Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law
Ohio landlords rely on tenants to maintain their rental property and pay rent on time. Tenants expect landlords to keep the unit habitable and safe. When either party doesn’t keep their end of the deal, it can result in damaged relations and a potential lawsuit.
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Ohio landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.
Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent
If a landlord fails to fulfill their legal obligations under Ohio’s landlord-tenant laws, there are several courses of action a tenant may legally take. A tenant may only take these courses of action if:
- The tenant’s living conditions in the rental property are directly affected by the landlord’s noncompliance with the lease agreement or housing laws.
- A governmental agency finds that the property’s conditions don’t meet specific codes and the conditions and represent a material hazard to the tenant’s health and safety.
- The landlord fails to remedy the problems within 30 days of receiving written notice from the tenant.
- The tenant is current on their rental payments.
Once these conditions are met and the landlord continues to fail at upholding their obligations, the tenant may do one of the following:
- Terminate their lease.
- Pay their due rent and all future rent payments to the municipal or county court clerk who has jurisdiction in the area where the rental property is located.
- Request a court order against the landlord to remedy the problems. Along with the order, the tenant may:
- Make rent payments to the court clerk,
- Request a reduction in rental payments until the problems are remedied, and
- Request that the rent deposited be used to remedy the problems.
If a tenant withholds or reduces their rent payments without court approval, they may run the risk of eviction for failing to pay rent.
The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:
- The rent rate and payment schedule.
- The security deposit amount and what it covers.
- The length of the leasing term (weeks, months or years).
- Grounds for lease termination and eviction.
- Roommate and guest policies.
- Repair policy and procedures.
The security deposit is a common component of a leasing agreement. It’s a separate fee the tenant must pay that is set aside in its own bank account by the landlord. The landlord may use the deposit to pay for rental property damages beyond standard wear and tear and to cover any unpaid rent.
There is no limit to how much landlords may charge for a security deposit. However, they typically charge up to one month’s rent. According to Ohio law, if a security deposit exceeds $50 or one month’s rent, whichever is greater, it must accrue interest at a rate of more than five cents per annum should the tenant’s lease last six months or longer.
If any deductions are made to the deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written notice itemizing the charges within 30 days after the tenant’s lease ends and they have left the rental property. The remainder of the deposit and any accrued interest must then be refunded to the tenant.
Ohio Fair Housing Laws
Fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by Ohio’s Civil Rights laws. Specific actions like charging a tenant for a service that’s free to other tenants may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:
- Military status
- National origin
- Marital status
- Familial status
The Ohio Attorney General provides a pamphlet with frequently asked questions for landlords concerning the state’s fair housing laws. Landlords and tenants may find useful information in this pamphlet for things like service animals and reasonable modifications to the rental property.
Getting Legal Help from an Ohio Attorney
While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. The Miami County Fair Housing Office has provided a Landlord-Tenant Rights and Responsibilities guide with more information about Ohio’s landlord-tenant laws. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.