I was at eviction court this morning when I noticed a man standing outside the Courtroom exit handing out literature. My client and I made a point to casually stand near the exit to see what the guy was up to, and it didn’t take long. I didn’t eavesdrop . . . all I had to do was stand a few feet away and listen as he pulled the recently evicted aside as they left the Courtroom and talked to them in a loud voice. Here’s a preview of what you can expect.
The guy’s name is David Green and he claims to be affiliated with a group called “The Citizen’s Committee for Housing Rights.” According to the Secretary of State’s website, there’s no entity or trade name filed in the State of Ohio. In fact, the only information I was able to find about the organization was a 2013 story in the Newark Advocate, in which a group of seven people with signs reading “slum lord” picketed the private residence of a landlord to protest the conditions of his properties here in Newark. In the picture, David Green is pictured third from the left.
The Advocate story is posted here: https://www.facebook.com/NewarkAdvocate/posts/10151654564341240
You got that right: he’ll picket your house, but he won’t register with the Secretary of State so you know what this shadowy “Committee” is or who’s behind it.
What Green told tenants he was handing out were, in his words, booklets advising tenants of their legal rights and an invitation to attend the “Committee’s” meetings. I didn’t see the booklet to be able to tell you whether it’s an accurate summary of the law, but that isn’t the part that you should worry about: the law is the law and we know how to help you avoid the pitfalls.
However, Green is not just handing out pamphlets — he’s handing out legal advice and encouraging tenants to retaliate against landlords who evict them by reporting them to Newark’s Property Maintenance department in between their eviction hearing and the time the bailiff arrives to set them out.
After my hearing, I approached Mr. Green and introduced myself. He said he is trying to band tenants together, push for the licensing of landlords and for rental property registration. I asked if he was an attorney and he says he is not.
Our firm is well versed in the bag of tricks tenants try in order to evade paying rent while remaining in your property. The most common threat is to deposit their rent with the Court, but the threat is almost always a hollow one. In the first place, if a rental property is unlivable a tenant can terminate the lease and vacate — and why wouldn’t they?
Second, in order for a tenant to avoid eviction by depositing rent with the Court, a tenant has to deposit the entire amount due, and the problem usually isn’t really a problem with the property: it’s a problem coming up with the rent. If a tenant deposits less than the entire amount, or if a tenant later stops making payments to the court when they would have been due to you — the case can be dismissed and you’ll get all the money they did put up.
Third, even if your tenant has the money to deposit, there’s a procedure by which you can make the repairs and apply to the Court for the release of escrowed money; if you can prove that repairs aren’t necessary or have already been performed, the Court will release the money to you without having to do anything.
The Mr. Greens of the world and I agree on one thing: it’s a good thing if everyone knows their rights and abides by the law. Give us a call. Your best defense against Mr. Green is to know your rights as a landlord and to do things correctly.