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Advocates Fear Wave Of Evictions As Franklin County Moratorium Ends

Adora Namigadde

After a more than two-month pause, eviction proceedings resume in Franklin County on Monday, leading some housing advocates to worry about a potential wave of people looking for new housing during the ongoing pandemic.

On March 16, the Franklin County Municipal Court announced that all eviction hearings would be stayed for at least the next eight weeks, a delay that was eventually extended until June 1. It was meant to help keep people from becoming homeless as the coronavirus took hold in the U.S.  

That reprieve ends Monday, while an end to the pandemic remains out of sight.

“In the immediate weeks ahead, there will be a lot of eviction hearings going on,” said Shelley Whallen, executive director of Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio. Her agency works to keep people in stable housing.

Whallen said landlords in Franklin County filed 1,426 evictions notices with the court from March 2-May 22. She says some of those might have been people who, despite her agency’s best efforts, viewed the eviction moratorium as some type of rent forgiveness.

“I think there are some tenants who have misunderstood that because the court was closed, they thought that meant they didn’t have to pay their rent, which is not accurate,” Whallen said.

The pandemic filings add to an existing count of 3,314 eviction notices filed with the court .

Whallen is holding out hope for more federal assistance to renters affected by the pandemic and resulting economic downturn. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)  has pushed for such help, but it’s so far failed to get traction in Congress.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act instituted a 120-day moratorium on evictions that runs through July 25, but that only applies to different kinds of properties that offer low-income housing, and properties whose owner have a federally-backed mortgage.

Brown’s colleague Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) filed his own bipartisan measure with Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) to address evictions last December. The Eviction Crisis Act would track evictions and provide funding for community courts and short-term rental assistance programs.