Toledo City Council Passes Source-of-Income Discrimination and Pay-to-Stay Ordinances

The Toledo, OH City Council recently passed two major housing-related ordinances that will expand housing options and prevent evictions. Beginning in April 2021, housing discrimination based on a tenant’s means of payment will be banned, adding significant protection for low-income renters who use Housing Choice Vouchers. The other new protection will allow renters a “Pay-to-Stay” defense in eviction proceedings. The new law allows tenants to remain in their housing as long as they pay rent arrears and associated late fees.

In an 8-4 vote, council members replaced Municipal Code Ch. 54 on discrimination to include “source of income” as a category a landlord cannot discriminate against potential renters. This pertains to landlords who previously would not accept applications from households using vouchers or participating in other public assistance programs. Councilmember Nick Komives worked with the Fair Housing Center on this legislation, building support gradually for more than two years.

Some councilmembers spoke out against the passage of the ordinance, citing a lack of discussions on the hardships that this ordinance may create for landlords. Councilmember Komives argued that adjustments have been made to the inspection process, making it easier and faster for landlords considering applicants utilizing a federal housing subsidy.

The “Pay-to-Stay” ordinance passed unanimously as a commonsense solution to maintain housing stability when landlords receive full payment, even when the payment is late. Currently, landlords in Ohio are not required to accept late rent payments and may proceed with an eviction even if a tenant can make a payment covering the late rent. This ordinance further stipulates that landlords only can charge reasonable late fees. Councilmember Komives noted that this legislation was particularly important during COVID-19 when many tenants are unable to pay their rent due to financial hardship and might face eviction when the federal moratorium expires. Along with The Fair Housing Center, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality was helpful in successfully advancing these proposals.