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November 23, 2017 -- Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tenants play defense in the General Assembly...again

    RHINO learned Friday (11-3-17) that Rep. Derek Merrin (R- Monclova Township) just introduced HB 390 which, among other things, would mandate that a three day notice to vacate would count Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Until now, how to count "three days" has been a local court rule. Some courts count weekends and holidays, some don't.

    The effect of Rep. Merrin's bill would be to reduce the time that a tenant has to leave a rental home before the landlord files an eviction with the court. A minor change that doesn't make much difference for landlords, but inconveniences tenants. Since an eviction filing is picked up by most credit reporting agencies list an eviction filing usually appears on the tenant's credit record, regardless of the outcome of the case, this shorter time frame may cause more tenants to be stigmatized as "evicted" in a public record.

    The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) has already told Rep. Merrin that COHHIO opposes HB 390. So far, no hearings are scheduled and there are no co-sponsors. Tenants may remember Rep. Merrin, a real estate investor in Northwest Ohio, as the sponsor of the Lead Preemption Amendment in the State Budget bill.

     Another bill, House Bill 282, would increase the penalties for "criminal mischief" in connection with a rental property and would bar Housing Authorities from renting to individuals who were charged with "criminal mischief." Sponsored by Stephen D. Hambley (R-Brunswick), this bill is also opposed by COHHIO. COHHIO is seeking support from tenant serving organizations around the State in preparation for opponent testimony. At a hearing at the House Financial Institutions, Housing, and Urban Development committee on October 10th, HB 282 supporters included representatives of Ohio Real Estate Investors Association and Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association.

    The danger with HB 282 is that landlords might encourage a law enforcement officer to charge a tenant with "criminal mischief" as a way of criminalizing the tenant. Even if the charge was later dropped for lack of evidence or a prosecutor's unwillingness to become a shill for the landlord the arrest stays on the record.

    Why don't tenant advocates go on the offensive? For two decades, tenant advocates have chosen to play defense because of a fear that landlord advocates would manipulate pro-tenant initiatives in ways that would take away existing rights.This is not an unreasonable position, but it has resulted in the current landlord strategy of "nibbling away" at tenant rights without provoking massive resistance like was organized around the lead prevention preemption provision.

    The trouble with always playing defense is that every effort that undermines tenants' rights also strengthens the hands of anti-tenant forces. Legislators use anti-tenant proposals as a way to raise campaign donations from landlord and real estate organizations. These organizations, in turn, use anti-tenant legislation to recruit new members and raise funds for "political action."

     The challenge that tenant advocates need to consider is whether both sides can play "small ball." What about using these "little" bills like HB 390 and HB 282, to "open up" the eviction statute or the criminal mischief in order to increase tenant protections? Give tenants something to fight for like a "pay or quit" provision in ORC 1923, instead of the current "notice to vacate." There's nothing to lose and maybe it is a way to build a tenants' agenda in the General Assembly. Tenants won't get what they don't ask for.

posted November 5, 2017

New series from RHINO

In Advocacy: Ohio 2018-choices and challenges

In Tradecraft: Making Change

What do you want to do? 
Mary Clark responds to CityScape story on Slumlords in Cincinnati.
"As an agent with a background in rental housing, especially multifamilies, I have always wondered what we can do to bring standards to investment and how to mandate some kind of education for any entity or person planning on purchasing rental housing in Ohio. This is a complicated situation but the lack of education for prospective investors seems to be an important aspect which is overlooked." Read more here.

Need more news?

Affordable in Ohio is a five part series in November 2015 looks at affordability issues in Ohio. here

Affordable in Ohio here

Change in the Air here

Eviction in Ohio here

What's News (recent stories from all around)


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