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Class Action Certified Against Cleveland Heights’ Attack on Outside Ownership

April 12, 2024

Non-local homeowners forced to pay extra earn right to seek refunds.

Cleveland, OH – A federal court late yesterday certified a class action lawsuit against the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, explaining that homeowners who were forced to pay additional annual assessments are entitled to demand refunds of these “Out of County Registration Fees.”

The Order, made by Judge Philip Calabrese of the Northern District of Ohio, confirms class action lawsuits may be maintained against city governments who extort their citizens and businesses in a widespread manner, including through levying assessments beyond property taxes on nonresident homeowners.

In doing so, the Court highlighted the “common issue” of “whether the City’s collection of a $100 fee from persons who own residential rental property in Cleveland Heights but do not reside within Cuyahoga County violates the Constitution or otherwise unjustly enriches the City,” and explained that “without question, the fees at issue present a textbook example for a class action in this regard.”

Specifically, Judge Calabrese certified a class of “All individuals and businesses who own residential rental property in the City of Cleveland Heights and, while residing outside of Cuyahoga County, paid to the City of Cleveland Heights one or more $100 annual out-of-county owner registration fees.”

“Class action litigation is an excellent method for average citizens to even the playing field when fighting back against their corrupt and otherwise indifferent local governments.  This ruling confirms that Ohio cities must be held just as responsible to their citizens and big corporations are to their customers.” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

In Crossroads v. City of Cleveland Heights, the 1851 Center explains how the City’s penalization of nonresident-homeowners violates the United States and Ohio Constitutions:

  • The Equal Protect Clause forbids discrimination against homeowners solely on the basis of their county of residency rather than on the basis of any actual harm they cause to others.
  • The Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine prevents cities from extorting Ohioans in response to their exercise of their constitutionally-protected right to private property and right to reside where they wish.
  • Assessments may not be unilaterally imposed by Ohio cities’ attorneys rather than enacted by their city councils.

“Ohioans maintain a fundamental right to own and use private property any way that doesn’t inflict harm on others, and to live where they wish while doing so,” explained Thompson.  “Ohio cities cannot plunder Ohioans for simply carrying on business across county lines.”

Read the District Court’s Class Certification order here.