CLEVELAND — The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland said it has seen a roughly 20% increase in calls for help with housing matters.

What You Need To Know

  • The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland has seen an uptick in calls for help since the pandemic

  • Many of their cases center on tenants who cannot pay rent

  • There may be local ordinances that can help tenants in court disputes with landlords


Hazel Remesch is the managing attorney of Legal Aid's housing group. She said many of the cases she sees focus on tenants who aren’t able to pay rent, including one recent case where a woman said her landlord filed for eviction, claiming she owed money. 

“We had a client recently who had lost her job because of the pandemic had been on unemployment benefits as a result of that," Remesch said. "(She) hasn't been able to get back on her feet quickly enough and the landlord has filed an eviction, alleging that she had failed to pay rent."

Remesch said it’s illegal for a landlord to add a rent increase in the middle of a lease. ​When rent increases, it can't be by more than the amount agreed upon in the lease.

“If there is a provision in the lease that has an automatic renewal, that would be okay, but you cannot increase the rent in the middle of a lease," Remesch said. 

Remesch said they’re also dealing with cases of neglect at properties, even though a landlord is required to keep the property up to code. She said they’ve resolved 61% of cases of this type so far this year.

Remesch said renters may put their rent into escrow if repairs are not made, which means rent is still paid, but it is deposited at the courthouse and a hearing is scheduled. 

“It also requires that the tenant be current in the rent and that the landlord be given notice of the escrow of the rent," Remesch said. 

Remesch said having an attorney can help during this step. In the city of Cleveland, she said there’s even a local ordinance that gives the right to an attorney if requirements are met. 

“It would require that they have a child in the household and income below $28,000 dollars a year for a family of four," Remesch said. 

She also said ordinances can vary. Remesch said for tenants who have questions about their rights it is worth contacting the local Legal Aid Society.