by Robert Newman
The most terrifying places these days are the eviction courts in Hamilton and Butler counties.
Go see them in the Butler County Government Building in Hamilton, and in Jail Building (Justice Center), Room B, 1000 Sycamore St. in Cincinnati. You will see, as I did, single mothers of small children pleading vainly for more time to find another place to stay, only to hear the magistrate issue a writ of possession enabling the marshals to put the families on the street in three or four days. The mother’s head sinks. She is hurried away from the podium by the deputy as the next case is called.
Some tenants present the court with the Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium declaration, which purports to postpone evictions until Dec. 31. If the tenant does not send the landlord a copy of the declaration, it is considered invalid, and the eviction proceeds.
Some tenants have sought rent assistance, but the government agency refused to provide it because the landlord is requiring late fees in addition to the rent. And the eviction proceeds. Many tenants are finding out that there is no more rent assistance.
Nearly all of the evictions are for nonpayment of rent, and the pleas of tenants that partial payments of rent be accepted are declined by the landlords. The evictions proceed.
There are few lawyers representing tenants. The Legal Aid lawyers are overwhelmed, and there are few private lawyers volunteering for The Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor. A tenant going to eviction court without a lawyer is doomed.
Come the new year in January, and there will be a disaster for tenants. Governments must act now. The CDC temporary moratorium must be continued. Congress must provide additional rent assistance. The city of Cincinnati, commendably, has provided additional funding to Legal Aid to provide more tenants with lawyers. Butler County should do the same.
More emergency housing aid must be provided short term. And longer term, Congress and the Biden administration has to dramatically increase the funding for Section 8 vouchers, which enable tenants to pay 30% of their income for rent and enables them to seek housing on the private market – the landlord receiving the balance of the rent from the government. According to the 2019 American Housing Survey, more than half of all renters are paying 30% or more of their income on rent. These families are constantly living on the brink of eviction.
Now is the time for Sen. Rob Portman, Representatives Steve Chabot, Warren Davidson and Brad Wenstrup to come to the aid of their countrymen and women. First, come to eviction court and see firsthand what is happening.
It will break your heart.
Robert Newman, a Cincinnati attorney. He lives in Hyde Park with offices in Downtown Cincinnati. Newman is trial lawyer and practices in the areas of civil rights, personal injury and criminal defense.
Bob has practiced in these areas since his graduation from Emory Law School in Atlanta Georgia in 1967.
Bob has been active in his community as a soccer coach and a soccer player. In addition, he rides his bicycle on long distance journeys, and plays basketball and tennis. Bob’s wife, Mary Asbury is a lawyer. His daughter Liza is a recent law graduate from the University of Cincinnati Law School, and his daughter Samantha is a French teacher in Seattle, Washington.