A lease in Ohio can be written or verbal. And whenever there is a lease, the renter or tenant automatically gets certain rights under Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5321) such a the right to a fit and habitable unit and the necessary repairs to keep it as such. Landlords will also have rights such as the right to collect security deposit and to the prompt payment of rent.
Note: These rights will arise even if they are not included in the lease agreement and most of the time, even if the lease agreement states otherwise.
There are quite a few of these rights, please check local county and municipality laws for additional rights for both landlords and tenants in Ohio.
Warranty of Habitability in Ohio
Landlord Responsibilities. As in most US states, landlords in Ohio are responsible for maintaining their rental units in a “fit and habitable condition,” including when a tenant has leased out that space. Moreover, Ohio landlords are required to provide all of the services outlined in the state’s warranty of habitability. To meet this livability standard, Ohio landlords are legally obligated to provide the following essential amenities, while also providing repairs when necessary:
- Safe and sanitary common areas
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and fixtures
- Adequate plumbing
- Proper sanitary facilities
- In-unit heating and air-conditioning
- Adequate ventilation
- A garbage receptacle and routine garbage removal services
- A reasonable supply of hot and cold water
During the course of a lease agreement, an Ohio tenant may request repairs to any of the essential amenities listed above. After receiving this type of request in writing, an Ohio landlord must perform the requested repair in a “reasonable” amount of time (as defined in the terms of the applicable lease agreement). Failure to do so may cause the unit in question to fall into a statutorily uninhabitable condition, which may empower an affected tenant to terminate their lease immediately or take alternative action by withholding rent payments.
Tenant Responsibilities. In Ohio, all tenants are responsible for paying rent on time as well as keeping their premises in a “safe and sanitary” condition on a day-to-day basis. This includes disposing of rubbish properly as well as performing minor plumbing and electrical repairs. Ohio landlords are responsible for enforcing these habitability standards and may issue a 3-day notice relating to any perceived infractions to their tenants at their own discretion. Tenants that fail to abide by the terms in these notices may be subject to eviction in the short-term.
When it comes to habitability infractions on their landlord’s part, however, Ohio tenants do have at least one form of alternative action at their disposal. Specifically, they may “withhold” rent after notifying their landlord of their failure to make a necessary repair or after a regulatory agency issues notice of an ongoing habitability issue. In either case, all withheld rent payments must be transferred to a local civic court clerk until a resolution can be found.
Evictions in Ohio
Ohio’s landlord-tenant laws empower landlords to evict tenants on these following justifications (among other possible options):
- Nonpayment of rent – Ohio law dictates that all tenants must pay rent at the time dictated in their lease agreement, which in most situations is the first of the month. If a tenant in Ohio fails to pay rent at this time (including after the passage of an applicable grace period), their landlord may immediately issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit. This notice need not implore a tenant to pay up within the 3 days, but this allowance is typical anyway. If the tenant in question fails to pay up or remains in their unit 3 days after the notice was issued, they may be subjected to formal eviction after their landlord files a Summons and Complaint with a local court.
- Violation of lease terms – In Ohio, landlords are allowed to issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit at any time when they document a noteworthy lease term infraction. This notice does not necessarily need to provide the tenant with terms to have the threat of eviction removed, though most landlords do offer curing terms anyway. If those terms for resolution are not met in time, then the tenant in question will likely face eviction after their landlord files a Summons and Complaint suit.
- Illegal Acts – Ohio law requires that evictions relating to most illegal activity follow the procedures set forth for handling a regular lease term violation (which is to say, a 3-Day Notice to Quit). However, these same laws do allow for immediate evictions for two kinds of illegal activity. Specifically, a landlord may push for an unconditional, immediate eviction if they discover their tenant using, making, or selling illegal drugs or living within 1,000 feet of school despite being named in the state sex offender registry.
Evictions without a lease. Ohio tenants are considered categorically “at-will” in terms of their tenancy’s permanence when they choose to rent from a landlord without entering into a lease agreement. Even so, state law requires all landlords to issue a 30-Day Notice to Leave the Premises to these at-will tenants when they are required to move out without cause. Failure to adhere to this type of notice will result in forced eviction for that at-will tenant, much in the same manner as their leased counterparts.
Illegal Evictions. Ohio tenants cannot be evicted on retaliatory grounds. This includes instances where a tenant joins a tenant union or reports their living conditions to a state or local regulatory authority. In a similar vein, Ohio tenants cannot be evicted in a discriminatory manner. In other words, an Ohio landlord cannot implicitly or explicitly target a tenant for eviction based upon any of the state’s protected class traits and characteristics.
Security Deposits in Ohio
These are several of the most important Ohio-specific standards for landlord collection, maintenance, and redistribution of security deposits:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Currently, Ohio’s landlord-tenant laws establish neither a standard limit, nor a maximum amount that a landlord can charge for a security deposit. This includes so-called pet deposits, which are not addressed in the state’s regulatory laws and as such, can be set at any rate the landlord desires.
- Interest and Maintenance – Ohio landlords are not required to maintain their collected security deposits in any particular kind of account. However, they are required to pay interest on deposits of $50 or the value of 1 month’s rent (whichever is greater). Specifically, an Ohio landlord must pay out an annual interest rate of 5% if a tenant remains in continuous tenancy for 6 or more months.
- Time Limit for Return – Ohio landlords are required to return any remaining security deposit funds within 30 days of the applicable lease’s termination. These funds must be accompanied by an itemized list of deductions made from the original deposit.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – A landlord in Ohio who fails to abide by the 30 day requirement for security deposit returns or who fails to provide an itemized deduction list may be required to pay a penalty equal to the original deposit’s value. They may also be required to pay reasonable legal fees if their tenant was required to take them to court over the issue.
- Allowable Deductions – In all situations, Ohio landlords may deduct funds from a tenant’s security deposit if a tenant fails to pay rent on time. However, they can only make deductions to cover the cost of repairs if the damage in question was beyond regular wear and tear and was the direct result of a tenant’s failure to meet their legal obligations to maintain a habitable living space.
Lease Termination in Ohio
Notice Requirements. Ohio landlords are not owed any amount of advance notice when a tenant who is signed on to a fixed end date lease intends to move out at the lease’s natural conclusion. However, their tenants who are signed onto periodic leases are required to provide the following amounts of written notice when they intend to move out:
- Week-to-Week lease – 7 days of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 30 days of advance notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. Many Ohio tenants who wish to break their lease off early choose to do so by invoking an early termination clause within the lease itself. However, not all Ohio landlords include this kind of provision (nor are they required to do so). As such, an Ohio tenant who still wishes to legally terminate their lease early may turn to one of these following legal justifications:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Ohio landlords are required to continuously comply with all state and local health and safety standards, including when their units are occupied by a tenant. This includes providing timely repairs to all essential amenities outlined in the state’s warranty of habitability. Failure to meet these obligations may cause a unit to become statutorily uninhabitable. This status allows an affected tenant to immediately terminate their lease on personal safety grounds.
- Landlord Harassment – Ohio landlords are required to always give a “reasonable” amount of notice before entering an occupied unit. This standard is usually interpreted by the state to be 24 or more hours before the intended time of entry. If this standard (or any greater notice requirements written into the applicable lease agreement) are routinely ignored or surpassed, then the affected tenant may opt out of their lease agreement on the grounds of harassment at the hands of their landlord.
After breaking off a lease in Ohio, a tenant may still remain liable to pay rent until a new tenant can be found to take over their lease. In this situation, an Ohio tenant should be prepared to pay at lease 1 more month of rent because their landlord is not legally required to assist in this re-renting process.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Ohio
Rent control & increases. Ohio is one of only a few states in the entire US that neither prohibits rent control ordinances at a local level, nor has any municipalities with an active rent control ordinance at this time. As such, landlords operating in this state are still free to charge as much as they want for rent without providing any amount of notice or justification. However, this may change in the near future with the ever-rising rent prices in the state’s largest cities.
Rent related fees. Ohio landlords are fairly free to charge whatever kinds of fees they feel are appropriate, so long as an affected tenant agreed to have such fees levied against them in their lease agreement. As a result, Ohio landlords are also able to set the rate of these fees, per diem and in total, as high as they want. While this is the case for late rent payment fees, the state’s financial laws do limit returned check fees to $10 or 10% of the original check’s value (whichever is greater).
Housing Discrimination in Ohio
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Ohio’s civil rights laws only provide one extra protected class for tenants who are engaging with the rental housing industry. To that end, current and prospective tenants cannot be discriminated against when it comes to housing based upon their military status. Also, while age is one of several protected classes under Ohio’s general civil rights laws, this trait is not applicable to laws concerning fair housing.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission is the state’s primary administrator of civil rights laws, including those dealing with fair housing practices and housing discrimination. Specifically, this Commission has determined that the following business practices are worthy of reporting to their investigation unit if they are targeted at one or more protected classes of tenants:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate housing
- Establishing different terms, conditions, or privileges between tenants
- Falsely denying the availability of housing for inspection, sale, or rental
- Publishing advertisements that imply a preference for one type of tenant over another
- Failing to make a reasonable accommodation for a tenant with a disability
- Providing unequal access to certain lending opportunities
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission accepts complaints from tenants who believe that they have been discriminated against, so long as the discriminatory act occurred within a year prior to reporting. These services are free and can be accessed by calling one of the Commission’s field offices or checking their website. The Commission does not detail what kind of penalties (if any) they are able to levy, nor do they describe their investigation process as it relates to filed discrimination complaints.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Ohio
While these next few Ohio landlord-tenant regulations don’t fit under a single category, it is still important that you understand them in order to facilitate a peaceful leasing relationship:
Landlord Entry. Landlord entry standards in Ohio are based upon what the state considers to be a “reasonable” amount of notice in advance of a landlord’s intended entrance. While this language is vague by nature, precedent within the state dictates that a landlord must provide 24 hours of notice before entering for most regular business-related reasons. This includes instances where a requested repair will be made, or the unit will be shown to a prospective renter.
However, this “reasonable” notice standard does not apply to Ohio landlords who are faced with an emergency situation. Instead, these landlords are able to enter without permission or notice, so long as they do not abuse this privilege to harass a tenant or invade their privacy.
Small Claims Court. Ohio’s small claims court system is fairly limited when it comes to accepting cases arising from disputes between landlords and tenants. To that end, this venue does not accept eviction cases and only accepts cases valued at less than $3,000. This court’s statute of limitations is considerably longer than most, though, at a full 8 years for written contracts.
Mandatory Disclosures. An Ohio landlord is only obliged to make two types of informational disclosures to their new tenants. The first is a federally-mandated disclosure describing the hazards of lead-based paint. This disclosure only needs to be distributed to tenants living in a building built before 1978, however. By comparison, all tenants in Ohio must be provided with a disclosure that details the names and addresses for their property’s owner and any agents retained by that owner for the purpose of managing their property.
Changing the Locks. Ohio’s current landlord-tenant laws do not include many details regarding who in a leasing relationship is able to change a tenant’s locks. That being said, these same laws are fairly clear that an Ohio landlord may not change a tenant’s locks unilaterally because that would be considered an illegal lockout.
Local Laws in Ohio
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Columbus Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Columbus maintains several local ordinances that either supplement or slightly modify the operation of statewide landlord-tenant laws. One key example is the city’s requirement that all withheld rent payments be deposited into an escrow account with the city’s municipal courts, rather than a county or district court. More details on this and other local ordinances are outlined in this guide.
Cincinnati Landlord Tenant Rights
In early 2020, the city of Cincinnati instituted new local ordinances that changed how security deposits are collected and maintained. This includes a requirement that tenants be given an opportunity to buy into security deposit insurance that prevents them from needing to pay a lump sum up-front cost. Details of this new ordinance can be found on the city’s website.
Akron Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Akron maintains a variety of local ordinances that dictate how the city’s regulatory authorities enforce both state and local health and safety codes. This includes specific provisions for so-called “public nuisances” and vacated dwellings. More info about these regulatory applications can be found on the city’s website.