Frequently Asked Questions

What are the landlord's obligations?

A landlord has the duty to:

Put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.

Keep the common areas safe and sanitary.

Comply with building, housing, health, and safety codes.

Keep in good working order all electrical, plumb-ing, heating, and ventilation systems and fixtures.

Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.

Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat, unless the hot water and heat are supplied by an installation that is under the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up.

Provide garbage cans and arrange for trash removal if the landlord owns four or more residential units in the same building.

Give at least 24 hours notice, unless it is an emergency, before entering a tenant's unit, and enter only at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner.

Evict the tenant when informed by a law enforcement officer of drug activity by the tenant, a member of the tenant's household, or a guest of the tenant occurring in or otherwise connected with the tenant's premises

What are the tenant's obligations?

A tenant has the duty to:

Keep the premises safe and sanitary.

Dispose of rubbish in the proper manner.

Keep the plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.

Use electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.

Comply with housing, health, and safety codes that apply to tenants.

Refrain from damaging the premises and keep guests from causing damage.

Maintain appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order.

Conduct yourself in a manner that does not disturb any neighbors and require guests to do the same.

Permit landlord to enter the dwelling unit if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given.

Comply with state or municipal drug laws in connection with the premises and require house-hold members and guests to do likewise.

What if my tenant abandons the property?

The Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law does not address the problem of abandonment of a rental unit by a tenant. If a tenant fails to remove all of her/his belongings, or fails to turn in the keys to the unit, or continues to visit the unit, the safest method for the landlord to recover legal possession is to go through the eviction process.

Landlords should seek legal advice before seizing, selling, or disposing of the tenants belongings.

Drug Activity in Rental Housing

In 1990, Ohio added provisions to the Landlord Tenant Law which require landlords to evict tenants when the landlord has information from a law enforcement officer, based on a legal search, that the tenant, the tenant's guest, or a member of the tenant's household is involved in drug activity in connection with the premises.

In some municipalities, landlords may be held liable for repeated drug violations in their properties.

What if I am being evicted? 

You can call our Eviction Diversion Program at 216-432-0617 x 30.

A landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant when the tenant has:

failed to pay rent on time

occupied the unit after the termination or expiration of the rental agreement.

To bring an eviction action, the landlord must first serve a 3-day notice to vacate the premises in person, by mail, or at the premises. If the tenant does not move within the 3-day period, then the landlord must file an action in Forcible Entry and Detainer at the court in the city where the property is located. The Court will schedule a hearing and the tenant will receive a summons and complaint at least 5 days before the hearing.

At the hearing, the landlord and tenant will present evidence in support and defense of the eviction action. A tenant may offer a defense of bad conditions and counterclaim at the eviction hearing (Order form: "Avoid Eviction ). If an eviction is ordered, the landlord will make arrangements with the Court to have the tenant's belongings removed from the unit if the tenant does not move.

Local procedures vary, check with your court or an attorney for specific information about eviction.

At the time of eviction, the landlord may also file a "second cause of action" to recover money damages. The tenant may answer the claim for money within 28 days of receiving the complaint in the mail. If a tenant fails to answer the complaint, the Court may issue a default judgement in the landlord's favor without holding a hearing. A default judgement will stop the tenant from later objecting to a landlord's claim.

I suspect I am being discriminated against.  What should I do?  (Fair Housing)

Call the our friends at the Housing Research and Advocacy Center http://www.thehousingcenter.org/ at 361-9240 if you suspect discrimination!

Fair housing is your right. It is a right protected by Federal and State law. Fair housing means that you may freely choose a place to live REGARDLESS of your race, sex, national origin, or because you are disabled or have children in your family.

It is against the law to deny people the opportunity to live where they want to live. Identifying discrimination is the challenge. Learn to recognize the signs of discrimination in rental, sales, lending, and insurance practices.

Landlords may not discriminate against tenants on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, familial status (having children under 18), or disability.

Sexual Harassment is prohibited under the law.

IF YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION, DO THE FOLLOWING:

Write down what happened and what was said.

Save all receipts, applications, business cards, or other materials you received during your meeting.

If you are applying for housing, find and save the ad (if there was one) that announced available housing.

Call our partners, the Housing Research and Advocacy Center (HRAC) at (216)361-9240 as soon as you suspect discriminatory treatment. Waiting even one day could affect your claim.

For information or to file a complaint in the Greater Cleveland area, landlords and  tenants can call the Cleveland EEOC  http://www.eeocoffice.com/cleveland-eeoc-office.

I need a repair done and my landlord is not being responsive.  What can I do?

If a landlord does not meet the duties imposed by the Landlord Tenant law or the local housing codes or the rental agreement or if there are conditions which materially affect health and safety, then... a tenant may give the landlord a written notice to correct the condition. This notice must be in writing and delivered to the person or at the place where the tenant normally pays rent. Tenant should keep a copy of this notice.

If the landlord fails to correct the condition within a reasonable time, not to exceed 30 days, then the tenant may deposit his/her rent with the Clerk of Courts, or may apply to the Court for an order to compel the repairs, or may terminate the rental agreement.

My child has tested positive for lead poisoning. What should I do?

Both Federal and local laws require that owners of properties built before 1978 must give prospective tenants a written statement of any known lead hazards and a pamphlet on lead poisoning. There are some exceptions.

Call National Lead Information Clearinghouse at: 800-424-LEAD for forms, or call Environmental Health Watch for more information on programs to abate the lead in the dwelling.

http://www.ehw.org/healthy-green-housing/lead-poisoning/

Mediation with Your Landlord

Many courts and some private groups offer mediation as an alternative to litigation. In mediation, the landlord and tenant work with a trained, neutral third party to work the problems out.

In the Greater Cleveland area, the Cleveland Mediation Center (216 621-1919) offers free mediation services.  You can visit their website at www.clevelandmediation.org   

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process in which people in a dispute are assisted by a trained neutral third party to reach an agreement that they can live with.

For example, Tenant wants repairs, Landlord wants rent on time. In mediation, the landlord and the tenant can agree to timetables for rent payment and repairs.

Who are the mediators?

Mediators are volunteers who are trained to guide disputing parties through a process. Mediators are your neighbors, your co-workers, and your community leaders.

Is mediation effective?

Nothing is perfect, but our experience shows that more than three out of four cases that go to mediation are resolved successfully. Our problem is that only 20 percent of eligible disputes go to mediation. This is because people are used to arguing and complaining...even if it is ineffective!

Mediation preserves the relationship!

The landlord-tenant relationship may be "the second most passionate relationship you'll ever be in!" Naturally, with this much emotion, disputes will arise.

Mediation is a way to get over the rough spots, so that landlords can realize the value of their property and tenants can enjoy the value of their home.

You can resolve landlord-tenant disputes

Mediation is:

Confidential

Under your control

Free, easy, and fast

Convenient and informal

Personal, local, and effective!

In the Greater Cleveland area, the Cleveland Mediation Center (216 621-1919) offers free mediation services.  You can visit their website at www.clevelandmediation.org

What if I do not know the name and/or contact information of the property owner?

Every written rental agreement must contain the name and address of the owner and the owner's agent. If the owner is a corporation or partnership, the address must be the principal place of business in the County (or State) and must include the name of the person in charge at that location.

In the case of an oral agreement, this information must be provided to the tenant in writing at the beginning of the tenancy.

A landlord who does not disclose this information gives up the right to a notice before a tenant takes legal action under the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law.

Some municipalities have registration requirements before a landlord may offer a unit for rent. Check your local city hall

What is a "rent deposit" aka "escrow" aka "rent strike?"

The tenant must be current in her/his rent before depositing rent with the Clerk of Courts. The tenant may not deposit rent in "bad faith," or for a condition which the tenant caused. The tenant may not just hold on to the rent.

Rent deposits must be made on or before the normal rent due date. Tenants should check with the local Clerk of Courts to find out exact procedures for their court.

If a tenant received a written notice from the landlord at the beginning of the tenancy which states that the landlord owns three or fewer units, then the tenant is barred from taking legal action under the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law.

If the landlord fails to disclose her/his name and address and the name and address or his/her agents, then the landlord gives up the right to a notice before the tenant takes legal action.

Rent Increases and Late Charges

There is no government control over rents in Ohio, except in subsidized housing programs. In the case of a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord must give a full 30 days notice before increasing rent. In the case of a written lease, the landlord may not increase rent during the term of the lease. The Ohio Landlord Tenant law does not specifically address the issue of late charges.

Late charges may be part of a rental agreement, but they may not be "unconscionable" (unfair). Recent court decisions suggest that late fees should be reasonably related to the actual damages that a landlord suffers because of late payment of rent.

I believe my landlord is retaliating against me.  What are my rights?

The Ohio Landlord Tenant Law forbids a landlord from retaliating against a tenant by increasing the rent, decreasing the services, evicting or threatening to evict the tenant because the tenant has:

Complained to a public official

Complained to the landlord

Joined with other tenants to bargain collectively over the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.

A landlord who engages in retaliation may be held liable for any actual damages to the tenant and for reasonable attorney's fees.

I believe my security deposit has been wrongfully withheld.  What can I do?

Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law permits a landlord to collect a security deposit to cover the costs of:

unpaid rents or charges, and

repair of tenant-caused damages, in excess of normal wear and tear, to the property

The landlord is required to return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days of the time that the tenant gives up occupancy (ie. moves out and turns in the key) and terminates the rental agreement. The tenant is required to provide the landlord with a forwarding address in writing.

If the landlord makes a deduction from the security deposit, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a written itemized accounting of the money that is withheld.

If, after 30 days, the landlord has not returned the deposit or the itemized accounting, or if the tenant disagrees with the landlord's decision to withhold some or all of the security deposit, then the tenant may sue for double the amount which the tenant believes was wrongfully withheld.

If the tenant's claim is for less than $3,000, the tenant may file in the Small Claims Court in the city where the property was located.  You can find a guide to small claims courts throughout Cuyahoga County on the landlord page of our website.

A security deposit is given by the tenant to the landlord to "secure" the tenant's performance under the tenancy. A pet deposit, key deposit, garage deposit, or last month's rent paid in advance may all be part of the security deposit. If the total security deposit is greater than one month's rent, the landlord owes 5% interest on the amount in excess of one month's rent.

A deposit to "hold the unit," an application fee, or a fee for a credit check are probably not security deposits. Before giving or receiving money, be clear about what the money is for and whether it is refundable.

Is my landlord allowed to change the locks?

Whether or not a tenant's right to occupy a residential unit has ended, a landlord may not:

Shut off utilities

Change the locks to force the tenant from the unit

Seize the tenant's possessions to recover unpaid ren

This is known as "self-help eviction."  The landlord must always follow the lawful eviction process. 

I need to get out my lease early.  What can I do?

A landlord or a tenant may terminate a month-to-month agreement by giving a full thirty days notice to the other party. The thirty days begins on the next rental due date and runs with the rental period.

A written rental agreement (lease) normally specifies the method for termination or renewal. If termination or renewal is not specified, then the agreement ends on the date in the agreement.

A landlord may give a tenant a notice that the tenant is not complying with a requirement imposed on the tenant by the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law which materially affects health and safety and advising the tenant that the rental agreement will end in 30 days. If the tenant corrects the condition, then the rental agreement will not be terminated.

A tenant may give a landlord a notice to comply with a duty imposed by the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law which materially affects health and safety and requesting correction within 30 days. If the landlord fails to correct the condition, then the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.

If a tenant breaks a lease by moving before the lease is up, or if a tenant has had a lease terminated because the tenant is in violation of the Law, the tenant may be held liable under the agreement until the unit is re-rented.

We try to anticipate questions you might have questions about tenant issues and provide the answers here.
If you need additional information send email to tao@clevelandtenants.org or call 216-432-0617.