New court ruling changes eviction process, landlords must testify in Franklin County
FILE - A For Rent sign in front of a Columbus home. (WSYX/WTTE)

Franklin County landlords and property managers must now show up and testify in court, in order to evict a tenant.

Ohio's Tenth District Court of Appeals made the ruling this week, overturning an eviction case out of Canal Winchester.

"This requirement is not merely technical," Kate McGarvey, Executive Director of the Ohio State Legal Services Association, said. "We've seen cases where the rent was paid prior to the eviction hearing, but the landlord was not present to testify to that, and a result the tenant was evicted based on an affidavit that was signed days or weeks before the tenant got caught up in rent."

T&R Properties Inc., v Traci Wimberly is the case at the center of the appellate court's decision. According to the decision, T&R filed for Wimberly's eviction, after she failed to pay July rent in 2019. At the eventual hearing, neither party appeared in person. However, based on an affidavit introduced to the court alleging Wimberly's failure to pay, the court ruled in favor of the eviction. No testimony was heard from either side.

However, Wimberly, challenged the court's ruling in favor of eviction, saying the document was inadmissible in court and she had objected to the eviction in writing.

That's what ultimately led to this latest ruling, where the appeals court writes "the trial conducted by the magistrate in this case did not comply... because the magistrate relied solely on an affidavit submitted... and no testimony was presented in open court."

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18,000 evictions took place in Franklin County in 2019, one of the highest rates in the country, according to the City of Columbus.

Housing advocates are hoping the change leads to more situations where the landlord and tenant can come to agreements to catch up on rent or move out amicably, without formal evictions, which make it more difficult for tenants to secure affordable housing.

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