Why do I have to come to Housing Court?
You are in Housing Court because The City of Cleveland Heights has filed a Complaint (ticket) with the Court. Usually the charge is Failure to Comply with a Notice of Code Violations within the time stated in your notice.
The Notice of Code Violations may list several things that must be corrected to bring your property up to the standard required by the Housing Code in The City of Cleveland Heights.
The purpose of the code is to, among other things, establish minimum standards for safe and sanitary dwelling structures and to prevent the deterioration of neighborhoods.
The Housing Code is found in the Codified Ordinances of Cleveland Heights, Chapter 1341 et seq.
What kind of case is a housing case?
Housing cases are criminal in nature. Your personal appearance in Court is mandatory and you can be arrested if you do not come to court. You may want to consult with an attorney.
What will happen in court?
Ordinarily, Housing Court is conducted by a Magistrate assigned by the Judge. If you disagree with the sentence imposed by a Magistrate, you may ask for judicial review of the sentence.
Your first appearance in Court is called an arraignment. You will be informed of the charge against you and advised of your legal rights. You will be asked to enter a plea. How you plead will determine what happens next.
If you enter a plea of not guilty, you are denying the facts in the complaint. Your case will be scheduled for a pre-trial, at which time you will return to Court to discuss the case with The City Representative. If you are unable to resolve the matter, your case will be set for trial before the Judge. At trial the prosecutor will have to prove the charges against you. Your compliance on the date of the trial does not determine guilt or innocence.
If you enter a plea of either guilty or no contest, you are admitting that you failed to correct all of the code violations listed in the notice. You should expect to be found guilty which means you have been convicted of the charge.
How does the court determine the sentence?
City Council has determined that the penalty for violating the housing code is up to a $1,000.00 fine and six months in jail (Cleveland Heights Codified Ordinances Section 1345.99).
Certificate of Occupancy/Vacancy Registration is a maximum fine of $150.00
The Court’s primary purpose in structuring the sentence is to encourage compliance. Penalties will be imposed on repeat offenders and on those who do not fully comply with the terms of probation imposed by the Court.
Several factors are considered by the Court. The city inspector will provide background information including the number of rental units, previous housing convictions, and the results of recent inspections.
You can explain why you haven’t corrected the violations. Inform the Court about any financial problems, physical or medical limitations or other factors that may affect your ability to make repairs. You are not exempt from the housing laws because of such difficulties. However, individual hardship is considered when imposing a sentence.
If you have arranged for all code violations to be corrected, you will have a reasonable period of time to do so. Most homeowners will be eligible for probation if they are willing to make the repairs and willing to participate in counseling or assessment programs.
How much money will I have to pay?
- Court costs (which are currently $112, but are subject to change) are due the day of conviction.
- Fines up to $1,000 may be imposed. All or part of fine may be suspended provided you correct the violations within the time provided and provided you have no prior housing convictions. If you have not met all of the conditions of your probation, all or part of the fine may be imposed.
- Unless all violations are corrected you will be required to post a compliance bond within 30 days of your first appearance in court. If the bond is not posted when required, the amount of the bond maybe assessed as a fine. The bond may be refunded, in the court’s discretion, if you correct all violations.
Compliance Bond Amounts
Owner occupied property only
$200 Minimum Bond
$500 with Rental Unit
$500 Prior Housing Case
All other property requires a $1000 Bond
How often will I have to come to court for review?
Usually, housing cases are reviewed by the Magistrate every 30 days until you have presented a viable plan for correcting all violations.
The Court currently offers morning and afternoon review times and will try to accommodate your work schedule.
You must personally appear in court for your housing review. Your failure to appear for review will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and additional costs.
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What should I do to prepare for the probation review?
Familiarize yourself with the violation list. Obtain estimates for all required repairs. Bring in copies of any contracts you entered into.
If necessary meet with inspectors to answer any questions you have about your violations or how to make the required repair. (216-291-5900).
Correct all minor violations.
Correct all violations that are related to health and safety as directed by the Court.
Promptly schedule appointments with any agency you are referred to. Be on time for all your appointments. Provide all documentation requested.
Schedule a time for the housing inspector to inspect your property. Be sure to be available to meet the inspector and have all areas accessible for inspection.
Decide how you want to prioritize the repairs and submit your proposal for addressing each violation including a date for completion.
How much time will I have to correct the violations?
What if I can’t come to court?
If you can’t come to court, you must request a continuance. The clerk’s office has a form Motion for a Continuance or you can write your own motion. The motion must be filed with the clerk’s office at least three business days before your scheduled court date. You must provide The City Housing Department with a copy of your motion.
Indicate how long you need the case continued and be sure to explain why you cannot come to court. You must attach appropriate documentation to your motion, such as your travel ticket, funeral notice or medical excuse.
If your request is granted you will be sent a notice of your next court date. The notice will be sent to your last known address. If you include a phone number, the clerk’s office will attempt to contact you as a courtesy. However, it is your responsibility to find out if your request is granted and when you must appear in court.
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What if I want to sell my property?
You are responsible for correcting the violations that occurred during your ownership or that were assumed by you when you purchased the property.
The Court will take into consideration your plans to sell the property when structuring your probation, provided you bring in a copy of your listing agreement, purchase agreement, and any other related documents and take all reasonable steps to promptly sell the property.
A new point of sale inspection may be required before you transfer the title. Check with the Housing Department.
What will happen when the court reviews my case?
The Court will get a report from the City on the status of the violations and the condition of your property. You will have the opportunity to present your written repair schedule with supporting contracts; your alternative proposal with purchase agreement; a report from any agency you are working with; or any other documents that you want the Court to consider.
If you have met all of the conditions of your probation and are making progress towards correcting the violations, your probation will continue and another review will be set.
If all of your violations are reported by the City as corrected or approved, your case will be closed and your bond will be refunded less any deductions for unpaid fines or court costs.
If you have not met the terms of your probation, you will be given the opportunity to explain. The Magistrate may continue your probation and give you another chance to comply with the terms of probation provided you have a reasonable explanation with appropriate documentation.
If the Magistrate finds that you have not demonstrated good cause for your failure to comply with the terms of your probation, all or part of the fine may be imposed. You may be scheduled to appear before the Judge for sentencing to a term in jail.
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What will happen if I can’t make the repairs?
Friends, family members, religious or public agencies may be able to help you repair your property. After you explore all of your options, you may reach the conclusion that you cannot correct all of the violations as cited. You may submit an alternative plan for addressing the violations or you may decide to sell your property. Any alternative plan will need to be approved by the city.
A penalty will be imposed at the time of your court review unless you continue to demonstrate your commitment to correcting the violations in an appropriate and timely manner.
Do I have to come to court if my violations are corrected?
You must come to court even if your violations are corrected, unless you have received a letter from the Court telling you that you do not have to appear because you are in compliance.
When you have corrected all of your violations, contact the Housing Department and request an inspection. If all of your violations are approved ask the inspector to submit a report to the Court verifying that you are in compliance. If that report is received, the Court will close your case and notify you by mail.
When is the court case over?
When you have corrected all the violations, your case will be closed.
If the Court finds that progress is not being made and the violations are not being corrected, all or part of the sentence may be imposed and your case will reclosed.
However, after the case is closed, you still have to correct the code violations. If the violations are not corrected, the City may file another complaint against you. Try to work with the Housing Department to avoid the filing of new charges.
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