Residents in Clark County who own rental properties or those who elect to rent a home or apartment have certain rights. The Clark County Fair Housing Program is designed to make tenants and landlords aware of the rules and also educate local governmental entities about the programs that are offered at the county level.

Recently Ethan Harris, Grants & Land Bank Manger along with Anette Ulery, Fair Housing Coordinator paid a visit to the Enon Village Council public meeting to update members of council and the mayor on fair housing information and grant programs.

The Enon Government Center will be seeing upgrades to the entrance doors for ADA compatibility thanks to a grant available through the community Development Block Grant program which is overseen by Harris. The grant to complete the project is $5,600 coming into the Village of Enon.

Other grants have been provided to the City of Springfield this year to facilitate the demolition of homes and replacing them with green spaces. The hope is to meet State of Ohio guidelines in the future to be able to also offer this type of support to other small villages around the county.

In the area of tenant and landlords, the agency works to assure that good relations are established and that discrimination is not practiced. Harris cited rules that do not allow landlords to refuse housing to individuals who have a service animal. He noted that this has been the biggest issue in Clark County and by making governmental entities aware of the problem, they will have the information and contacts that they need should they become aware of discriminatory practices by landlords in their area.

Although the agency cannot provide legal advice, they can inform tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities under the law. Their focus is mainly on education. Suggestions for tenants include having a signed and current lease agreement. The agreement should clearly outline the rights and responsibilities beyond what is contained in the Fair Housing law. A tenant without a signed lease agreement is considered a month to month tenant and can be forced to leave the residence with only a 30 day notice to vacate.

Harris suggested that tenants need to have everything in writing while asking themselves the age old question “could I prove this in court”? Keeping rent receipts, receipts for any upgrades or repairs or any other type of agreement made outside the parameters of the lease are essential.

Tenants are urged to pay their rent on time. Tenants who are only one day late can be evicted. By doing this and following the lease, you are less likely to give the landlord the upper hand if resolution is ever needed.

Rent escrow is something that can be decided by the Court. If you have paid on time and have all of your receipts, the Court could accept your rent payments to the landlord in lieu of payments to the landlord for repairs that you made. This would be the only situation in which a tenant would not be responsible for paying rent on time. Rent escrow is a way of “influencing” a landlord who is not making repairs. The tenant would need to send a letter to the landlord noting the repairs needed so this should be done by Certified Mail. Tenants must be very specific in their needs and show proof when they contact the Municipal Court.

If you find yourself in this type of situation, you should contact Anette Ulery at the Fair Housing offices. She can help by providing you with guidance on how to identify illegal discrimination and refer you to the proper authorities.

Although the Fair Housing Act outlaws discrimination related to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap, Clark County does not have this type of concerns at this time.

One of the biggest problems with Fair Housing at this time is the lack of advertising in newspapers. Most landlords now use online services making it difficult for some who do not have access to the internet.

If you would like more information as a landlord or tenant, contact Ulery at 937-521-2182. At this time the county does not have a mediation service available, however Ulery can provide information on resources available for residents of Clark County excluding legal aide.

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