Athens City Council met Tuesday evening to discuss a “Pay to Stay” Ordinance after questions about a state code that would possibly override it.
The ordinance was introduced by Councilman Ben Ziff, D-At Large, who motioned to table it after learning that Ohio House Bill 430, which was passed into law on June 1 and will go into effect on Sept. 23, could possibly preempt the ordinance.
The ordinance would allow tenants to have a defense in court during an eviction hearing and possibly stop their eviction if they pay the full amount owed in rent plus any late fees.
Another member of council, Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, disagreed with tabling the ordinance.
“Drawing off parallels with the recent Roe v. Wade decision, many political entities in the United States passed legislation in anticipation of the Supreme Court's decision to do away with Roe v. Wade,” Swank said. “If we can get this on the books and even if the state legislature passes this and another municipality challenges it and wins, then we are already there, we don’t have to start over.”
Councilmember Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, asked for an opinion from Lisa Eliason, the city of Athens’ law director, who said that she needed to look more into the state law before releasing an opinion.
An opinion was given on the ordinance from an audience member, Lucy Schwallie, managing attorney at the Athens office of Southeast Ohio Legal Service. She said that she believes that the state law only stopped municipalities from proposing rental control ordinances, not “Pay to Stay” ordinances.
Eliason also said that if the ordinance was not tabled during the meeting, it wouldn’t go into effect for 30 days and could be repealed if it conflicted with the state law.
The ordinance was ultimately passed by council during the meeting.
Another ordinance that would allow stronger enforcement of anti-scavenging laws, especially during Ohio University student move-out was also read for the first time.