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Worried about paying rent? Here's where things stand during the COVID-19 emergency

As it stands in Ohio, courts are being asked to delay eviction and foreclosure proceedings through July as a way to help those unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (10TV) - Many tenants and landlords are worried right now with the first of the month upon us in this time of uncertainty.

As it stands in Ohio, courts are being asked to delay eviction and foreclosure proceedings as a way to help those unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic. Landlords will still be able to initiate an eviction filing, but it will take longer to move through the court system. Gov. Mike DeWine has said courts need "flexibility" to still be able to carry out evictions in cases such as domestic violence.

On Wednesday, DeWine signed an order that asks commercial lenders to hold off on collecting payments from businesses for at least 90 days. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said this will help stop a chain of events.

"We don't want people to get evicted, but the apartment owner has to pay his mortgage," Husted said. "If we don't give them that ability to defer that payment for 90 days then they get foreclosed upon. What happens to the people in the apartment who are there?"

10TV talked with Housing Attorney Melissa Benson from the Legal Aid Society of Columbus to answer some questions tenants have right now:

  • Do I still need to pay my rent? "Tenants are still legally obligated to pay their rent right now under their lease agreements just like they always would be. That doesn't change because of a pandemic," Benson said.
  • Am I legally protected if I go on a rent strike? "Ohio does not have any rent strike protections. Every state has different landlord-tenant law. That is not something that is contemplated in Ohio law. An objection to paying your rent, or not paying your rent for whatever reason, the court is only going to look at whether you paid your rent to determine whether you should be evicted," Benson said.
  • Are landlords allowed to lock me out or throw away my things? "Landlords are not allowed to turn off utilities, change locks, or throw out possessions - anything along those lines - because someone is behind in rent," Benson said.
  • Where can I go for help? Legal Aid Society of Columbus has COVID-19 legal updates and community resources here. You can also call their intake phone line Monday-Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at (614) 241-2001. Community Mediation Services Tenant/Landlord Mediation can provide people with resources, who are at imminent risk of eviction as well. Columbus City Council has compiled a list of shelter and housing resources here.

Under the newly signed CARES Act, if you live in federally-subsidized housing, or your landlord has a federally-backed mortgage, you cannot be evicted for not paying your rent.

ODJFS released the following statement, information, and resources:

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services urges individuals to file their claims online, if possible, at unemployment.ohio.gov. Each claim is important to us, and we recognize the hardship that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on many Ohio families. We have been working around the clock to streamline performance and boost capacity by adding servers so the online claims system can handle the unprecedented influx of claims, which has affected processing times.

It's important to keep in mind that during previous downturns in the economy, claims came in waves as the recession worsened and industries began to shut down whereas these claims came in all at once and created a tsunami. This amount of claims in this short expanse of time would tax any online system, especially one that is 16 years old. It’s also important to note that unemployment insurance automated systems around the country are also struggling with the increased claims load.

Helpful FAQ Sheets on Unemployment:
General Information: jfs.ohio.gov/unemp_comp_faq/index.stm
Coronavirus-Specific Information: jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/CoronavirusAndUI.stm

Extended Call Center Hours
Those without internet access or who have case-specific questions can call 1-877-644-6562 (OHIO-JOB) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Coronavirus-Related Claims
Workers who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus can enter the mass-layoff number 2000180 on their applications. However, if affected individuals have already submitted claims without this number, they do not need to add it.