CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Renters across the region, state and nation may find that they’re on borrowed time. Facing eviction, it’s a game of beat-the-clock, or you could lose almost everything that you’ve worked for.
Amanda Davis-Miller is a single mother of three girls and one of the many faces of Ohio’s eviction crisis.
Davis-Miller is out of work due to COVID-19, waiting for her pandemic unemployment to be approved and now she faces losing a roof over her head. She was so desperate she reached out to 19 News from Columbus because she knows 19 Investigates gets results.
“Like many other people in Ohio we’re scared. It’s been extremely difficult. I’ve been trying to keep a brave face on for my girls, but again it’s been hard. I’ve exhausted friends and family. I can’t really ask to borrow from anyone,” Davis-Miller said.
Angela Small, of Akron, was evicted in July. It’s been one of a number of devastating events in her life. Small’s husband was murdered in Cleveland, in a case that caught the nation’s attention several years ago. Robert Godwin was gunned down randomly as he simply walked down the street and the killer broadcast the crime on Facebook.
Now Small is a single mother of two. She lost her job due to the pandemic. Forced to live separate from her children initially and now they are short on cash and living in a motel, until she can find an affordable place to live. But Small says that’s nearly impossible because she’s discovering rent costs have gone up in some cases. Some landlords also won’t rent to her because she has no job. But Small says she does receive social security survivors benefits for her children.
“My kids are looking at me like mommy when are we going to find some place to live? And I really don’t have an answer for them because I don’t know. It’s just been stressful because we don’t have that much money to be giving no $900 or $1,000 a month,” Small tells 19 News.
Sadly these two mothers are not alone. The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project estimates more than 29 million Americans in 13 million households could be at risk of eviction by the end of the year. And that includes at least 800,000 renters in Ohio.
But it’s a two-fold problem because Ohio landlords are currently owed approximately $345 million in back rent and struggling to pay their own mortgages and bills.
Judge W. Moná Scott is the Cleveland Housing Court’s Administrative Judge, “People who think they are untouchable, who think they’re not going to be touched by this will be touched. This is bigger than the Great Depression.”
Another federal moratorium has now been put in place by the Centers for Disease Control. It runs until Dec. 31. But renters must apply to qualify. You must earn no more than $99,000 a year, and you must show proof that you’ve tried to pay your rent but couldn’t because of the pandemic, and have made an effort to obtain government rent/housing assistance. Keep in mind you will still owe any back rent and late fees to your landlord at the end of the moratorium, and it could be demanded all at once.
“I always tell tenants to maintain communication. Everybody gets it, it’s a pandemic, things happen. Jobs are lost, there was a shutdown. But you want to keep talking to your landlord. They may actually understand,” Judge Scott said.
Cleveland’s Housing Court is the busiest in the state, and now holds virtual hearings in most cases to keep everyone at a safe distance. The judge and magistrates work to help renters and landlords come to some understanding when possible by offering mediation. Because there is help out there. The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have $18 million available for rental assistance, and if approved it can cover up to three months rent.
Judge W. Moná Scott tells 19 News, “We’ve mediated a lot if cases where they’ve gotten this far and they’re willing to accept money for rental assistance. Enabling renters to keep their apartment or home, the eviction is withdrawn from their record...”
If you are having an economic hardship due to the pandemic you may qualify for rental assistance if you are in Cleveland or Cuyahoga County. Just log onto: NEORENTHELP.org, or call 833-377-RENT (7368).
If you are homeless or facing eviction and have nowhere to turn dial 211 in your community for help with temporary shelter, utility help, food and advice on permanent housing.