Landlord-Tenant Rights and Responsibilities Under Ohio Law
The Ohio Tenant-Landlord Act of 1974 outlines the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords. It doe snot apply to mobile home trailer parks (see Chapter 3733, Ohio Revised Code), owner-occupied condominiums, prisons, jails, workhouses or halfway houses, hotels, motels or tourist homes, hospitals or nursing homes, farm residences on two or more acres of land, or school dormitories.
The information found here is for reference purposes only. For additional information or specific interpretation of the law, please seek legal counsel.
The Ohio Civil Rights Act governs the enforcement of the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 which states that it is illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or familial status in the Sale or rental of housing or residential lots, in advertising the sale or rental of housing, in the financing of housing, in the terms of renting property, or in the provision of real estate brokerage services.
If you suspect you have been discriminated against, please contact your local Fair Housing Office or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
The Rental Agreement
A lease is a rental agreement or contract and can be written, oral, or implied. It is recommended that a signed lease be negotiated on order to better define your rights and duties under the law as well as your landlord’s. Leases also protect you from indiscriminate rent increases or termination of tenancy. Without a signed lease, rent can be increased or the agreement terminated with only a seven day notice if you rent by the week or with 30 days notice if renting by the month.
A Security deposit collected from the tenant and held by the landlord acts as an insurance policy against damages to the property or for unpaid rent. An amount equal to one months rent is a typical deposit but any amount may be required. If the deposit is in excess to one months rent and the tenant occupies the property longer than six months, the amount over is entitled to 5% interest per year. For example, if the rent is $400 and the deposit is $500, five percent interest is due to the tenant on the $100 excess which amounts to $5 per year.
Before signing the lease and paying any non-refundable deposit, the tenant and the landlord should inspect the property together. A detailed record of the condition of the property, including the yard if renting a house should be made. This not only protects the tenant from being charged for damages he/she did not incur, but provides the landlord with a list of defects needing correction. If possible, videotape or take pictures of the interior and exterior of the home noting nay defects.
The landlord may schedule routine inspections of the property during your tenancy. A minimum of 24 hours notice of the landlord’s intent to enter and inspect the property must be given to the tenant.
In case of any emergency the landlord may enter the property without notice.
Recovering the Security Deposit
After moving out, the tenant has a right to a refund of his/her security deposit, less any damages to the unit and unpaid rent. The tenant is not liable for normal usage or normal wear and tear to a property. Prior to moving out, the tenant should give proper notice and include a forwarding address. The landlord is required to return the balance of the security deposit within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit. If the amount returned is not the full deposit, the landlord must provide a written itemized statement of the damages and past due rent.
If the security deposit and statement is not returned to the tenant within 30 days, the tenant can sue for as much as twice the amount the landlord should have paid, plus the tenant’s attorney fess. Please seek legal assistance before going to court.
In order to assure return of the security deposit, the tenant should:
Keep rent receipts.
Give a minimum of 30 days notice, in writing, of intent to vacate.
Correct any damages to property made during your tenancy.
Request the landlord to inspect the property with you. You may want to take pictures and/or have a witness with you during this inspection. Also it is best to use the same check list when moving out as when you moved in.
Return all keys to the landlord and provide him/her with your forwarding address.
Make a record of the landlord’s full name and business address.
Pay their rent in full when due.
Keep the property safe, sanitary and clean.
Keep all plumbing fixtures clean and free flowing.
Not damage the property not allow guests to do so.
Keep appliances in good working order as outlined by the lease.
Allow the landlord to inspect or show the property, make repairs at reasonable times with a least 24 hours notice or immediately in case of emergency.
Comply with all local housing, health and safety codes.
Tenants Rights and Remedies
If your landlord does not comply with his/her obligations, you have a right to escrow your rent with the court. You as the tenant do not have the right to stop paying rent and to do so voids your protection under the law. In order to escrow rent, a tenant must:
Pay rent up to date.
Request in writing the repairs needed.
If the landlord fails to make the repairs within 30 days or within a reasonable time in case of an emergency, the tenant can:
1. Escrow rent by depositing it with the clerk of the appropriate municipal or county court.
2. Ask the court to direct that the repairs be made, to reduce the rent, and to release some of the money for making repairs.
3. Terminate the lease and move out. In this case, the security deposit should be returned in full.
It is recommended that a tenant seek legal assistance with escrowing of rent. NOTE: Rent escrow is not an available remedy if a landlord owns fewer than four rental units and delivered written notice of this fact to the tenant upon moving in.
Assure that the property complies with all building, housing and health codes which significantly affect health and safety. Most communities have housing inspectors who can inspect conditions and cite landlords for violations, condemn property unfit for habitation, and prosecute landlords who refuse to comply with housing code requirements.
Make all necessary repairs to make the property livable. This includes keeping all electrical, plumbing, and heating and ventilation systems in good working order.
Supply adequate hot and cold running water and heat at all times.
Keep all common areas in the building or on the grounds safe and sanitary.
Give at least 24 hours notice before entering your apartment or house except in case of emergency. He/she may not abuse their right of access to inspect the property, deliver packages, or show the property to prospective tenants or buyers. Landlords may not enter without proper notice and can be held responsible for any damages or injuries caused by their trespassing.
Shut off utilities or other services, change the locks, remove doors or windows or threaten to do any of these unlawful acts in an attempt to evict tenants.
Prevent you from exercising your rights as a tenant by increasing your rent, decreasing your services, bringing or threatening to bring an eviction because you have complained to him/her or to the city about a code violation or because you have participated in a tenants’ union.
Enter your apartment or house whenever he wants to or repeatedly demanding to enter even though proper notice has been given.
Refuse to rent to tenants because of their race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, sex or handicap.
If a landlord does any of the above, he/she can be sued for damages and forced by court order to restore utility services, remove padlocks, return tenants’ property or rent to the person discriminated against. Punitive damages can also be assessed against landlords who deliberately or maliciously violate the law.
Landlords’ Right and Remedies
A landlord can sue a tenant for money damages, termination of the lease, and eviction from the property if the tenant fails to fulfill hi/her duties as outlined in the lease agreement.
A landlord can evict a tenant when:
Tenant fails to pay rent when due.
Tenant violates important terms of the lease.
The lease agreement has expired.
Tenant fails to comply with proper notice to correct health and safety violations. (Written notice must be given to the tenant stating specific violations. The tenant then has 30 days to correct the situation.)
Tenant refuses to allow the landlord reasonable access to the unit.
Tenant files a complaint against the landlord to governmental agency about housing violations which were actually caused by the tenant and/or guests.
Landlord’s compliance with housing laws would require alteration or demolition of the building which would deprive the tenant effective use of the premises.
The Eviction Process
A landlord wanting to evict a tenant must notify the tenant to leave the premises three days or more before beginning any court action. The landlord must hand a written copy of the notice to the tenant, send it by registered mail or leave it at the tenant’s residence. This notice must contain the following words:
“You are being asked to leave the premises. If you do not leave, an eviction action may be initiated against you. If you in doubt regarding your legal rights and obligations as a tenant, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance.”
If the tenant doe snot vacate the premises then the landlord must file a complaint at Municipal Court called a “Forcible Entry and Detainer Notice” claiming that the lease is expired or that the tenant has violated the law or the lease agreement.
The tenant receives a court summons at least five (5) days prior to the hearing.
The Court hearing is held and a judge decides the case.
Nearly everyone rents an apartment or house at some point in their life. If this is your first tike renting, or even if you are a seasoned renter, you may find you still have questions. If so, you may contact the offices listed below or seek legal assistance.
In summary, it is extremely important to:
Know your rights and responsibilities as a renter;
Have a signed lease with the landlord;
Do a thorough inspection prior to moving in and again when moving out;
Keep copies of all rent payments;
Understand and comply with all terms of the lease – ask questions, get answers;
Maintain the property as if it were your own;
Give proper notice when moving out; and
Seek legal assistance when necessary.
The more you understand about your obligations and rights, the more rewarding the experience will be.
If You Need Assistance Please Contact:
Miami County Fair Housing Office
510 W. Water Street, Suite 120
Troy, OH 45373-2983
Ohio Civil Rights Commission
Dayton Regional Office
800 Miami Valley Tower
40 W. Fourth Street
Dayton, OH 45402
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
HUD – Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
626 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, Illinois 60606-5760
1-800-669-9777 Complaint Hotline
Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.
201 W Water Street
Municipal Government Complex – 2nd Floor
Piqua OH 45356