Feb 7, 2024 - News

Cleveland has a new "residents first" housing policy

Illustration of a book, shaped like a house, with many page markers sticking out.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The City of Cleveland has some powerful new tools in its toolbox to fight blight and hold predatory and out-of-state landlords accountable.

Driving the news: Cleveland City Council on Monday passed a housing policy overhaul, dubbed "Residents First" by Mayor Justin Bibb, that will strengthen and streamline code enforcement measures.

What they're saying: Bibb called it the most comprehensive piece of housing legislation the city has passed in nearly three decades.

How it works: The legislation has three key provisions.

Local agent in charge: All landlords who don't reside in Cuyahoga or contiguous counties will be required to have a local point person responsible for addressing violations.

  • In the past, the city had difficulty tracking down out-of-state landlords and LLCs. This new requirement ensures that a human being maintain the property and be available to appear in court if needed.

Civil ticketing system: Inspectors with the city's building and housing department will be empowered to write $200 tickets for code violations, which accrue daily, in lieu of the time-consuming process of taking owners to housing court.

  • If the tickets go unpaid, the balance will be tacked on to an owner's property tax bill.

Point-of-sale inspections: Inspectors will be required to document all code violations on the exterior of a vacant home when it is sold, and the buyer will be required to correct them as a condition of the sale.

  • The original legislation would have required both exterior and interior inspections, but council members worried that the cost of repairs would be too onerous for small buyers.
  • Of note: This part of the legislation will sunset in two years if council elects not to renew it.

The other side: The Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors appeared at a council hearing last week to oppose the legislation and, as Signal Cleveland reported, created a website to lobby against its passage.

  • "We must remember that the Cleveland market is still in recovery," the site reads, "and it's critical that the city focus on enforcing its existing laws before introducing additional hurdles for its residents."
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