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Central Ohio Landlord Says Tenants Are Refusing To Pay Rent Because Of Eviction Moratorium

 Andrew Levering stands in front of a house he is rehabbing in Hilltop on Aug. 5, 2021.
Michael Lee
/
WOSU
Andrew Levering stands in front of a house he is rehabbing in Hilltop on Aug. 5, 2021.

It’s been a week of uncertainty for many tenants and landlords.

An eviction moratorium expired on Saturday, then the Biden Administration issued a new one on Tuesday for areas with significant COVID spread.

Franklin County seemed to be eligible, but then a judge cast doubt on that. For property owners it’s the latest bit of uncertainty in what has been an 18-month struggle.

Andrew Levering stands in the backyard of a house in the Hilltop neighborhood that he is rehabbing, one that he hopes to rent by winter.

Levering is a property owner and landlord who spoke to WOSU last year and feared he would take a financial hit. While he declined to discuss his finances, Levering said the new eviction moratorium issued this week by the Biden Administration only makes it worse for small landlords, even though some renters are getting financial assistance.

“Some responsible renters have paid the rent with it, and a lot haven’t," Levering said. "The landowners that haven’t gotten that are still being held responsible for their bills, and they don’t have the assistance.”

COVID-19 has had Levering navigating in different directions as a property owner. He currently owns nearly a dozen rental units around Central Ohio, half of what he owned before the pandemic began.

Levering said he sold some units because the rental market was peaking, but sold others because of the moratorium. He feared tenants would not pay rent, so he decided to get out.

The moratorium also caused him to pause renting vacant units completely. He owns a few units in Marysville that he hadn't been renting out because of the CDC moratorium. And with the new one issued on Tuesday, he said will keep it that way.

“Right when the moratorium was starting, we were turning over some units, and I just decided not to rent them because of renters not being held accountable,” he said.

According to the National Equity Atlas which tracks national rent debt, 269,000 Ohio households are behind on rent as of the beginning of July. The Atlas estimates the total Ohio rental debt at $665.7 million.

Levering said he understands that some tenants are struggling with finances. He added that he has worked with some of them to reduce rent payments by having them do things like mowing the lawn and helping with maintenance. But he said some other tenants are just taking advantage of the moratorium.

“I’ve had some that have struggled, and I’ve worked with them, and you know they’re pretty open with their financial situation, which I appreciate, and that’s why I want to help," Levering said. "But then I’ve had others who I know are working, they’re working every single day, and they’re refusing to pay rent because they don’t have to."

At a recent White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said landlords can benefit from the same emergency rental assistance that helps tenants. But Levering said he hasn’t received any financial assistance as a landlord, and neither has any other property owners he knows.

“You got to remember, these same private landlords are not losing money, but they have to spend money on attorneys and representation when the time does come for eviction courts," he said.

The house Levering’s fixing up in Hilltop is another property he said he will only rent after all the moratoriums end. But that might come sooner than later.

On Thursday, the Franklin County Municipal Court presiding judge announced his court would not follow the CDC’s new moratorium. And it’s something Levering said is exciting.

“Well, I can resume business as usual, we can get people in the units, and we can get people housed," Levering said. "And I don’t have to worry about the government stepping in and mandating that I give free housing.”