LIMA — Eviction hearings in Allen County housing are “absolutely” on the rise, according to a spokeswoman for a non-profit agency that attempts to meet the needs of local residents who without such assistance could find themselves homeless.
Kim Bruns, community services director of the Western Ohio Community Action Partnership, on Thursday predicted the number of evictions in and around Allen County will “probably double or triple” as the economy struggles under the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A federal moratorium that prevented the eviction of tenants in public housing or homes with federally-backed mortgages — estimated to be some 12.3 million households or 30% of all renters nationwide — expires Friday. With the passing of that deadline, landlords are free to issue a 30-day notice of their intent to file eviction notices in court against tenants who have fallen behind in rent payments.
Anna Schnippel, executive director of the Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority, said Thursday that language contained in the federally-mandated pause in the eviction process is complicated.
“There are so many variables that I don’t even know what to say” about the passing of the moratorium. “We will deal with whatever we have to deal with and are already working with people so they can stay on our programs,” Schnippel said. “We have been in close contact with other agencies who can provide assistance and have been referring our clients to them.”
Allen MHA is a political subdivision that oversees programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency provides rental assistance to eligible low income families in Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties.
While the moratorium that expires Friday applies only to public housing scenarios, the eviction process for the private sector has already resumed in Lima Municipal Court. Judge Richard Warren suspended eviction hearings for non-subsidized housing disputes until early May due to the virus, and the number of weekly cases has escalated since that time.
Bruns said a fair-housing agent from WOCAP attends each eviction hearing in Allen County to attempt to mediate a resolution to disputes between landlords and delinquent tenants. She said the agency received federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security bill, or CARES Act, and the funding is available to renters who have fallen behind in their payments. She said the act also expanded eligibility to anyone who falls within 200% of federal poverty level guidelines.
“We talk to landlords and tenants to see where we can help, but sometimes landlords just say, ‘No, I need them to be gone.’ That’s when we use our resources to help those tenants get set up in a new location,” Bruns said.
The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project estimates 25.8 million Americans are a risk for eviction by September. In Ohio, 800,000 renters could be at risk for eviction and Ohio landlords will be owed $345 million in back rent by then, the project estimated.
Bruns said local agencies “have adopted a community approach to see how we can help people … and there are a lot of people in need. We’re trying to focus on prevention and on getting the word out that we are here and to give us a call.”
Persons in need of housing assistance can call WOCAP at 419-227-2586.