Cleveland Passes Local Landlord Tenant Law

By Peter M. Iskin,

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

              These are the major points with the Landlord tenant law passed by Cleveland City Council in July and signed into law by Mayor Michael White.  These laws only apply to apartments within City of Cleveland.  For questions or follow up contact the Cleveland Tenants Organization.

  1. Automatic Renewal Provisions (Section 375.02(b)).

The ordinance requires any automatic renewal provision in a lease to be set forth in clear language, in bold type, and in conspicuous type (i.e., twice the size of other print), if the lease is for an initial term of six months or longer.

  1. Fees for Late Payment of Rent (Section 375.02 (c)).

The Ordinance creates a maximum monthly amount for any fee for late payment of rent.  The maximum amount is the largest of $25. or 5% of the monthly rent for the dwelling unit.  In addition, for tenants who reside in a subsidized dwelling unit and are not obligated to pay the full monthly rent for the dwelling unit (e.g., public housing and section 8 tenants), the fee for late payment of rent also may not exceed 25% of the tenant’s monthly rent.

For tenants who do not reside in a subsidized dwelling unit, this means that:

  • ·        If the monthly rent is greater than $500, the maximum fee is 5% of the monthly rent;
  • ·        If the monthly rent is less than or equal to $500, the maximum fee is $25.

For tenants who reside in a subsidized dwelling unit, this means that:

  • ·        If the tenant’s monthly rent is between $100 and $500, the maximum fee is $25;
  • ·        If the tenant’s monthly rent is less than $100, the maximum fee is 25% of the tenant’s monthly rent.
  1. Rent Receipts (Section 375.04).

The Ordinance requires landlords to provide their tenants with signed receipts for

Security deposits and rent payments, provided the tenant makes a written request for such receipts and provided the payment is not made by personal check.

  1. Tenant Payment for Gas, Electric, or Water Service (Section 375.05).

The Ordinance permits landlords to require tenants to pay for gas, electric, or water service to the dwelling unit only if three conditions are met.  Those conditions are:

    • The utility service is provided through an individual meter or sub meter that measures usage in the tenant’s dwelling unit only;
    • The rental agreement provides, in clear language that the tenant shall pay for such utility service during the tenancy only; and
    • The rental agreement provides, in clear language, that the tenant shall have reasonable access at all times to the meter or sub meter and the landlord grants such access.
  2. Retaliatory Non-Renewal of a Rental Agreement or Tenancy (Section 375.08).

 The Ordinance prohibits landlords from terminating or failing to renew a rental agreement or a tenancy in retaliation for the tenant engaging in a protected activity (i.e., tenant complaints to the landlord or a government agency, or tenant organization activities).

This prohibition is implemented with the same remedies and qualifications as exist for other retaliatory landlord actions under the Sate Ace.

  1. Reasonable Security Against Criminal Activity (Section 375.09).

The ordinance establishes a procedure in which, upon the request of the tenants of a multifamily structure or development, the Safety Director (or his/her designee) shall conduct a security audit of the common areas of the property.  A multifamily structure means a structure that contains thirty or more dwelling units.  A multifamily development means a tract of land or contiguous tracts of land on which there are thirty or more dwelling unity of the same landlord.

In the security audit, the Safety Director shall conduct an analysis of the common areas of the multifamily structure or development to determine whether the common areas have reasonable security measures against criminal activity.  Based on the analysis, the Safety Director shall determine what, if any, additional security measures the landlord must implement in the common areas to meet this standard.

The Safety Director shall conduct the security audit if two conditions are met.  First, a tenant petition requesting the security audit must be filed with the Safety Director.  The number of tenants who sign the petition must equal at least ten percent of the dwelling units in the multifamily structure or development.  Second, there must be a reasonable basis for finding that a security audit is appropriate for the property.  Such reasonable basis exists if:

                                 i.            The councilman of the ward in which the property is located requests the security audit;

                               ii.            During the thirty day period preceding the filing of the petition, the police department has received 14 service calls regarding the property; or

                              iii.            There is any other reasonable basis for concluding that, if a security audit is conducted, there is a reasonable possibility that the Safety Director will require additional security measures for the common areas.

If the Safety Director conducts a security audit and requires the landlord to implement additional security measures in the common areas, the Safety Director shall specify reasonable time periods in which the landlord must implement those security measures.

  1. Abandonment of Dwelling Unit by Tenant (Section 375.10).

The ordinance establishes standards and procedure for determining whether a tenant has abandoned a dwelling unit.  It also establishes procedures for the landlord’s disposition of any personal property of the tenant that remains in the dwelling unit after the tenant has abandoned the dwelling unit.

  1. Minimum Statutory Damages.

The Ordinance establishes a tenant remedy of minimum statutory damages, between $50 and $500, for certain landlord conduct that the State Act prohibits.

These minimum statutory damages supplement the State Act’s other tenant remedies for such conduct.  The prohibited landlord conducts to which these minimum statutory damages apply are:

  • ·        Knowing use of an unlawful teas term. Section (375.03(g).
  • ·        Unlawful entry of the dwelling unit.  Section 375.06 (b) (1).
  • ·        Unlawful self help eviction Section 375.07 (c)
  • ·        Unlawful seizure of the tenant’s personal property Section 375.07 ( c)
  • ·        Unlawful retaliation. Section 735.08 (b).

    Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #49 August-September -2001