All about Cleveland's eviction right to counsel

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02/01/2024, Legislation, Housing - Evictions

Update: 2023 report shows continuing success of RTC program

Stout's 2023 report on Cleveland's RTC program shows both a landscape and positive results similar to prior years.  The report first found that "RTC-C clients are disproportionately female and Black or African American compared to Cleveland’s overall population", and that the percentage of tenants flagging defective conditions in their homes has increased from 43% in 2020 to 56% in 2023. But the program showed terrific results when looking at client goals met:

Stout Cleveland 2023 report results

Update: 2022 report continues to demonstrate power of RTC


Stout has released a new report on the Cleveland RTC program.  The report looks at results between July 2020 (when the program began) through December 2022.  Among the highlights noted in the Executive Summary:


Stout 2022 Cleveland report results


Important context for these stats is that 43% of clients did not want to remain in their homes, perhaps because 82% of clients reported defects in their homes.


The report also estimated that the City has seen between $11.8-14 million in financial benefits due to avoided expenditures related to the housing social safety net, foster care, education, health care, and tax base erosion caused by out-migration. 

Update: Cleveland increases RTC budget

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb proposed, and the City Council has approved, putting $1 million of ARPA funds towards the City's right to counsel for tenants program.  This is a substantial increase over the City's current investment.

Update: Cleveland program makes outreach toolkit available


The Cleveland RTC program has put its outreach toolkit online, which includes resources such as flyers, posters, and social media graphics.  People interested in learning more about Cleveland's outreach plan can contact Julie Wisneski of the United Way of Greater Cleveland 

Update: Editorial urges expansion of City's successful program to Cuyahoga County


An editorial in Cleveland dot com / The Plain Dealer urges Cuyahoga County to go beyond its $2 million investment in expanded tenant representation and actually enact a right to counsel similar to what exists in Cleveland.  Noting the potential cost savings to both the City and County as well as the dramatic success of the City's program, the editorial comments that "The right-to-counsel law is a fundamental justice law -- giving very poor families in Cleveland access to assured legal representation when something as consequential as loss of shelter is on the line."


Update: 2021 report reveals RTC continues to deliver impressive results


The latest report analyzing the 2021 data from Cleveland's right to counsel found that the program is delivering on its promise while saving the city money.  Key data from the Stout report:


  • 93% of clients avoided an eviction judgment or an involuntary move.

  • Of the 21% of clients who were unaware of rental assistance at the time they contacted Legal Aid, approximately 98% wanted rental assistance and Legal Aid helped 81% of those clients obtain it.  In other words, Legal Aid played a key role in both awareness and securing of rental assistance.

  • 92% of clients who wanted additional time to move, and 97% who sought monetary relief, were able to get it.  Important context for this stat is that 42% of clients did not want to remain in their home, perhaps because 79% of clients reported defects in their homes.

  • Clients were disproportionately female and Black.  79% of clients reported conditions issues with their units, and 92% had reported those conditions to their landlords.  86% had "circumstances (either personal circumstances or case characteristics) that would make their cases complex."

The report also found that the net savings to Cleveland / Cuyahoga County were about $1.8-1-9 million.


Ideastream covered the release of the report.


Update: first report shows incredible success of Cleveland RTC


A report is now out about the first 6 months of Cleveland’s right to counsel.  The bottom line is that 93% of those represented avoided eviction or involuntary move, 83% who were seeking additional time to move were able to get it, and 89% of those seeking to mitigate damages were able to do so.  The report’s release was covered by WOSUCleveland dot com, Fox 8, WKYC, and Ideastream.

Update: Cleveland right to counsel has launched!


Cleveland’s right to counsel, enacted in October 2019, launched on July 1 2020.  Coverage of the launch was in Ideastream and News 5 Cleveland.


Update: United Way of Greater Cleveland commits resources to right to counsel


A press release from the United Way of Greater Cleveland details the organization's commitment of $3 million of bridge funding to help launch the right to counsel for Cleveland tenants facing eviction.  The right to counsel in ordinance in Cleveland also charges UWGC with implementation of the program.


Elsewhere, FreshWater explored the planned implementation of the right to counsel for tenants with children.


Update: Case Western study looks at impact of evictions on child health/school in Cleveland


Case Western study commissioned by the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland found, among other things, that evicted children are at higher risk of lead exposure and negative educational outcomes, and that low-income black women are evicted at a disproportionate rate.


Update: Cleveland bar journal looks at recent passage of eviction right to counsel


Two articles in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal look at the recent passage of the ordinance establishing a right to counsel in Cleveland eviction cases.  The first is by Cleveland Council President Kevin Kelley (who introduced the ordinance) while the other is by Bar President Ian Friedman and highlights the incredible work of Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, and in particular NCCRC participant Hazel Remesch, to build this right to counsel effort up from nothing.


Update: City Council passes bill, making Cleveland first midwest city with an eviction right to counsel


In October 2019, the Cleveland City Council passed the right to counsel bill, establishing a right to counsel to tenants facing eviction who are at or below 100% of the federal poverty level and have children.  Coverage is in News 5 Cleveland,, Crain’s Cleveland Business, and WZAK.  There are also press releases from the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (the service provider) and the United Way (the implementer).




On August 21, 2019, a bill was introduced to the Cleveland City Council that would provide a right to counsel for families with children facing eviction who are at or below 100% of the federal poverty line.  Eviction has roughly 9,000 evictions filed per year and only 1-2% of tenants currently have counsel.  The bill asserts that 


lack of legal counsel for tenants during eviction cases is a violation of a basic human right ... this housing emergency destabilizes families and neighborhoods, especially the most vulnerable among us, resulting in homelessness, decreased property values, and harm to social tranquility and the general welfare of the City ...these conditions pose a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the City, as well as to the City’s economic stability, viability and growth.

The bill's introduction was covered by the Cleveland Plains-Dealer and Law360.  You can also check out the press release from Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.  

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes



The NCCRC has worked with advocates over the last several years to advance this bill.