Ohio Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Ohio Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Last Updated: January 29, 2024 by Phil Ahn

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions Unpaid rent and late fees

Costs of damage

Costs due to a breach of lease

Cleaning costs

Return Deadline 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x amount due + attorneys’ fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Ohio, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Ohio

In Ohio, the following can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent and outstanding late fees
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Costs incurred due to a breach of the lease
  • Cleaning costs

Most states, such as Ohio, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear in Ohio?

“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

Damage” means destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the course of the tenancy.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Ohio?

Landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

However, Ohio case law has established that landlords must depreciate furnishings and only charge for the remaining useful life of the carpet. (See Levine et al. v. Kellogg)


A tenant that moves out after ten years cannot be charged for a carpet expected to last eight years despite the level of damage. If the tenant damages the same carpet beyond repair after four years, the tenant can only be charged half of the value of the carpet.

Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way.

However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Ohio?

Landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures.

However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Ohio?

Ohio law allows landlords to charge reasonable cleaning costs. This means the cost is consistent with normal rates for cleaning services and the cleaning is limited to bringing the unit back to its original condition at the start of the lease.

Landlords cannot charge for excessive deep cleaning or at a rate that is not typical for local cleaning services.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Ohio?

In Ohio, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

However, Ohio case law requires that landlords prorate the useful life of the paint. If a landlord uses paint expected to last six years, tenants cannot be charged for painting after a seven-year tenancy, despite the level of damage.

Landlords must show proof that the damage to the paint is not normal wear and tear and the paint is new enough to not require repainting due to its age. In Kelley v. Johnston, an appeals court refused to compensate a landlord for repainting after the tenant moved out after three and a half years.

Normal wear includes:

  • Minor scrapes from daily use
  • Fading due to sunlight
  • Minor cracks in the original paint

Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Security Deposit Returns in Ohio

Landlords must return a security deposit with a written notice (if there are deductions) to the tenant’s forwarding address no later than 30 days after the lease ends and the tenant vacates the rental unit.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Ohio?

Ohio landlords have 30 days after the lease ends and the tenant vacates the rental unit to return any unused portion of the security deposit.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Ohio?

Landlords in Ohio owe 5% interest, but only on the amount of the security deposit collected above $50 or one month’s rent, whichever is higher. If the lease term is shorter than six months, this rule does not apply.


If the rent on a one-year lease is $1,000 per month and the landlord collects a $1,500 security deposit, the landlord owes $25 in interest at the end of the year (5% of $500).

How Do Landlords Give Notice in Ohio?

Written notice must be delivered to the tenant’s forwarding address and must include the amount of the security deposit due, if any, to the tenant, plus a detailed list of deductions.

The written list must be specific enough to show that the deductions are legally permitted (e.g. not for normal wear and tear).

For example, in Nolan v. Sutton, the court awarded $500 in attorneys’ fees to the tenant and $80 in damages because the written list only specified “$40-cleaning.” The court ruled that the charge was not specific enough to rule out cleaning due to normal wear and tear.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Ohio?

Ohio law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Disputes in Ohio

If landlords do not return the security deposit within the 30-day period, tenants are entitled to recover the amount wrongfully withheld plus damages in court equal to the amount wrongfully withheld plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.

However, if the tenant fails to provide a forwarding address, they are not entitled to damages or attorneys’ fees.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to provide a detailed written notice when deductions are made from a security deposit
  • Unreasonable deductions

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Ohio?

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $6,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a civil case in the local Municipal Court.

A small claims case must be filed within 4 to 6 years, depending on whether the lease agreement was oral or written. An attorney is not required but is allowed. Cases are filed in the Small Claims Court in the city or county where the property is located or where the defendant lives or does business.