Ohio law grants a tenant rights regarding the condition of her home, the need for repairs, and privacy. The Ohio State Bar says that no matter what's written into the rental agreement the lease cannot override your legal rights.
A Right to Information
The bar says a tenant has the right to know who he rents from. The lease must include the name and address of the owner, and of the owner's agent if he employs one. An out-of-state property owner must have an Ohio agent to handle his affairs. If the lease is oral, you have the right to get the information in writing when you start to rent.
Peace and Privacy
Your landlord normally can't knock on your door and demand you let her in. In non-emergency situations, you're entitled to 24 hours advance notice. The landlord only can insist on access if she has a valid reason, such as making repairs.
Right to Repairs
If there's a problem at the rental that needs fixing, you have a right to repairs within 30 days. The clock starts ticking as soon as you notify the landlord in writing. If the problem affects your health or safety, you're entitled to a quicker response. If the situation is an emergency, the landlord must act immediately.
You have a right to any repairs necessary to keep the rental livable. This includes working power, plumbing, heat, air-conditioning, toilets, and any appliances the landlord provides, but it isn't limited to those items.
Some states give tenants the right to make repairs, then take the money of the rent. Ohio does not. Ohio Legal Services says that even if the landlord asks you to make or pay for repairs, you can't subtract the cost from the rent without a written agreement. If you deduct the cost without an agreement, the landlord can evict you for nonpayment of rent.
What you can do is escrow the rent, depositing payments with the clerk of court until the repairs are done. The Bar says you have to follow Ohio rules to do this without risking eviction:
- You must be current in the rent.
- You pay into escrow on the same day you'd normally pay your rent.
- You must give the landlord 30 days advance written notice, including a clear explanation of why you're using escrow. If the issue is an emergency repair -- for example, if it's winter and you have no heat -- that's an exception.
If the landlord gives you written notice when you move in that she owns three or fewer rental units, escrow isn't allowed.
When you rent, you have the right to complain to the landlord about problems. You also have the right to complain to health or building code officials or to form a bargaining group with other tenants. The landlord cannot evict you or raise your rent as punishment for exercising your rights.
Ohio law doesn't limit the amount of the security deposit your landlord can charge. If he keeps the deposit for more than half a year, however, you're entitled to interest on any part of the deposit greater than a month's rent.
After you move out, return the keys and provide a forwarding address, you're entitled to a refund within 30 days. The landlord can take money out for unpaid rent or damage to the apartment, but he has to send you an itemized receipt. You can sue to collect your money if the landlord doesn't follow the law.
If the landlord wants to evict you, he has to go to court, not simply change the locks or throw your possessions on the street. You have the right to stay put even if the landlord tells you to go — it's only when a court orders you that you have to leave.
If you've broken a term in the lease or you're late on the rent, the landlord must give you written notification demanding you fix the problem or move out. For nonpayment of rent, the deadline is three days. For most other issues, such as a breach of the lease terms, you get 30 days. When the court hearing takes place, you have the right to show up and present arguments for denying the landlord the eviction — for example, a receipt showing you paid the rent on time.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.