An Ohio residential lease agreement is a contract between a landlord and tenant that sets for the terms of the lease arrangement and the duties and obligations of each. State law governs many of the provisions of a residential lease agreement and places restrictions on what can be included in the agreement as well as some federal laws.
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For instance, there is an implied covenant in any lease that the landlord must provide a habitable premises or one where basic essentials such as heat, hot water, electricity and plumbing is provided unless the tenant is responsible for these utilities. If a hazard exists that poses a risk to the tenant’s safety or health, then the landlord may have breached his/her obligations if the tenant has given written notice of the needed repairs or hazard and no action is taken within 30 days.
A landlord is prohibited from discriminating against a tenant or potential tenant by refusing to rent or by taking steps to evict a tenant on the basis of color, race, creed, national origin, religion, ancestry, gender, familial status or disability.
A residential lease agreement should contain some basic provisions:
- Name and address of the landlord and where and to whom rent payments and other notices are to be mailed
- Description of the premises
- Term of the lease—weekly, monthly or yearly
- Names of the tenants who will be residing on the premises
- Amount of rent and due date
- When late fees, if any, will be imposed and amount—no requirement of a grace period
- Amount of security deposit
- Notices regarding rent increase
- Responsibility for utilities
- Notice for needed repairs
- Landlord entry for repairs—24 hours
- No alterations to the unit without landlord’s consent
- Pet clause
- Subletting clause
- Responsibilities of the tenant
- Responsibilities of the landlord
- Parking and use of common areas
- No duty by landlord to mitigate losses or damages if the tenant vacates the unit before the lease term expires
- Disclosure of the presence of any lead-based paint or hazards on the property for rental property built before 1978—both landlord and tenant must sign an EPA-approved disclosure form and the tenant provided an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
There are also provisions that you may not include in an Ohio residential lease agreement, including:
- Waiver of right to sue the landlord for an injury on the premises caused by the negligence of the landlord or for any other cause of action the tenant may bring
- Right to enter the premises at any time
- Waiver of right to evict without a court order or after due process has been followed
- Requiring the tenant to pay for repairs that the landlord is legally required to make
An Ohio landlord may charge whatever amount for a security deposit. If the deposit is held for at least 6 months, the landlord must pay interest on any amount that exceeds one month’s rent. Once the tenant vacates the unit after giving proper notice to vacate and sends notice of a new address, the landlord has 30-days to return the full amount of the deposit including interest or provide a detailed explanation for retaining any portion of the deposit. For example, keeping a portion of the deposit along with a note stating that it is for cleaning is not sufficient. The notice to the tenant must be itemized and each charge listed separately.
A deposit may be kept for nonpayment of rent or for repairs for damages caused by the tenant that is not the result of normal wear and tear. If the landlord does not follow the proper procedure for returning or retaining all or part of the deposit, the tenant is entitled to double the security deposit along with reasonable attorney’s fees.
Right of Entry
As landlord, you must give the tenant at least 24-hours’ notice to enter to make repairs, though no reasonable notice is necessary if it is an emergency. The tenant must allow you reasonable access to make repairs but you may not abuse the right of entry or insist on entering at an inconvenient time for the tenant. The tenant must also not refuse you entry to show the premises to prospective buyers, tenants, contractors or other workmen.
Termination of the Lease
A yearly lease becomes month-to-month upon expiration of the term only if the lease states that it will continue. For a month-to-month, the landlord or tenant needs to give 30-days’ notice before the rent is due. For a weekly tenancy, only 7 days’ notice is required.
To raise the rent, the landlord must wait until the term of the lease has expired before doing so. If a month-to-month, then 30-days’ notice is required.
A tenant is permitted under federal law to break a lease if entering active military service. The tenant must give 30-days written notice that he/she will be entering the military. Once given, the lease expires 30-days after the date the next rent payment is due.
If the tenant fails to pay the rent due you, the landlord may serve a 3-day Unconditional Quit Notice before applying for an eviction. For any other lease violation or breach, you must give the tenant 30-days to correct the violation before beginning eviction procedures. However, the landlord has an obligation to immediately bring eviction proceedings if the landlord has reasonable cause to believe that the tenant or someone living there with the tenant’s consent is engaged in illegal drug activities.
As landlord, you may also terminate the lease of any tenant who knowingly allows a registered sex offender to occupy the premises who is prohibited from establishing residence within 1000 feet of a school or daycare center. You are not liable for any injuries that individual may be liable for in the event you did not take steps to terminate the lease.
You do have a duty as the landlord to mitigate your losses if the tenant vacates before the termination of the lease or without giving notice by making reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant. You can, however relieve yourself of this duty by including such a provision in the lease. If the lease does not have this provision, then the tenant may still be liable for the rent due to the end of the lease term if you were unable to find an acceptable tenant.
Repair Obligations in Ohio
If something in the unit or on the premises needs to be repaired, the tenant is to notify the landlord who is obligated to make the repairs. But if the tenant wants to make use of the available remedies, the tenant needs to put the request in writing first.
One written notice is given, the landlord has 30 days to make the repairs. However, if there is a hazardous condition that is a threat to the tenant’s health or safety, the landlord must make the repairs sooner.
Should the landlord fail to make the requested repairs, the tenant may:
- Take the rent when due to a local court and escrow the rent. The tenant may only do this if the rent is current. The tenant will make an application to the court to force the landlord to perform the repairs. The court may order the landlord to lower the rent until the repairs are made or allow some of the rent money to be used to pay for the repairs.
- The tenant may end the lease.
- The tenant may cancel the lease and vacate the unit without any further obligations.
If the rent is due before the 30 day notice period has ended, the tenant has to make the full rental payment or he will not be able to use any of these remedies.
No Retaliatory Eviction
A landlord is not permitted to take action to force a tenant to vacate without a valid eviction order. This includes such measures as turning off utilities, changing the locks, removing the tenant’s personal property or belongings or any other offensive conduct.
Retaliatory eviction takes place when the landlord does any of the above or increases the rent because you exercised your rights. This includes making a complaint to a governmental authority about the landlord’s failure to perform a legal duty, joining a tenants’ union or any other civil right.
In drafting your Ohio residential lease agreement, carefully note what provisions and disclosures are required and what provisions you may add or not include. Also, be aware of your rights and duties as a landlord and what to expect from your tenant. Having a comprehensive agreement and carefully reviewing it with your tenants can save you valuable time and expenses.