The Fair Housing Center’s statement on the COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every Ohioan. The Fair Housing Center has found that this crisis harms vulnerable black and Latinx Ohioans disproportionately. The pandemic brings to light critical concerns related to housing discrimination including harassment or other discrimination against Asian people, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are suspected of having it, and other protected classes. Civil rights provided under the Fair Housing Act help protect Ohioans during this crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed longstanding health inequities in neighborhoods of color. These inequities, caused by decades of systemic discrimination and patterns of segregation, mean that black and Latinx residents are less likely to have access to affordable healthcare and other vital resources, while also experiencing higher levels of exposure to health hazards resulting from poor quality housing, air, and water. People of color face a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 while also lacking access to the social, financial, and healthcare supports that are necessary to successfully recover.

The economic impact of the crisis will also very likely impose a disproportionate harm on black and Latinx Ohioans. In other words, the crisis not only directly impacts minorities with a greater likelihood of infection, it also imposes a greater likelihood of economic harm on black and Latinx Ohioans. This economic impact may lead to an inability to make rental payments and other expenses necessary to maintain housing.

As leaders and policymakers respond to the needs of our communities, we must ensure everyone can maintain housing not only during this crisis, but beyond. While some policies are in place, like eviction moratoriums or mortgage forbearance, these protections do not extend to all communities or apply to all types of housing. The Fair Housing Center joins other housing advocates in calling for broader, state-wide or national protections against evictions, foreclosures, and utility disconnections to ensure that all people, regardless of where they live or type of housing, do not lose their homes. Further, it is critical that these protections be combined with financial assistance to help those who have suffered financial hardships keep a roof over their heads and maintain housing stability into the future.

Now more than ever, having a safe, stable place to call home is essential, and The Fair Housing Center remains committed to ensuring everyone in our community can access the resources they need. We created this resource page and will keep it updated with important information to help keep you and your family informed and connect you with assistance during this challenging time.

 

Resources

 

Housing policies impacting all residents

Fair Housing Protections

All members of our community are protected by the Fair Housing Act, which means you cannot be denied housing or be treated unfairly because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, familial status, military status, or sexual orientation. The following actions violate fair housing laws:

  • Acts of hate or harassment, including stigmatizing Asian Americans due to fears about COVID-19
  • Unwelcome sexual comments or advances, or asking for sexual favors in exchange for rent or repairs
  • Denying a person with a disability the right to a reasonable accommodation or modification, which could include a ramp, handicapped parking space, or assistance animal
  • Denying someone housing due to their COVID-19 status or exposure to COVID-19, or asking questions about their COVID-19 status or exposure
  • Targeting scams towards protected classes

Read The Fair Housing Center’s guidance for housing professionals during COVID-19.

Find out more about disability rights during COVID-19 from the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Moratorium on water shut offs

City of Toledo Moratorium on water shut offs for Toledo and Lucas County residential properties remains in effect – Toledo Public Utilities will not turn off water service to any residential customer and will restore water service to all residential customers who have had their water disconnected for non-payment. Customers are encouraged to contact the Department of Public Utilities to find out about discounts, financial assistance programs, and flexible payment options.

 

Policies impacting renters and landlords

Landlord Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

Tenants are still responsible for paying rent and landlords have the right to collect rent. If tenants can pay their rent, they should do so, and all parties should continue to comply with the terms of the lease agreement to the best of their ability. Tenants who have experienced a financial hardship as the result of COVID-19 should contact their landlord (preferably in writing) and explain their situation. Landlords are encouraged to be as flexible and understanding as possible given these highly unusual circumstances and consider exploring options such as delayed or structured payments, waiving late fees, or rent reduction.

While evictions may be prohibited in some areas and for some types of housing, landlords may still have the right to evict tenants due to unpaid rent after moratoriums expire.

Landlords are advised not to take improper actions to force or encourage tenants to leave, such as locking tenants out of their rental unit, shutting off utilities, removing a tenant’s belongings, increasing rent without proper notice, introducing new fees or penalties, or making significant changes to lease terms.

Landlords are responsible for maintaining properties and making repairs, although special considerations may be made to comply with social distancing. If a landlord is not responding to maintenance requests, tenants can place their rent in escrow through the housing court.

Evictions

  • Federal eviction moratorium – Effective September 4 through December 31, 2020, the CDC issued an order that prohibits housing providers from evicting qualified tenants from any residential property.
    • To qualify, tenants must fall below income thresholds ($99,000 for single households and $198,000 for couples), be unable to pay rent due to a financial hardship, and make efforts to seek government housing assistance.
    • Tenants must fill out a Declaration Form and submit it to their landlord or property owner.
    • Read the full CDC order
    • Download a tenant Declaration Form with instructions
  • Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority (LMHA) – Eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent in effect through September 30, 2020.

Financial Assistance

  • City of Toledo – COVID-19 Emergency Renter Assistance Fund assists income-eligible households with three months maximum of emergency rental assistance to cover rent, past due rent, late fees, new renter fees, security deposits, utility deposits, and moving costs. Tenants should contact NeighborWorks Toledo Region or Lutheran Social Services to apply. Program eligibility requirements and contact information can be found here.
    • Public housing residents may qualify for rent assistance through this program. For more information or to apply, contact Lutheran Social Services at 419-243-9178.
  • Lucas County – Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHA) assists income-eligible Lucas County residents living outside Toledo with up to three months of assistance to cover rent or mortgage payments. Residents can contact Great Lakes Community Action Partnership Support Specialist Niki Holland at 419-333-6101 or ntholland@glcap.org
  • LMHA – “Home to Stay” Rental Assistance Program assists Housing Choice Voucher residents who are facing eviction due to nonpayment of rent. For more information or to apply, contact Kimberly Sutton, LMHA Housing Stability Case Manager, at 419-254-3499.

HUD Tools for Landlords and Tenants Impacted by COVID-19

  • Guidance for Landlords – Helps landlords to engage with at-risk tenants while remaining in compliance with fair housing laws. Includes links to sample rent repayment agreements.
  • Guidance for Tenants – Assists at-risk tenants in understanding and pursuing rent repayment agreements with their landlords. Includes links to helpful resources and a sample script for communicating with a landlord.

 

Policies impacting homeowners

Homeowners experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 should contact their mortgage servicer, as all financial institutions are being encouraged to offer forbearance plans to their customers.

Lucas County announced the Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHA) to assist income-eligible Lucas County residents living outside Toledo with up to three months of assistance to cover rent or mortgage payments. Residents can contact Great Lakes Community Action Partnership Support Specialist Niki Holland at 419-333-6101 or ntholland@glcap.org.

Federal CARES Act

  • Borrowers with a federally backed mortgage (HUD, USDA, FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac) can request a forbearance for up to one year