The following information is not legal advice. This post provides general information only.
Many renters who have signed a lease with a landlord have not read the entire lease or do not fully understand all the lease terms. Sometimes a lease can include overly legalistic or ambiguous terminology that makes it difficult for a tenant to know what to do when a problem arises. Ohio’s landlord-tenant law can be found in Chapter 5321 of the Ohio Revised Code (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5321).
A tenant has a right to be provided a safe and habitable place to live, which is referred to as the Warranty of Habitability. Landlords are required to keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition and are required to maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances in good and safe working order and condition. If there is a problem in the property, a tenant is required to notify the landlord in writing of the problem and should provide a time frame for repairs. In emergency situations (such as no heat in the winter), five to seven days is considered reasonable. In non-emergency situations, 30 days is a reasonable time. If the landlord fails to remedy the problem after being given notice, the landlord has breached their duty under the lease and the tenant is entitled to remedies under the law.
A tenant also has the right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Although the landlord owns the property, a tenant has a right to privacy within the rental unit. If a landlord needs to enter the property to make a repair or for any other reason, the landlord must provide the tenant with at least 24-hours’ notice before entering. The only time a landlord is not required to provide a 24-hour notice is for an emergency situation, such as a gas leak at the property. If a landlord violates this notice requirement, a tenant may be entitled to certain remedies under the law.
Some tenants may be afraid that if they report issues to their landlord, the landlord may retaliate by evicting them. Under Ohio law, a tenant has the right to initiate a complaint to an appropriate governmental agency for violations of building, housing, health, or safety codes. A landlord cannot retaliate against a tenant by increasing the tenant’s rent, decreasing services due to the tenant, or by bringing or threatening an eviction against the tenant. If a landlord does retaliate against a tenant, the tenant may be entitled to certain remedies under the law.
Tenants also have a right to the return of their security deposit. A landlord is required to provide a written itemization of all damages they are withholding from the security deposit within 30 days of a tenant moving out. A tenant has the duty to provide the landlord with a forwarding address to which the written itemization and/or security deposit refund should be sent. If a landlord fails to comply, a tenant may be entitled to certain remedies under the law.
All tenant and landlord rights and obligations have not been included in this article and as with most areas of the law, landlord/tenant law is complex. As a result, it can be best to consult with an attorney when problems arise to make sure you understand your rights.
Chad M. Draheim, Esq.
Artz, Dewhirst & Wheeler, LLP
560 E. Town Street
Columbus, OH 43215