

“To me this does not address evictions, this does not address the cause,” Pastor said. “It’s just really bothering me that we would have all this information at the government’s disposal.”

Landsman noted the registry items would not be public facing, rather, someone would have to file a public records request to access them.

At the time of the last census, Cincinnati had around 81,000 renter-occupied properties.

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