COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s a busy morning on the 11th floor of Franklin County Municipal Court, where tenants facing evictions and landlords evicting tenants appear before a judge.
For tenants, it can be emotional and scary. But legal advocates sitting outside courtroom doors help people who face losing their homes. They give advice and help connect tenants to agencies that assist in paying the bills.
And they’re noticing that eviction numbers are going up.
“The most recent thing the court did was expand the docket size each day,” said Chris Kelly, a social worker with Legal Aid’s housing team. “We are seeing more being scheduled each day, and I think there is a slight uptick in the number being filed, too.
“We don’t have Right to Cure in Columbus, so a tenant can’t force a landlord to accept back rent, whether that comes from someplace like Impact or from themselves,” Kelly said.
Right to Cure is the legal right of one party in a contract who has defaulted on that contract to fix the default by taking steps to comply with the contract. In terms of the landlord-renter contract in Ohio, landlords can still evict tenants even if they rectify the back rent or other measures in the lease.
“We like to compare ourselves to Austin and other popular hip cities, but rents are skyrocketing because we haven’t had this problem before,” Kelly said. “We’ve had to build a lot of new housing, and the housing we’ve been building has been upscale. I think part of that has to do with how much housing costs to build, period, and you might as well sell it for as much as you possibly can.”
“But we’re seeing a lot of people here struggling to pay rent, and also a lot of prospecting from landlords,” Kelly said “A lot of people from Columbus, or out of town, or out of state, that are coming in, buying properties as an investment, jacking up the rent.”
“Some of them are jacking it up to typical prices, but it happens real, real fast in some of these neighborhoods.”
Rising rents and low wages mean even hard-working renters can’t always make ends meet.
Help is available for both sides
Ahmad Aboh, a landlord with about 20 tenants in the campus area and on the city’s east side, appeared in court because he said he hadn’t been paid by one tenant for seven months.
“I understand people sometimes get laid off or fall behind on rent, so there’s more eviction than before,” Aboh said. “The government is really helping everybody. Unless, you know, you don’t want to get help. But the help is out there. There’s a lot of assistance. But there’s no assistance for the landlord, by the way.
“We pay property tax, income tax, we pull permits from City of Columbus, we hire people, there’s maintenance going on — I mean, we pay for all this,” Aboh added.
Aboh advises tenants to come to court to get legal advice and the monetary help they need.