Ohio Landlord Tenant Laws

Rental laws in Ohio are covered in Ohio’s Revised Code in Chapter 5321 (titled “Landlords and Tenants”) and Chapter 5323 (titled Residental Rental Property). Some additional relevant information is in Chapter 1923, “Forcible Entry and Detainer,” and Chapter 1319, “Miscellaneous Credit Transactions.” This article aims to give you an overview of the major landlord-tenant laws in Ohio, but for the most up-to-date information, you should consult the code of Ohio itself or legal counsel. In this article, we’ll cover security deposit rules; lease, rent, and fee rules; notice and entry rules; and required disclosures and notes. We’ll close with some information on smalls claims courts, courts in Ohio, and realtor associations.

Security Deposit Rules

Section 16 of Chapter 5321 (5321.16) covers security deposits in Ohio. Interestingly, a tenant begins to earn interest on their security deposit if their tenancy is longer than six months. The rate is five percent per year and is paid on any “security deposit in excess of fifty dollars or one month’s periodic rent, whichever is greater.”

The deadline for landlords to return the deposit is 30 days after the tenant moves out. The landlord can withhold return of the security deposit if they use it to cover past due rent or “damages that the landlord has suffered by reason of the tenant’s noncompliance with section 5321.05 of the Revised Code or the rental agreement.” If they do withhold all or part of the deposit, the landlord must provide an itemized notice to the tenant “within thirty days after termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession.”

Meanwhile, the tenant is responsible for providing the landlord with a forwarding or new address for delivery of the itemized list. If the landlord withholds the deposit but doesn’t provide the itemized list, the tenant can sue; however, they can only recover damages and attorney fees if they have provided the landlord with a forwarding or new address.

Lease, Rent, and Fee Rules

In Ohio, the lease determines the amount of rent due and any late fees. There are no statutes covering whether a tenant can repair the property and deduct rent, any abandonment or early termination fees, or if a landlord must attempt to mitigate damages. If the landlord doesn’t provide essential services, the tenant can withhold rent. Essential services are covered in sections 5321.04 and include heating and hot water.

Should the tenant decide to withhold rent for a lack of essential services, they must notify the landlord. If the landlord doesn’t remedy the situation within a “reasonable time” or 30 days, whichever is sooner, then the tenant can deposit the rent instead with the “clerk of the municipal or county court having jurisdiction in the territory in which the residential premises are located,” according to section 5231.07. They can also apply to the court to remedy the situation, and while they wait, they may be able to pay reduced rent. The court can also make the landlord use any rent toward remedying the problem. As a final option, the tenant can end the rental agreement.

Two housing situations are not covered by the previous paragraph: housing occupied by students and housing where the landlord “is a party to rental agreements that cover three or fewer dwelling units” and provides the tenant notice of that fact.

There are no statues covering rent grace periods, rent increase notices, or prepaid rent.

Section 1319.16 covers check fees. The fee on a returned check cannot exceed the greater of $30 or 10 percent of the check’s value.

Notice and Entry Rules

If an end date is noted in the lease, then no notice is required: The lease just ends. But section 5321.17 contains provisions for short-term leases. The landlord or tenant can end a week-to-week lease with seven days’ notice, and end a month-to-month lease with thirty days’ notice.

Section 1923.04 covers the notice requirements if a landlord wants to terminate a tenancy for a lease violation or nonpayment. The landlord must give a three-day written notice. The notice must conspicuously contain the following wording:””You are being asked to leave the premises. If you do not leave, an eviction action may be initiated against you. If you are in doubt regarding your legal rights and obligations as a tenant, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance.” Meanwhile, section 1923.02 demands that a landlord begin eviction proceedings if the landlord “has actual knowledge of or has reasonable cause” to suspect a violation of a controlled-substance ordnance, whether by the tenant or someone the tenant has allowed on the premises.

Tenants must also follow general tenant obligations, as listed in 5321.05. If they fail to, the landlord must deliver a written notice, as described in 5321.11. The tenant gets a minimum of thirty days to fix the problem, as listed in the notice. If the tenant “fails to remedy the condition specified in the notice, the rental agreement shall terminate as provided in the notice.”

Sections 5321.04 and 5321.05 cover entry rules for landlords and tenants, respectively. For non-emergency maintenance and repairs, landlords must provide 24 hours’ notice and enter at a reasonable time. No notice is required in emergencies. The tenant can’t block the landlord from entering the unit to show it to perspective tenants, within reason.

Section 5321.15 stipulates that lockouts and utility shutoffs are not permitted by the landlord.

Disclosures and Notes

Stipulations on what rental agreements must contain are present in 5321.18. The key point is that “every written rental agreement for residential premises shall contain the name and address of the owner and the name and address of the owner’s agent, if any.” In the case of oral agreements, that information must be put in writing and given to the tenant at the time of move-in.

The property owner has further filing obligations, as present in sections 5323.02, 5323.04, and 5323.99. With the county auditor, the owner has to file their phone number, name, and address. If the owner has an agent, they must also file the same information for the agent. Along with that, the owner has to file the property’s address and parcel number. All of this becomes public information. If the owner fails to provide or update that information, the auditor can apply a fine between $50 and $150.

If the landlord knows of any hazards caused by lead paint, they must disclose this information to the tenant. Per the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s lead disclosure rule, landlords must also provide tenants with an EPA-approved pamphlet “on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards” and “provide any records and reports on lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards which are available to the seller or landlord.” This affects most housing that was constructed before 1978.

Court, Legal, and Realtor Information

The limit in Ohio small-claims court is $3,000, as per section 1925.02. Eviction cases do not occur in small-claims court, instead taking place in a county or municipal court, as stipulated in 1923.01. The statute of limitations on written contracts is eight years (2305.6).

Relevant court and legal entities are the Supreme Court of Ohio and Ohio Judicial System, the Ohio Attorney General, and the Ohio State Bar Association, the last of which can be a source of legal aid. Other legal-aid sources include the legal aid societies of Columbus, Cleveland, and Greater Cincinnati; Ohio Legal Services, which assists low-income Ohio residents; Legal Aid of Western Ohio; Southeastern Ohio Legal Services;  and Community Legal Aid, which focuses on northeastern Ohio.

Ohio’s main professional realtor group is the Ohio Association of Realtors.

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