Ohioans say past evictions continue to affect ability to find housing; new bill would expunge records in certain cases

Just a week-and-a-half longer before the CDC’s moratorium on evictions ends and people cannot use the pandemic as an excuse for not paying rent.
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 3:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 10:44 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Just a week-and-a-half longer before the CDC’s moratorium on evictions ends and people cannot use the pandemic as an excuse for not paying rent.

But, there is help if you need it.

We’ve partnered with several Northeast Ohio nonprofits are trying to help renters get current and avoid eviction.

While no one wants to face eviction, 19 News uncovered just how detrimental one can be on your record for years and years down the road.

Kevin Bowen’s one of the few Clevelanders who’ve crossed the line, moving from the East Side to the West Side and back several times.

But now, he feels stuck.

“Big corporation landlords will tell you ‘no’ right away,” he said.

Bowen says he and his wife fell behind on rent payments in 2018 and ended up with an eviction on their record.

“That’s just as much our fault,” he said. “You have to take responsibility for that.”

But now, even though he says he’s paid off his debt owed to his former landlord, the eviction is extremely limiting when looking for a new place to live.

“They’ll say, ’No evictions, no evictions, no evictions,’ even if you try to explain it, no evictions, no eviction,” Bowen said.

He says he’s heard that more times than he can count at this point.

Marcus Roth, with the coalition on homelessness and housing in Ohio, says that’s why his organization and several other Northeast Ohio non-profits are so concerned about a possible surge of evictions once the moratorium is lifted at the end of the month.

“For somebody who’s been evicted to find a place to live in the future, it makes the chances of homelessness far greater and it just affects everything,” Roth said.

“A surge of evictions would be bad, because when people have a bunch of evictions on their record, what’s going to happen is that they are all going to end up being homeless,” Bowen said.

There is assistance available for those who hit hard times during the pandemic; you just have to ask for it and then hopefully work with your landlord to stay current, especially because Roth warns that even just an eviction filing stays on your record, even if you don’t end up actually being evicted.

“So, that’s why it’s so important that we do everything we can to prevent evictions from getting filed in the first place, and you know, going through if at all possible,” Roth said.

So what if you already had an eviction filed against you?

Whether it was during the pandemic, or before it, we discovered Ohio lawmakers are discussing a bill that would expunge eviction records in certain situations.

“There’s a bill in the general assembly now to expunge your eviction record so that it doesn’t follow you around like a black mark on your record for the rest of your life,” Roth said.

Under the proposed law, after asking the former landlord for input, a court could expunge an eviction record if a judge finds that “the eviction case court file is no longer a reasonable predictor of future tenant behavior,” and that “the expungement is clearly in the interests of justice.”

“I think that might help,” Bowne said. “It would help the people looking for homes.”

If you’re trying to avoid an eviction right now, there is help out there.

19 Investigates compiled a list of applications for assistance, based on what county you live in:

19 News and several community partners are teaming up for a live phone bank event on Wednesday, July 21 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to help people headed for possible eviction.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, CHN Housing Partners and United Way will be on hand to answer your questions.

You can call in for free legal and housing advice.

According to Legal Aid, eviction cases are already on the rise in Cuyahoga County, even though the moratorium hasn’t even ended yet. Legal Aid has hired around 15 new attorneys during the pandemic to handle the influx of cases.

Copyright 2021 WOIO. All rights reserved.