Rental Assistance Is Available, But Some Aren't Accepting It

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland this week started appearing at every virtual eviction docket to screen tenants for eligibility for free legal aid and rental assistance.[Nick Castele / ideastream]
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland this week started appearing at every virtual eviction docket to screen tenants for eligibility for free legal aid and rental assistance.[Nick Castele / ideastream]

Cleveland Housing Partners (CHN) has distributed about $1.2 million in aid to tenants facing eviction due to the coronavirus pandemic, with $11.2 million more in requests.

Kevin Nowak, CHN executive director, told a Cleveland Housing Court panel Tuesday some landlords and tenants are not open to accepting the help.

"Some of it is an education process, particularly on the tenant side, also on the landlord side,” Nowak said. “Sometimes the landlord is not interested in taking the assistance."

Some of the assistance offered requires inspections, which is a disincentive for some landlords, he said.

The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have set aside $18 million in coronavirus aid for eviction prevention.

Since eviction is a civil matter, many tenants across the country don’t have access to free legal aid. The city of Cleveland changed that by passing legislation last year that guarantees tenants have the right to free legal help during evictions, but there are still barriers due to the pandemic, said Hazel Remesch of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

Legal Aid this week started appearing at every virtual eviction docket to screen tenants for eligibility for free legal aid and rental assistance.

“We’ve had to pivot quite a bit,” Remesch said. “We’re in an era where we believed we’d be in court physically, we’ve now had to pivot to virtually doing all the hearings, which is a whole new way of practicing.”

Access to the internet and confusion over how to access Zoom meetings is a barrier for some tenants, Remesch said.

Most people who apply for rental assistance walk away with some money, said Nowak. He said of the $1.2 million distributed, all of those tenants are “housing stable,” meaning they have resolved financial issues with their landlord.

Those who apply with an eviction status or pending eviction status are given priority, he said.

The September 29 discussion was part of a Cleveland Housing court's panel entitled "From Confusion to Clarity: Understanding Cleveland Housing Court, the Pandemic, and the CDC's Eviction Moratorium." 

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