On April 1, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Executive Order 2020-08D, which “requests” landlords and mortgage lenders with Ohio small business tenants and commercial borrowers to pause prosecution of lease and loan defaults caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the Order frames the directives as three separate “requests”:
1. “Landlords are requested to suspend, for a term of at least ninety (90) consecutive days, rent payments for small business commercial tenants in the State of Ohio that are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
2. Landlords are requested to provide for a moratorium of evictions of small business commercial tenants for a term of at least ninety (90) consecutive days; and
3. Lenders are requested to provide commercial real estate borrowers with a commercial mortgage loan for a property located in the State of Ohio an opportunity for a forbearance of a term of at least ninety (90) days for said mortgage as a result of a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic[.]”
While the Order broadly defines “lenders” and “forbearance,” it does not define what types of tenants are considered “small business commercial tenants,” among other potentially gray areas. As of the date of this release, the use of the “are requested to” phrase in the three operative paragraphs of the Order is also a source of unknowns: how the Order will be enforced, and to what extent the “request” language will compel landlords and tenants to forbear will need clarification in the near term.
The Order states that it is not to be construed to negate or forgive any rent or loan payment obligations of Ohio commercial tenants and borrowers.
This Executive Order supplements existing emergency orders from many if not all of Ohio’s largest trial level courts, which have closed courthouses to the public and substantially limited civil calendars and in-person proceedings. In greater Cleveland, for example, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas has suspended or stayed all civil jury trials and foreclosures (including Sherriff’s sales) through at least May 8, 2020 and given judges broad discretion on hearing and docket scheduling matters.