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Cleveland Housing Court Restarts Eviction Hearings Monday

Cleveland Housing Court starts hearings on evictions and accepting new filings Monday morning for the first time since March.

The court paused all hearings and new eviction filings as of March 18, so a flood of evictions could be headed to the court. But it won’t be clear for some time how many evictions the coronavirus pandemic caused in Cleveland, because the court set a limit of 125 filings per day.

According to Legal Aid Society attorney Abigail Staudt, who oversees the housing group, there’s no doubt many Clevelanders have struggled to pay rent over the last three months.

“My guess is that pretty steadily for the next I don’t know how long – six weeks, eight weeks, two months, four months – we’re going to see, every day, 125 cases filed,” Staudt said.

Housing court also has to get through the backlog of cases that had stacked up before the pandemic. Virtual hearings on those cases will begin as soon as the court opens.

“I feel like the whole notion of these virtual hearings, particularly in the eviction realm, it's a whole new world,” Staudt said. “It hasn't been something that I've heard of really being tested out anywhere else.”

Other courts around the country have tried used virtual hearings for things like setting bail or custody disputes, and the practice is growing  during the coronavirus pandemic.

A 2008 Northwestern University study on video’s effect on bail amounts found bail amounts went up by 66 percent after Cook County in Illinois, which includes Chicago, switched to video bond hearings.

The decision to restart eviction hearings in Cleveland comes just as rental relief programs are gearing up to help people. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County rental assistance programs are scheduled to begin accepting applications in July.

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