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LAWO’s Right to Counsel Program Helps Family in Eviction Proceedings

When Paula* and her three children moved into their rental home, they immediately discovered the entire first floor was without electricity. Given the difficulties securing housing in the rental market and the landlord’s promises to fix the electricity, Paula and her family continued to live there.

Conditions continued to deteriorate, however, and Paula discovered mold in the bathroom, water leaking from the upstairs bathroom into the downstairs kitchen and rotting stairs leading to the back door. After Paula had discussed these issues with her landlord in detail, she was told to hang onto the rent until the problems were fixed. Unfortunately, the issues were never resolved, and Paula was unable to contact her landlord after this conversation. A short time later, Paula learned she was facing an eviction for nonpayment of rent.

Paula reached out to Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) to see if she qualified for free legal assistance through Toledo’s new housing Right to Counsel legislation. She met the requirements and was assigned to an LAWO housing attorney. At the eviction hearing, Paula discovered that her landlord had changed their phone number, making contact and any attempts to pay the rent impossible. Paula’s attorney argued that the client was excused from paying rent due to the agreement between the parties. Her attorney also argued that Paula had tendered her rent under Toledo’s Pay to Stay ordinance that allows tenants to make payments in full to stay in the rental unit. The Magistrate ruled against Paula, so Paula’s attorney filed Objections with the Housing Court Judge. Not only did the Housing Court Judge find in Paula’s favor, but he also ordered all outstanding rent to be paid into escrow until the rental home’s conditions were fixed. Paula went from facing homelessness to keeping her family housed and starting the process of getting much-needed repairs.

*Name changed for privacy

About the author

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) is a non-profit regional law firm that provide high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.