Paying rent to the portal? rhino up for July 25, 2021
Imagine that your landlord just set up an online rent payment system. What could possibly go wrong? For many tenants, paying rent to a faceless robot goes against their temperament. Other tenants may not be computer savvy, or might not have a computer, or a credit card, or a bank account. Some tenants may be differently abled and unable to use a computer. What about them? For tenants who live in HUD assisted housing or in California, no problem. HUD notice H-2020-10 (section VI, a, 1) and California landlords must offer an alternative method for payment. However, tenant protections in other jurisdictions seem non-existent.
Here's an example of how a payment portal works. Zillow's rent payment service is free for landlords, but charges tenants fees for paying with a credit or debit card. Tenants may pay for free only if they set up Automated Clearing House (ACH) which sets up an automated funds transfer system to siphon rent payments from your bank account to the landlord's bank account.
This past week, RHINO has gotten reports that some HUD tenants in Ohio are being forced into payment portal schemes which require a computer, some technical skill, a bank account or credit card...and sometimes come with a fee for the right to pay your rent on time! If that's your situation, don't panic. Instead, call your local legal services office to get help in challenging mandatory portal payment policies. It will be interesting to see if attorneys can challenge these payment portal practices under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Fight the power
Maybe it's just summer in Ohio, but this week seemed like a wayback from the 1970's when Cincinnati's Isley Brothers told us: "Time is truly wastin', there's no guarantee, yeah/Smile is in the makin', we got to fight the powers that be."
This week, group of residents of a Ramada Inn in a Cleveland suburb began resisting moving back to the men's shelter which is located in an industrial setting on the fringes of the downtown business district. These men had benefited from an effort to deconcentrate congregate shelters at the onset of the pandemic. But as the pandemic fears eased, the snap back to the shelters began, encouraged by the mayor of Independence Ohio. NIMBY concerns rather than health and safety seem to be driving much of the rush to return these homeless people back into the downtown shelter system. Despite the fact that the Ramada owner has expressed support for his customers who have been staying at the hotel, Independence Mayor Greg Kurtz, County Administrator Armond Budish, and the shelter operators, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries supported shifting financial support back to the downtown shelter.
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, predatory rent increases have tenants at Court View Apartments protesting against being displaced from their homes. Many, they argue, will be forced into homeless shelters due to the absolute lack of affordable alternatives in Cincinnati. A local ballot initiative that would fund new affordable units was soundly defeated in May. A multinational investor bought Court View and has ordered residents out of their homes following a 30 day notice to terminate their month-to-month rental agreements.
In both of these situations, the local homeless coalitions are working to amplify the voices of resistance against a return to the shelter system.
Meanwhile, tenants at Colonial Village apartments in Columbus are protesting the owner's failure to provide basic health and safety at the 502 unit development on the East Side of Columbus. In this case, the City of Columbus and Columbus Legal Aid are supporting tenants to bring pressure on the owners to comply with court orders that address health and safety concerns.