On March 9, 2020, Ohio’s governor issued an order declaring a state of emergency in the state of Ohio. On March 22, 2020, the Ohio Department of Health Director signed a Public Health Order requiring Ohio residents to stay at home except for performing essential activities, essential governmental functions, or to participate in essential businesses and operations. The order, which was amended on 4/2/20, closed all businesses in the state of Ohio not providing essential services. The As a result of the coronavirus-related shutdowns, many Ohioans are finding themselves unemployed, underemployed, laid off, out of business, and unable to pay rent.
Many courts, state and local governments are enacting emergency bans on foreclosures and other tenant protections. On March 30, 2020, the Supreme Court of Ohio entered an order providing guidance to the lower Ohio courts to temporarily continue all eviction court proceedings, eviction filings, scheduled move outs and execution of foreclosure judgments until further notice. The order is not mandatory, however, thus Ohio lower courts are still theoretically free to proceed with evictions.
On April 1, 2020, Ohio’s governor issued an order requesting landlords to suspend rent payments for small business commercial tenants in the State of Ohio that are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic for a period of 90 days. The governor’s order also requests a moratorium on evictions of small business tenants and for lenders to provide a forbearance on mortgage payments on commercial property located in the state of Ohio, for a period of 90 days. The governor’s order is not mandatory and doesn’t waive a tenant’s obligation to pay rent or mortgages—it merely requests that the landlord not evict a small business tenant for the next 90 days.
Because neither the Governor’s order, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s order, nor the order issued by the Director of the Ohio Department of Health waive a tenant’s obligation to pay rent, renters are well advised to pay their rent if they can or to reach an agreement with their landlord to make up any missed rent payments if they can’t.
Ohio tenants might be able to take advantage of resources and assistance programs to help them pay their rent.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (the coronavirus stimulus bill recently passed by the federal government) places a 120-day moratorium on evictions of tenants who reside in federally subsidized housing or properties with federally backed mortgage loans. According to the National Housing Law Project, nearly 70 percent of the mortgages held on single-family homes throughout the U.S. are federally backed.
The Ohio Department of Health has a website with economic resources for Ohio individuals and families, as well as a site for Ohio employers and employees.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce also has a coronavirus-resource website for Ohio employers and businesses.
NBC4i is also maintaining a list of resources for getting or giving coronavirus-related help in Ohio.
Also, check the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s COVID-19 Relief Programs in Ohio website—it is being regularly updated with a list of assistance programs.
While there do not appear to be many state or local government agencies in Ohio providing rent assistance, renters might be able to qualify for help from charitable organizations that have rent assistance programs such as the Salvation Army and United Way. Nolo regularly updates a list of resources for renters and landlords on its blog. RentalAssistance also maintains a comprehensive list of rental assistance programs throughout the state of Ohio.
While orders requesting eviction bans may be helpful to tenants during the pandemic, such measures might put landlords who depend upon the rental income in a bind. Fortunately, in addition to the Ohio governor’s order requesting mortgage forbearances and a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures on commercial property, other resources and protections exist for some landlords during this crisis. Specifically, the CARES Act imposes a 120-day moratorium on foreclosure of federally backed mortgages and prohibits the imposition of penalties, interest, and late fees during that time period.
The CARES Act also provides landlords (property owners) with federally backed mortgage loans who are adversely affected by the pandemic with mortgage payment relief. Specifically, if they make a request to their mortgage servicer for payment assistance and affirm that they’re experiencing a financial hardship caused, directly or indirectly, by the pandemic, the mortgage servicer is required under the law to offer them a mortgage payment forbearance of up to 180 days (meaning that monthly payments can be reduced or deferred for up to six months). The landlord can also get an extension of the forbearance period for up to an additional 180 days during the pandemic upon request. Mortgage servicers are prohibited from charging fees, penalties, or interest charges beyond what the landlord already owed during the forbearance period.
This relief is not automatic. Landlords (property owners) are required to request assistance from their mortgage servicers and find out what options are available to them. Also, these forbearance measures don’t waive or forgive a landlord’s obligation to make up the delayed mortgage payments, so landlords will have to work with their mortgage servicers to bring their mortgages current once the forbearance ends.
Although the mortgage relief provided by the CARES Act only applies to federally backed mortgages, there are a number of other mortgage servicers providing relief to property owners affected by the COVID-19 crisis. All landlords affected by the pandemic should check with their mortgage servicer to see what relief might be available to them.
Moreover, if the landlord is self-employed or owns a small business or otherwise qualifies, he or she could take advantage of the loans, grants and other financial assistance made available in the CARES Act to make up for lost rental income. Ohio landlords should check out the Small Business Association’s Coronavirus Relief Options page.
As a renter, consider trying to come to an arrangement with your landlord that allows you to remain in your rental and allows your landlord to keep paying the bills. For example, you might work out a temporary rent payment plan, partial payment, or other arrangement that keeps you both from facing serious consequences.