Ohio Sheriff Refuses to Process “Heartless” Evictions

Saying that evicting former owners and tenants during winter weather and a recession is “heartless,” Butler County, Ohio sheriff Richard Jones has become the third sheriff this year to refuse to process some eviction orders. Jones on Tuesday ordered his deputies to ensure that people have shelter before they’re forced out of their homes, according to a report by WLWT television in Hamilton, Ohio; otherwise, he said his department will refuse to honor all eviction orders. Jones sent a letter to Ohio governor Ted Strickland, as well, asking for a state order to halt all evictions for the winter months, although its unclear what would constitute “winter months.” A call to Strickland’s office for comment very early Thursday morning had not yet been returned when this story was published. “There has to be some attention drawn to somebody that’s going to be thrown out of their houses that doesn’t have anywhere else to go,” Jones told the television news station. Jones is the third sheriff to refuse to process eviction orders, with Cook County, Illinois sheriff Tom Dart refusing to process eviction orders on tenant earlier this year; Dart’s quibble, however, was with the process of notifying tenants of a pending eviction, many of whom he said had no idea they were being thrown out while their landlord was skimming their rent. In contrast, Jones is refusing to evict on more general terms. The order given to deputies in Butler County opens up the sheriff to legal action from servicers and investors, sources told HousingWire. “As sheriff, his job isn’t to make the law, but to enforce it,” said one source, an attorney in the field. “If he wants to be a legislator, he should run for that office, and quit being a sheriff.” Other sources in the servicing business suggested that evictions usually take months to process, beyond the time associated with default and foreclosure, and said they focus on working with borrowers, former owners and tenants to find places to go — even delaying eviction actions when needed. “Jones is making for a good headline, but most people don’t know all of the time and effort that goes into managing a file before it reaches an actual lock-out date,” said one servicing manager, that asked not to be named. The manager said some people are ultimately forced into the street, but not because the servicer failed to try to find another solution. “We’ll usually delay lock-outs if former owners let us know they’re looking for a place, within reason, and communicate with us,” said the manager. “Unfortunately, too few communicate, and still others lie about looking for somewhere else to go.” Write to Paul Jackson at [email protected].

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