CH court ensures compliance in housing violations

In 2023, the city of Cleveland Heights filed 97 criminal housing violation cases with the CH Municipal Court. Like all criminal cases, the city has complete discretion in deciding whether to bring a criminal charge and the nature of the charge to bring. Once that discretion is exercised, however, the control of the case shifts from the City to the Court. In a criminal case, if a finding of guilt is made, it is the judge’s responsibility to determine the appropriate sanction.

The severity of the maximum penalty depends on the nature of the charge and how it is charged. For the code violation cases filed by the city last year, the maximum penalty for an individual was a $1,000 fine and six months in jail, and the maximum penalty for an entity was a $5,000 fine. Although punishment may be warranted, [as CH Municipal Court Judge] I emphasize compliance with code requirements as the primary goal of criminal prosecution; we, as a community, are best served when properties are repaired, rehabilitated, and maintained. The court uses community control supervision, also known as probation, as a means to that end.

Placing an offender on community control requires some of the maximum penalty to be suspended. Community control then includes conditions that require the offender to develop and present a compliance plan acceptable to the court and bring the property into compliance within that time frame. If that occurs, the court closes out the case without further penalty. If the offender violates any community control conditions, the court can impose all or part of the suspended sentence.

We also have a housing court diversion program in collaboration with the city and the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC). To be accepted into the program, the subject property must be owner-occupied. The participant must meet with the HRRC and develop and present an acceptable compliance plan to the court. If the participant then follows and completes the compliance plan, the case is dismissed, no conviction appears on their record, and they can apply to have the record of the case sealed or expunged.

Of the 97 criminal housing violation cases filed by the city, 45 were filed against individuals who owned and resided in their homes here in Cleveland Heights, and 52 were not owner-occupied and instead were filed against individuals or entities. The average number of days between when the city first inspected those properties and when it was filed with the court was 455 days. As of April 1, seven of the 97 were later voluntarily dismissed by the city, 12 have warrants for failing to appear, one has a pending trial, 39 remain under the supervision of the court, and 39 have been brought into compliance.

Of the 39 that remain under the court’s supervision, 17 are owner-occupied properties in the diversion program, and 22 are on community control. The average number of days those cases have been pending with the court since they were filed is 203.

Of those brought into compliance, 15 were through the diversion program. The other 24 were sentenced and placed on probation with the condition that the property be brought into compliance, and they have since done just that. The average number of days between when the case was filed with the court and when it was determined that the property was in compliance was 161.

For additional information about this and more about what your municipal court does, check out our annual report at

J.J. Costello

J.J. Costello has been the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court judge since 2018, overseeing all criminal, civil, eviction, housing, and small claims filings. He is a lifelong Cleveland Heights resident, and he and his wife, Alicia, are proudly raising their two sons in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 9:47 AM, 04.29.2024