The City of Cincinnati approved groundbreaking eviction prevention legislation last week. Community leader Denise Hamet contributed testimony supporting the measures.
CINCINNATI, OH - November 8, 2019 /MarketersMedia/ — The City of Cincinnati approved new legislation that will prevent evictions. The legislative measures and motions, introduced by Councilman Greg Landsman, were the result of a precedent-setting collaboration of city organizations and city staff working together for over a year to create a comprehensive approach.
The need to address the eviction crisis was documented in a recent study by the University of Cincinnati in conjunction with Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc. and the Legal Aid Society. This study indicated that an average of 12,400 residential evictions were filed each year for the years 2014-2017 in Hamilton County. Eviction destabilizes families, contributes to declines in children’s school performance, and can even lead to homelessness, especially when accompanied by a significant life event or tragedy. Eviction also negatively impacts the workforce. A 2016 study co-authored by Mathew Desmond and Carl Gershenson of Harvard University found that the likelihood that a worker will lose his or her job is an estimated 11 to 22 percent higher for individuals who have been forced out of their home compared to those who have not.
The legislative actions resulted from the eviction prevention work started by a coalition of the City and external housing experts in 2018. The coalition reviewed the current state of housing and eviction, researched best practices, and developed a comprehensive strategy. They started a pilot series of tenant training sessions in 2019 and achieved a new Eviction Prevention Fund for residents of the City. The fund was established with $227,000 in 2019 and will be funded $250,000 annually. A one-time targeted fund of $176,000 was also established for the West End neighborhood. The city-wide fund provides emergency assistance for low-income Cincinnatians facing eviction. Additional housing support is provided through Project Lift, a new initiative of the Child Poverty Collaborative launched this year.
“The focus of the City’s recent legislation is to prevent eviction proactively and to improve housing quality,” stated community leader Denise Hamet. This will emphasize improved communication between the tenant and the landlord, and between the tenant, landlord, and the City (landlord registry, tenant information website, continued training). Additionally, it will improve the quality of the housing – through rental inspection. Furthermore, this will shift the burden away from the tenants (cap on late fees; rental inspection, 24-hour notification of entry by City or landlord).
The Residential Inspection Program will be piloted in three neighborhoods in response to concerns raised by tenants, neighbors, and community councils about substandard conditions in rental housing. This only applies to property owners with unresolved code violations, delinquent property tax bills, a history of maintaining significant health and safety hazards in a rental unit, or who meet other similar criteria demonstrating deficient property management. The program has specific property type exclusions including hotels, motels, and two-family units that are owner-occupied. As these programs are pilot programs, Council approved a motion directing the City Manager to track and report biannually on the success of the Residential Rental Inspection Pilot Program.
Rental property owners must register the property once and only update when there are changes. The purpose is to ensure property owners are notified of urgent issues and to better protect the tenants, neighboring residents, and the properties themselves.
The Tenant Information website is a resource that will provide tenant’s rights information and referrals to appropriate agencies and community-based organizations who may be able to help avoid eviction. The legislation also allows the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts to provide data to service providers partnering with the City in eviction relief services and eviction prevention initiatives.
The limit on tenant late fees provides a series of regulations to prohibit charging excessive late fees that go beyond the administrative cost of a landlord’s acceptance of late rent.
Landlords notice of entry establishes guidelines for a twenty-four-hour notice when a property owner or a City employee will enter a tenant’s residence.
The City passed a motion asking the City Manager to explore the feasibility of tying incentives to lease language that would include specific terms in all residential lease contracts at the benefitted property providing that if a landlord issues a tenant a three-day notice to leave the premises for non-payment of rent, and the tenant offers the full rent owed within that three-day period, the landlord must accept the rent and cannot proceed with the eviction.
While these measures are a significant start to addressing the eviction crisis, a consistent refrain echoed throughout the Public Hearing and Council commentary that these measures are only part of the solution to resolving the affordable housing needs of the region and more work needs to be done.
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