In Ohio, a landlord can force a residential tenant to move from their house or apartment only by filing an eviction action and getting a judgment from the court. Tenants are entitled to a hearing on the landlord’s eviction claim, at which the tenant can present evidence. If the landlord wins the eviction case, the judgment can be enforced only through a court-ordered move out.

Evictions are not criminal cases where the defendant can be sent to jail, so, in general, the tenant does not have the right to a court-appointed attorney. Except, tenants who qualify for the new Right to Counsel – Cleveland (RTC-C) program do have the right to a lawyer.

Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance saying that some tenants in Cleveland have the right to be represented by an attorney in their eviction case. Tenants who have at least one child, and income at or below the federal poverty guidelines qualify. If you received eviction papers from Cleveland Municipal Court and believe you qualify for RTC-C program, visit FreeEvictionHelp.org for more information.

Landlords and tenants may hire a private lawyer to represent them. Some tenants who are low income, but do not qualify for RTC-C, may qualify to be represented by a lawyer through the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Legal Aid offices are closed to the public. Tenants can apply by calling 1-888-817-3777 during most business hours or online anytime at https://lasclev.org/contact/.

Most landlords and tenants can go to eviction court without a lawyer. The exception is for landlords or tenants that are businesses, like a corporation, a partnership, or a trust. Those businesses must be represented by a lawyer.

While most landlords and tenants are not required to have a lawyer, lawyers can provide valuable assistance in presenting your case to the Court, negotiating with your landlord or tenant, and explaining the legal process.

A landlord must deliver a 3-day notice to vacate to a tenant before filing an eviction. The 3-day notice does NOT mean the tenant must move out of the property within 3 days. It does mean the landlord may be preparing to file an eviction action in court. If a tenant chooses to move out within 3 days, then the landlord may not also file the eviction. A landlord cannot force a tenant out of the property. Only after a court grants judgement for the landlord can the landlord seek assistance from the bailiff to forcibly remove a tenant.

When an eviction case is filed, it becomes part of the court’s public record. Many landlords screen potential tenants by searching their eviction case history. An old eviction case, no matter the outcome, can make it hard for a tenant to find housing.

In Ohio, there is no state law that gives a tenant the right to have their eviction record sealed. The court in which the eviction case was filed decides whether to seal the record.

The Cleveland Housing Court has a process for sealing eviction records. If the court dismissed the eviction or ruled in favor of the tenant, the case qualifies for sealing immediately. If the landlord won an eviction judgment against the tenant, the tenant must wait at least five years to ask for the record to be sealed, and the tenant must explain any unusual or mitigating circumstances that led to the eviction. The Cleveland Housing Court has forms on its website tenants can use to file a motion to seal: http://clevelandmunicipalcourt.org/docs/default-source/cleveland-housing-court/housing-court-forms/motion-to-seal-eviction-record-instructionsdfe0246cc4f76bf3972fff0000463da2.pdf?sfvrsn=e2174f3d_2

Other courts can order eviction records sealed but may not have a defined process for doing so. Tenants with eviction cases in courts other than Cleveland may file a motion to seal with the court that heard the case, explaining why the record should not be public. The court may hold a hearing, or rule on the motion without a hearing.

Sealing the record only means that it is less accessible to people looking at court. Even if the record is sealed, the tenant still must disclose the eviction if asked by a prospective landlord whether they have ever been evicted.

A landlord must file an eviction action in court to legally evict a tenant from their home or apartment. A landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant when the tenant has:

  • Failed to pay rent on time;
  • Violated the lease agreement; or
  • Not moved from the unit after the rental agreement ended.

To start an eviction action, the landlord must first give the tenant a 3-day notice to vacate. The landlord can give the notice to the tenant in person, by leaving it at the rental property, or by certified mail.

If the tenant does not move within the 3-day period, the landlord then files an eviction complaint with the court in the city where the property is located. Eviction actions are sometimes called “Forcible Entry and Detainer” cases.

After the complaint is filed, the Court schedules a hearing and sends the tenant a copy of the complaint, with a summons, about seven days before the hearing. The complaint tells the tenant the specific allegations the landlord is making against them. It usually includes the reason for the eviction.

The landlord may sue the tenant for a money judgment in the same complaint. This could be for back rent, property damage, or other money owed. These allegations also will be in the complaint, and are usually called the “second cause of action.”

The summons tells the tenant where and when the eviction hearing will be held, and gives the tenant some information about their rights and how to dispute the landlord’s claims.

No. It is unlawful for a landlord to change the locks, terminate a utility service, take a tenant’s property, or do anything else to make the rental unit uninhabitable in order to force a tenant to move. This is sometimes called “constructive eviction.” It is also unlawful for your landlord to set your personal property out without a court order. This is sometimes called a “self-help eviction.”

If a tenant has missed a rent payment, violated the lease agreement or failed to meet their duties under the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law, the landlord must serve the tenant a notice to vacate, then file an eviction action in the local court. The tenant may appear in court at the hearing, and present any defenses or explanation they wish. The court will decide whether the tenant will be evicted. The landlord then must follow court procedure for a court-ordered move out. It is unlawful for a landlord to attempt an eviction outside of the court system.

Eviction hearings are civil court proceedings held by a judge or a magistrate. The hearing may be held in a courtroom, or, sometimes, in an office.

The landlord must be present for the case to proceed. The tenant is not required by law to appear, but should if they want to present evidence, argue the case, or even just ask for more time to move. The landlord, the tenant, or both may be represented by an attorney. The parties may bring witnesses, too.

The judge or magistrate will have everyone who is going to testify swear or affirm that they will tell the truth. Next, the judge or magistrate will listen to testimony and take evidence. The landlord speaks first. The tenant may cross-examine the landlord and the landlord’s witnesses. Then, the tenant presents their evidence, which may include documents, testimony and witnesses. The landlord has the right to cross-examine the tenant and the tenant’s witnesses.

After the evidence is presented, the judge or magistrate usually will tell the parties the decision in the case right away. If the case is complicated, the judge or magistrate may say the case is “heard and submitted,” and issue a decision by mail. If the case is heard by a magistrate, the magistrate issues a recommended decision, which is sent to the judge for review and approval.

If the landlord wins the case, the landlord may schedule a court-supervised move out. The amount of time allowed for a tenant to move following an eviction depends on the city, but generally ranges from 7-14 days (could be even faster in some places).

If the landlord is granted the judgment in the eviction case, the landlord schedules a court-supervised move out. In Ohio, there is no law saying how the move out is to be done, so court-ordered move outs vary from city to city.

The tenant may be told the actual move out date, or just the date by which the tenant must move, with the set out taking place a day or two later.

In most cities, the court requires the landlord to have an agent at the property for the move out. The court’s bailiffs remove any tenants and other occupants from the house or apartment and keep the peace. Some courts, like Cleveland, require the landlord to hire licensed, bonded movers to move the tenant’s personal property, furniture, and other belongings. Others may permit the landlord or the landlord’s agents to move the property.

Most courts, including Cleveland, have the movers place the tenant’s property on the tree lawn. Others require the landlord to put the tenant’s property in storage; the tenant usually must pay the storage company a fee to retrieve their belongings.

The bailiffs may change this process if setting out the property may cause a health or safety issue, for example, if bedbugs or roaches are present. The bailiffs normally take items like weapons, cash or drugs, that cannot be set out safely, back to the court for safekeeping. The tenant can contact the court about retrieving those items.

The landlord eventually can dispose of tenants’ property left on the tree lawn as trash.

Many courts now offer parties mediation to try to resolve their dispute without a trial. In mediation, the parties sit down with a neutral third party, usually a member of the court staff, to try to reach an agreement to resolve their case. The agreement could involve a payment plan to catch up on rent, a modification of the parties’ lease, or an agreement that the tenant will move at some specific, future date.

The third party usually will write up the agreement. It will be signed by the parties and, in most cases, submitted to the Court for the Judge’s signature. The parties each will receive a copy. The parties may agree to one or more status hearings, to make sure both sides are following the agreement.

Mediation gives the parties more flexibility in reaching their goal and more control over resolving their case. If the court decides the case, most often one party will win and one will lose; in mediation both parties can win, by getting at least part of the outcome they want.

If parties try to reach an agreement through mediation but cannot, they still can go forward with their court hearing. Let the court know if you are willing to try mediation to resolve your case.

CLICK HERE if you need to fill-out and print a Declaration Form related to the CDC Eviction Moratorium. The declaration can also be found in these languages: Arabic | Simplified Chinese | Traditional Chinese | Spanish | Tagalog | Vietnamese

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued an Order temporarily stopping some evictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

What does the Order do?

Under the Order, a landlord may not take any action to evict certain tenants from their home or apartment during the period of the order, which is scheduled to end December 31, 2020. The Order does not relieve tenants of the obligation to pay rent, and tenants still must comply with the terms of their lease, federal, state and local laws.

As a tenant, am I protected automatically?

No! This law is not applied automatically. A tenant who wants the protection of the law must show that they qualify and ask for the protection. The tenant does this by completing a Declaration Form (attached) and giving it to their landlord or the owner of the property. Every adult listed on the lease must complete a Declaration Form and give a copy of the form to the landlord to be protected.

Who qualifies for this protection?

To qualify, a tenant must be able to say that all five of the following are true:

    1. The tenant has used their best efforts to get all available government assistance for rent or housing;
    2. AND The tenant either:
      • Received a CARES Act stimulus check; OR
      • Was not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS; OR
      • Expects to earn no more than $99,000 in the calendar year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return).
    3. AND The tenant cannot pay their full rent because of a significant (“substantial”) loss of household income, work hours or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket expenses;
    4. AND The tenant is using their best efforts to make timely partial payments as close to full payment as their circumstances permit;
    5. AND an eviction would be likely to make the tenant homeless or force them to move into close quarters with other people (e.g. doubling up with friends or family or living in a shelter.

If a tenant meets all five requirements, what do they need to do?

A tenant who meets the requirements and wants the protection of the law must complete a Declaration Form.  Click on THIS LINK to get yours started!

Every adult listed on the lease must complete a Declaration Form and give a copy of the form to the landlord to be protected. Tenants should keep a photocopy of the completed Declaration Form for their own records.

Tenants may need to prove that they gave a copy of the Form to their landlord, so the tenant may want to ask the landlord to initial the tenant’s copy of the form, or give the Form to the landlord with a witness present.

When does this protection end?

The moratorium currently is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020.

Does the law prevent all evictions?

The law only protects tenants from evictions for nonpayment of rent or other similar “housing payments.” Tenants still can be evicted for other reasons. The moratorium does not prevent evictions based on other grounds, like: criminal activity; threatening the health or safety of other residents; damage to property; violating local health or safety laws; or violating any lease provision, other than the timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment (including non-payment or late payment of fees, penalties, or interest).

Do tenants still owe rent for the period of the moratorium?

Yes, rent will continue to accrue during the period, even though an eviction cannot be filed. This means that at the end of the moratorium, now scheduled for December 31, 2020, the landlord can request all of the unpaid rent, along with late fees, penalties, and other charges for the failure to make payment.

What if a landlord has already filed an eviction action?

A tenant can request the protection of the Order by giving the landlord a Declaration Form, even if the landlord has already filed an eviction case for nonpayment of rent. After giving the landlord a copy of the Declaration Form, the tenant can notify the Court by filing a photocopy of the form with the court, in their case, or by bringing it to their court hearing, with proof they gave the form to the landlord.

Because the law goes into effect on September 4, 2020, it is not yet clear how courts will respond to the Declaration Form. Tenants with pending eviction cases who believe they qualify for the protection of the moratorium can contact the Legal Aid Society for information and advice.

What is the penalty for a landlord who violates this law?

Landlords who violate the law may be prosecuted, and, if convicted, may be fined up to $250,000 and jailed for up to a year.

There is no single, official place to find eviction records in Ohio. Eviction cases usually are filed in the municipal court of the city in which the rental property is located. A person interested in locating eviction records can look in the court’s case index in the individual municipal court. For example, eviction cases filed regarding property located in Cleveland, Ohio, can look in the Cleveland Municipal Court’s case index, on the Clerk of Court’s website. Records for evictions from properties in Euclid will be on file with the Euclid Municipal Court, etc. Some small cities share a court; the shared court for the city will keep its records.

The fact that an eviction has been filed against a tenant may show up on a tenant’s credit report. The credit report companies check the dockets of many municipal courts to report anyone who has a case filed against them. So, someone who reviews your credit report may see that an eviction has been filed against you.

There also are some private companies that a landlord, or others, can pay to search public records for information about you. Those companies could check the records of all municipal courts in the county or the state, and report back the courts in which cases were filed against you.

Housing Discrimination

Federal and state fair housing laws prohibit a landlord from discriminating against a tenant based upon the tenant’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex (gender), disability or familial status. Some cities have enacted local ordinances that provide additional protections, from discrimination based upon factors like sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and Vietnam-era or disabled veteran status. Fair housing laws also require a landlord to make a reasonable modification or accommodation for a disabled tenant.

Yes, there is a federal law, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), that prohibits a landlord from:

  1. Refusing to rent to an applicant solely because the applicant is, or has been, a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking;
  2. Evicting a tenant who is the victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking because of threats or violent acts committed against the victim – even if the acts took place on the property, and even if they were committed by a household member or a guest; and
  3. Holding a tenant who is a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking to a higher standard than other tenants in any way (noise, damage to the rental unit, etc).

While it is called the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA applies to all survivors of domestic violence, regardless of gender.

VAWA also created emergency housing transfer options in all federal housing programs. Survivors should be able to transfer to a different unit to have safer housing. And, some public housing authorities and subsidized housing providers provide a preference to domestic violence survivors on their waiting lists. Survivors may be able to secure subsidized housing more quickly than if they were on the regular waiting list.

Housing providers cannot automatically deny applications for housing based on a person having a criminal record.

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and nearly one-third of all people living in the U.S. have a criminal record. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) observed that Black and Hispanic Americans are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at higher rates than the general population. HUD also found that many landlords will not allow people to rent if they have a criminal record-sometimes based only on an arrest record.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on: race or color; religion; national origin; familial status; disability or handicap, or sex. HUD decided that using broad rules that exclude all tenants with criminal records has a discriminatory effect, and so can violate Fair Housing Laws. A U.S. Supreme Court opinion supports this position.

Based on HUD’s decision, housing providers cannot use broad exclusions, and instead must make individualized determinations about whether a person’s criminal record may disqualify the applicant for housing.

A person denied admission to federally subsidized housing based on a criminal record should request a hearing to challenge the decision. People can also call Legal Aid to apply for help at 1-888-817-3777

Neither federal nor state laws in Ohio currently protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in Ohio, at least 20 cities, including Cleveland, have laws protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (“LGBTQ”) from discrimination. See http://www.equalityohio.org/city-map/. In many instances, the local ordinances create a board or committee charged with hearing complaints under the law.

People who experience discrimination based on LGBTQ status in Cleveland, whether in housing or in public accommodations, can enforce their rights through filing a complaint with the Fair Housing Board. For information about the process, call the Fair Housing Board at 216.664.4529. In other cities that have passed anti-discrimination or human rights ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community, individuals may contact that city’s law department to learn the appropriate process for filing a complaint.

The ACLU of Ohio has provided trainings on, and continues to provide information on, LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances, including enforcement options. For more information visit http://www.acluohio.org/archives/blog-posts/lgbt-advocacy-in-real-time or call the ACLU of Ohio at 216.472.2200. For information on how to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission contact Equality Ohio at 216.224.0400 or visit http://www.equalityohio.org/ehea/. The LGBT Community Center also provides helpful information and resources.

Fair Housing laws prohibit your landlord from discriminating against you based upon your mental or physical disability.

If your disability interferes with your ability to occupy and use your house or apartment, your landlord may be required to make reasonable modifications to the property (like installing handrails or a ramp), or reasonable accommodations (like providing an assigned parking place near the door) to assist you. If you live in private housing (including Housing Choice Voucher housing), you must pay the cost of the accommodation. Examples of modifications or accommodations include:

  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom;
  • Giving a reminder to a person with a developmental disability that rent is due the following day; or
  • Reading written material out loud or providing material in Braille or large print for the vision impaired.

A request for an accommodation may be considered unreasonable, and does not have to be granted, if it would require a “fundamental alteration” in the nature of the landlord’s business, or the request creates an excessive financial or administrative burden for the landlord.

A tenant should make the request for an accommodation or modification in writing, keeping a copy. The landlord should not refuse that request as unreasonable without first sitting down with the tenant to see if there is some other accommodation that would address the tenant’s needs.

Sometimes there is a connection between a tenant’s physical or mental disability and a lease violation. When this occurs, the tenant may ask the landlord for a reasonable accommodation that will allow the tenant to keep their housing. A tenant may make this request in connection with an eviction action or at any time before eviction.

There are several things you can do to enforce your right to live free of housing discrimination.

  1. If your landlord has filed an eviction against you, and you believe that the reason for the eviction was discriminatory, you can raise that as a defense to the eviction. You can also file a counterclaim for money damages in the same case.
  2. You may file a Fair Housing Complaint, with one of these agencies or offices:
  3. You can file a housing discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). You may call the OCRC regional office in your area; find the telephone number here: https://www.crc.ohio.gov/AboutUs/RegionalOffices.aspx. Or, you can get information and instructions for filing online here: https://www.crc.ohio.gov/FilingaCharge/Housing.aspx.
  4. Get help filing a fair housing complaint. The Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research offers victims free assistance in the administrative complaint process. Their staff can help by providing education on fair housing rights, investigating complaints, and contacting housing providers on a tenant’s behalf. You can reach the Center at 216-361-9240, or online at www.thehousingcenter.org
  5. Speak to a lawyer regarding your Fair Housing issues. You can call Legal Aid’s Tenant Information Line at 216-861-5955 (Cuyahoga) or 440-210-4533 (Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Lorain). If you need legal assistance but cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you can apply to Legal Aid by calling 1-888-817-3777 during most business hours or online anytime at https://lasclev.org/contact/.

Filing a complaint with the agencies or offices listed above may impact your ability to file a lawsuit later. If you are interested in preserving your right to file a lawsuit, you may want to speak to an attorney first.

Fair housing is the right to live in your home free from discrimination.

Your right to fair housing is protected by national, state and local laws. Fair housing laws say landlords cannot deny housing or treat tenants differently based on certain “protected” characteristics. Federal law protects classes such as race, religion, sex, or disability. In Ohio, state law also protects people based on ancestry or military status. Cuyahoga County law protects LGBTQ+ persons. Fair housing ordinances in different cities also prohibit discrimination in housing based upon other factors, including, for example, age or marital status.
Unfortunately, even though these laws exist, housing discrimination does still occur. Examples of unlawful housing discrimination could be:

  • A landlord telling parents “We don’t take kids here;”
  • A landlord denying housing to anyone with a felony;
  • A landlord telling a person of color that the apartments have all been rented when they have not; or
  • A landlord telling a person with a disability that they cannot have their service dog live with them because of a “no pets” policy.

Federal fair housing laws protect people with disabilities from discrimination in housing. Landlords cannot treat tenants with disabilities worse than other tenants because of their disabilities. Also, tenants with mental or physical disabilities can ask for changes to make it easier to live in their units and follow the rules of their leases. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations.” The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires most landlords to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants.

A reasonable accommodation can be any change to management rules, policies, practices or the way services are provided. The reason for the change must relate to the tenant’s disability. An example of an accommodation is permission to have a service animal in an apartment complex that does not allow pets. Another example is providing an assigned parking space for a disabled tenant who cannot walk very far. An accommodation can be requested for almost anything a tenant has to do as part of a lease.

Tenants in subsidized housing must follow many rules. For example, they must prove their income, pass background checks, turn in paperwork, and attend appointments. Tenants with disabilities can request accommodations for any of these rules.

Some examples of accommodations tenants in subsidizing housing may request are:

  • A chance to get back on a waiting list if removed for a reason related to a disability
  • Mail-in recertification if a tenant cannot make it to any accessible locations
  • Reminder letters or copies of letters sent to someone else if a disability makes it hard for a tenant to remember things

Rent Assistance

Tenants often fall behind on rent through no fault of their own, due to job loss, lay-offs, or unexpected expenses. This problem is even greater now, with the impact of Covid-19 on the economy. There are programs and agencies in that can assist tenants in need. Some offer temporary cash assistance; others may help tenants find more affordable housing options.

Rental housing where a tenant pays a portion of the rent and a government subsidy covers the rest of the rent is known as “subsidized housing.”  There are many types of subsidized programs.  A common example is housing subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) but owned and managed by a private company.  Subsidized housing is enormously helpful to people with low income because it allows them to pay less for rent and have more money for other living expenses.  As a result, many subsidized buildings have waiting lists.  When applying for subsidized housing, tenants should apply to several different places to improve their chances of getting into a unit as quickly as possible.

Identify the neighborhoods where you want to live and apply at the subsidized developments in those communities. You can get a list of federally subsidized housing developments by calling the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at: 800.955.2232 or visiting HUD’s Subsidized Apartment Search at https://apps.hud.gov/apps/section8/index.cfm.

Request an application from each housing development separately. You may have to pick up the application at the building.

Collect birth certificates, Social Security cards, and income information for all household members.  You will need to submit this documentation with your application. Return your completed application with supporting documents to the same place where you got it.  Be sure to keep a copy and ask for a receipt that shows the date you delivered it.

Complete the application truthfully. For example, if you have a criminal record that has not been sealed, you must say so if asked on your application. Housing providers cannot automatically deny your application based on having a criminal record. However, they can deny your application if you provide false information. In addition, be honest about the last 3-5 places you have lived, even if you did not get along with a prior landlord.  Landlords are not allowed to tell another potential landlord their opinion of you as a tenant; rather, the prior landlord should just confirm you rented from them in the past.

Keep track of all the places you apply, the dates you apply, and any additional steps required to complete their application process.  You can also ask the housing provider to notify another person who is helping you (e.g. friend, family, case worker) about your application.

If your application for subsidized housing is denied, read the notice carefully.  You will usually have the option to appeal the decision, but must do so by the deadline given in the notice.  If your application for subsidized housing is denied because of past criminal history, you may apply for help from Legal Aid by calling 1.888.817.3777.

This article was written by Dani Lachina and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 1. 

Cuyahoga County

You may qualify for rent assistance through a program called Northeast Ohio Rent Help. The program is funded by Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland and administered by CHN Housing Partners. You can apply for assistance at https://chnhousingpartners.org/rentalassistance/

If you qualify through, your landlord may receive up to three months back rent. Depending on the nature of your hardship, CHN may refer you to EDEN (Emerald Development and Economic Network, Inc.) for additional rent assistance. CHN will screen you for other available assistance as well.

Priority in the program is given to people facing eviction. CHN will only process applications that are complete with accurate information and all required documentation.

The program has income eligibility guidelines and, if you qualify for assistance, you may be required to attend more in-depth financial counseling, provided by CHN, as a condition for payment of the rental assistance.

If you are interested in rent assistance, contact CHN as soon as possible. There are limited funds available, and it is uncertain how long they will last. Also, CHN will need time to process your application and issue funds; it may take weeks to do so, so it is best to apply early.

Lake and Geauga County

You may qualify for rent assistance through the Eviction Prevention Program at Lifeline, Inc. In order to apply for these funds, you should contact the Fair Housing Resource Center (FHRC) at 440-392-0147 for a referral.

The FHRC can negotiate with your landlord and make rent assistance referrals for your back-owed rent to avoid an eviction action being filed against you.

If an eviction action has already been filed against you based on nonpayment of rent, and your inability to pay is related to COVID-19, you should contact Legal Aid’s Intake Department immediately.

Ashtabula County

You may qualify for rent assistance being administered by Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County. For information, contact them directly at (440) 992-2121.

If an eviction action has already been filed against you based on nonpayment of rent, and your inability to pay is related to COVID-19, you should contact Legal Aid’s Intake Department immediately.

Lorain County

You may qualify for rent assistance being administered by the United Community Assistance Network (UCAN). To apply for assistance please visit https://www.ucanapply.org/ From this site, you will be directed to select your zip code to take you to the appropriate application.

For residents outside of the cities of Lorain and Elyria, rent assistance is being administered by Lorain County through their Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) Program. In response to COVID-19, Lorain County has amended their CHIP program to include an Emergency Housing Assistance Program.

For those who qualify, the Emergency Housing Assistance Program can provide up to 3 months of rent or mortgage assistance for economic hardships that occurred due to COVID-19

To apply for these funds, you must submit this application and return it to the Lorain County Community Development, 226 Middle Avenue, 5th Floor Elyria, OH 44035. If you have questions, contact the Lorain County Community Development Office at 440-328-2322.



A landlord must make repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to keep the house or apartment in fit and habitable condition, and obey local building-related codes that materially affect health and safety. If a landlord fails to make repairs, the tenant cannot legally withhold rent, but can follow the process to deposit their rent with the court. The tenant can ask the court to order the landlord to make the repairs and to award the tenant money damages, as well.

If you are a tenant, your landlord is required to make certain necessary repairs to your rental unit, including:
• Repairs to keep the property in a livable condition;
• Repairs to meet housing and building codes that affect your health and safety; and
• Repairs required by your lease.

In Ohio, a tenant can pay rent to a court, instead of the landlord, after a landlord has refused to make necessary repairs within a reasonable amount of time. This is called “rent deposit” or “rent escrow.” However, the tenant must be very careful to follow certain rules in order to deposit rent to the court properly.

Before a tenant can deposit rent into the court, the tenant generally must:
• Be current on rent;
• Give the landlord written notice of the repairs needed by sending the notice to the person or place where the rent is normally paid (the tenant should keep a copy of this notice); and
• Give the landlord a reasonable time (usually 30 days, unless it’s an emergency) to make the repairs.

If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs during this reasonable time, the tenant generally may deposit the next month’s rent with the Clerk of Court of the municipal court for the tenant’s community. Each month, the tenant must continue to deposit the rent with the Clerk of Court by the date the rent is due according to the tenant’s lease. The Clerk of Court may have additional rules for depositing the rent, which the tenant must follow. The rent will remain on deposit with the court until the tenant and the landlord agree on how and when it should be released, or the court decides to release it.

Some non profit groups help tenants with the rent deposit process, at no charge to the tenant:
• In Ohio (all counties): Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), (888) 485-7999.
• In Cuyahoga County: Rental Information Center of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, (216) 432-0609.
• In Lake County: Fair Housing Resource Center, Inc., (440) 392-0147.

Also, some courts help tenants with the rent deposit process. For example, Cleveland Housing Court specialists can explain the rent deposit process to tenants. The specialists are located on the 13th Floor of the Justice Center, 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, OH 44113, and are available for drop-in visits, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Cleveland Housing Court phone number is (216) 664-4295.

This article was written by the Legal Aid Housing Practice Group and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

If you are a tenant, your landlord is required to make certain repairs to your rental unit, when they are needed, including:

  • Repairs to keep the property in a livable condition;
  • Repairs to meet housing and building codes that affect health and safety; and
  • Repairs required by the terms of the lease.

In Ohio, a rent deposit (or rent escrow) process allows tenants to pay their rent to a court, instead of the landlord, to get the landlord to make these repairs.

Before a tenant may rent deposit, the tenant generally must:

  • Be current in rent;
  • Give the landlord written notice of the repairs needed, by sending the notice to the person or place where the rent is normally paid; and
  • Then give the landlord a reasonable time (usually 30 days) to make the repairs.

If the landlord does not make the repairs during this reasonable time, the tenant generally may rent deposit.   This means the tenant may deposit the monthly rent with the Clerk of Court of the municipal court for the tenant’s community.   Each month, the tenant must continue to deposit the rent with the Clerk of Court by the date the rent is due.   The Clerk of Court may have rules for depositing the rent, which the tenant must follow.

Some non-profit groups help tenants with the rent deposit process, at no charge to the tenant, such as:

  • In Ohio (all counties):   Rental Housing Information Network in Ohio, (888) 485-7999.
  • In Cuyahoga County:   Rental Information Center of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, (216) 432-0609.
  • In Lake County:   Fair Housing Resource Center, Inc., (440) 392-0147.

Also, some courts help tenants with the rent deposit process.   For example, Cleveland Housing Court specialists explain the rent deposit process to tenants.   The specialists are located on the 13th Floor of the Justice Center, 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, OH 44113.   They are available for drop-in visits, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.   The Cleveland Housing Court phone number is (216) 664-4295.

This article was written by Legal Aid attorney Peter Iskin and  appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.

Landlords are required to make certain repairs to their rental units, when they are needed, including:

  • Repairs to keep the property in a livable condition;
  • Repairs to meet housing and building codes that affect health and safety; and
  • Repairs required by the terms of the lease.

In Ohio, if a landlord fails to make repairs, a rent deposit (or rent escrow) process allows a tenant to pay the rent to a court, instead of the landlord, to get the landlord to make these repairs.

Before a tenant may rent deposit, the tenant generally must:

  • Be current in rent;
  • Give the landlord written notice of the repairs needed, by sending the notice to the person or place where the rent is normally paid; and
  • Then give the landlord a reasonable time (usually 30 days) to make the repairs.

If the landlord does not make the repairs during this reasonable time, the tenant may rent deposit.   At the time the monthly rent is due, the tenant deposits the monthly rent with the Clerk of Court of the municipal court for the tenant’s community.   Each month, the tenant must continue to timely deposit the rent with the Clerk of Court.   The Clerk of Court may have rules for depositing the rent, which the tenant must follow.

Lead poisoning in children is a serious condition with long term negative consequences.  The following resources may help families in northeast Ohio trying to cope with lead poisoning:

For medical advice for a child with an elevated blood level, contact:

  • Your child’s pediatrician
  • MetroHealth Pediatric Lead Clinic
    Referral by pediatrician or call (216) 778-2222

For education resources and support, contact:

For information on lead testing of your home, contact:

  • If you live in the city of Cleveland:

City of Cleveland Lead Safe: (216) 664-2175

Lead Hazard Control Program: 216.651.0077
Click here for more information

  • If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:

Cuyahoga County Board of Health: (216) 201-2000
Click here for more information

  • If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:

Ohio Healthy Homes  1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)

Lake County
Click here for more information

For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:




  • If you live in Ashtabula, Geauga or Lake Counties, 614-728-3105 or, click here

Northeast Ohio and many places across the country are experiencing a significant increase in bed bug complaints. Bed bugs were once thought to be pests found only on bedding in homes, apartments, and rooming houses. Now bed bugs are found in office buildings, retail stores, hospitals, dormitories, nursing homes, office buildings, libraries, movie theaters, buses, and any other place where people gather. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and are easily spread by moving beds, furniture, luggage, or clothing from one location to another.

Identifying Bed Bugs

• Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown, wingless insects that feed primarily on the blood of humans.

• Adult bed bugs are approximately  ¼ inch long, about the size of an apple seed. Young bed bugs (nymphs) are quite small and when unfed they appear lighter and almost clear in color.

• Bed bugs do not fly or jump. However, they can crawl very fast.

Bed Bug Bites

• Bed bugs bites often occur on the arms, shoulders, neck and legs.

• The bite can usually be seen as a red bump, up to a centimeter in size and without a red puncture mark in the middle.

• The bites may occur in lines or as a cluster of three or four.

• The bite may appear within hours or delayed up to a week.

• Bed bugs are primarily a nuisance to humans and are not known to transmit disease. Some people have no reaction to bites while other people may experience itchiness and irritation. Try to avoid scratching bites. Questions about bite marks should be directed to a medical provider.

Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation

Usually the first sign of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of red itchy welts on any bare skin that is exposed while sleeping. Next, look for small black or rusty-colored spots on bed linens, pillows, or mattress. These are blood spots and bed bug droppings. Also, look for live bed bugs, eggs, and cast skins.

Inspecting for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs hide close to where people sleep. They prefer fabric, wood, and paper surfaces over metal or plastic. Look for live bed bugs, eggs, cast skins, and blood or fecal spots in these locations: mattresses, box springs, head boards, bed frames, upholstered furniture, recliners, baseboards, behind pictures, under loose wallpaper, draperies, electrical outlets, telephones, radios, televisions, stacks of books, piles of papers, back packs, luggage, futons, gym bags, draperies & curtains, stuffed animals, hollow furniture legs, door frames & hinges, wall / ceiling junction.

Treating Bed Bug Infestations

Complete elimination of a bed bug infestation can be a difficult process and may require the services of a knowledgeable and licensed pest control operator. It may take several treatments to gain control over an infestation. If a “do-it-yourself” method is chosen, only use pesticide products that are labeled to kill bed bugs. Remember to always read and follow the label directions before applying any pesticide product. Here are some additional tips to help eliminate bed bugs.

• Reduce and eliminate clutter. Don’t keep piles of clothes, boxes, toys, shoes, etc. on the floor, under the bed, or in closets. They are prime hiding places for bed bugs.

• Wash infested bedding and clothing in hot water and then dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes.

• Encase an infested mattress and box spring in a zippered cover that is labeled and certified “bed bug proof”. Leave the covers on for at least one full year.

• Vacuum bedrooms thoroughly and often. Pay particular attention to the area around the bed and the bed itself. Place the vacuum cleaner bag or contents in a zip-lock plastic bag and discard it in the trash outside.

• Getting rid of bed bugs is a cooperative effort. Follow all recommended preparation guidelines provided by the pest control company prior to each treatment.

• Pesticides labeled to kill bed bugs are available over the counter and may provide effective control. However, if the problem persists or is heavily entrenched, contact a knowledgeable, experienced, and licensed pest management professional for assistance.

• Since bed bugs are difficult to control, plan on several extensive treatments to eliminate an infestation.

• DO NOT USE “Bug Bombs”. These products may kill on contact but they are ineffective against hidden bed bugs. They may make the infestation worse by scattering the bugs throughout the home or apartment.

• If an infestation is suspected in a rental unit, contact the building manager or landlord about the problem. Property owners should contact a professional pest control company for advice and assistance. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health (at (216) 201-2000) is also available to assist.

Preventing Future Infestations of Bed Bugs

• Do not bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture into the home.

• Carefully inspect used or rented furniture prior to bringing it into the home.

• When traveling, inspect the bed, headboard, and furniture upon arrival. Keep suitcases off the floor and bed and inspect them before leaving. Wash and dry all clothing thoroughly after returning home.

• Caulk and seal any cracks and crevices throughout the home, especially in rooms where people sleep.

• Be careful of who stays overnight or sleeps at the house.

Bed Bugs in Nursing Homes

Although no residence is safe, certain populations are particularly prone to bed bug infestations. A troublingly high incidence of bed bug infestations has been reported in nursing homes throughout the country.

Bed bug infestations are a concern for many seniors living in senior housing. Seniors living in a nursing home may be exposed to bed bugs through shared laundry facilities or common sitting areas, or by staying in a room near someone who may have bed bugs.

Bed bugs are attracted to heat and chemicals emitted by humans and survive on human blood. Therefore, nursing homes act as a breeding ground for bed bugs due to the high rate of residents, staff and family members moving about the facility. Furthermore, residents stay in bed for prolonged periods of time and live in close proximity, making it easy for bed bugs to survive.

Recommendations for Residents in Senior Housing

• Keep any living space clutter-free. Clutter provides great hiding spots for bed bugs.

• Bites that appear after sleeping may be an indication that bed bugs are present, even if they do not itch.

• Report a bed bug infestation to the property manager or facility administrator within 24 hours of the pest sighting.

• Do not attempt to control a bed bug infestation alone. Never self treat with pesticides, especially “bug bombs”, which drive bed bugs into adjacent rooms or units.

• Do not remove anything from an infested room until after the room is treated by a pest management professional (PMP).

• Cooperate fully with the recommendations provided by the PMP to prepare rooms for bed bug inspection and treatment. Ask the property manager or administration for help if there are preparation steps that cannot be accomplished alone, such as disassembling or moving furniture. Disabled and elderly individuals should request assistance with preparation.

• Prior to treatment, place all clutter and garbage from infested rooms in sealed plastic bags. Bagged items should remain in the infested room for treatment by a PMP prior to disposal.

• The day of the pesticide treatment, all bedding and clothing should be bagged in plastic, transported to the laundry and laundered using hot water. Dry the items for at least 30 minutes on high heat. Bags used for transport should not be re-used, but should be sealed and disposed with other infested refuse.

Bed bug infestations are a problem that affects everyone. Do not be reluctant to discuss a possible infestation because of embarrassment. It is important to report the infestation to management. The earlier the infestation is addressed, the more likely it will be quickly controlled.

Lead poisoning is one of the leading public health hazards in the U.S. today. The Ohio Department of Health recently tested Cleveland children under 6 and found almost 14% had elevated blood levels. One of the most common sources for child lead poisoning is lead paint hazards from homes built prior to 1978. Low-income individuals are especially vulnerable to having to live in old housing where lead paint is still an issue.

Some protections exist for those purchasing or leasing housing built before 1978. The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, covers all housing offered for sale or lease built prior to 1978. This includes private housing, public housing, federally owned housing, and all housing that receives federal assistance.

Under this act, a landlord must provide a tenant with an approved Environmental Protection Agency pamphlet on how to identify and control lead hazards. The landlord must disclose all known lead hazards in the unit and in all common areas a tenant may use. A landlord must also provide a prospective tenant with any lead hazard reports related to the unit. Finally, the lease must include terms stating that the landlord has complied with all the notification requirements in Title X.

Renters and buyers who did not get the required information should call The National Lead Information Center hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD(5323). Callers can request a general information packet, and ask any questions concerning lead. If it turns out the home has a lead hazard, tenants should seek legal assistance. A tenant may sue a landlord if the landlord doesn’t provide the required information. The City of Cleveland’s lead hazard control ordinance declares lead hazards a public nuisance and the Commissioner of Health may order the landlord to abate, or clean up, the nuisance.

Lead poisoning can have long-term, irreversible effects on children. Homeowners and renters moving into a new dwelling should be sure that the seller or landlord provides all required information related to lead in the property.

This article was written by Luke Condon and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Security Deposits

Landlords often collect a security deposit from their tenants, to apply toward damages or rent owed when the tenant moves from the property. The landlord must return any unused deposit to the tenant. The law provides a specific process for a tenant to follow if the deposit is not returned. A tenant may be entitled to damages if the landlord fails to return the deposit promptly.

It depends.

  • Have you have been at the property for more than six months?
  • Is the security deposit you paid more than $50 or one-month’s rent, whichever is larger?

If your answer to both questions is “yes,” then you are entitled to interest on your deposit. The landlord owes you interest at the rate of 5% per year, on the amount of the deposit that is more than $50 or your monthly rent, whichever is larger.

For example, if your rent is $700 per month, and you paid a security deposit of $1000, you are owed interest of 5% per year on $300 (the amount your deposit exceeds your monthly rent). If your tenancy is subsidized, and your monthly rent is $25, but you paid a deposit of $150, you are entitled to interest of 5% per year on $100 (the amount by which your deposit exceeds $50).

A landlord is required to pay interest owed on a security deposit to the tenant annually.

If you paid more than one refundable deposit, like a pet deposit in addition to a security deposit, you can add those amounts together when calculating the interest you are owed.

Your landlord has thirty days after you give your forwarding address to return your security deposit, with a written explanation of any deductions made. If your landlord withholds the whole deposit, the landlord must send you an itemized list of deductions that equal or exceed your deposit.

If your landlord does not return your deposit within thirty days or makes deductions from the security deposit that you disagree agree with, you can take your landlord to Small Claims Court in the city where the rental property is located.

A tenant may sue to recover twice the amount of the security deposit in the Small Claims Court. The landlord can file a counterclaim against the former tenant for any unpaid rent or charges, or property damage to the unit in this same case.

The court will schedule a hearing to decide if the landlord improperly withheld the security deposit and how much money, if any, one party owes the other.

Online tools can help tenants prepare court documents to sue a former landlord for return of the tenant’s security deposit. Go to http://ohiolegalhelp.org/self-help-forms/ and look for “Return of Security Deposit.”


A landlord may charge a deposit to make sure the tenant complies with the terms of the lease or rental agreement. In a very unusual case, a court could decide that a landlord is charging so many deposits, or the deposits requested are so large, that they are “unconscionable,” or extremely unfair, but that would be very rare.

Under Ohio law, a security deposit is “any deposit of money or property to secure performance by the tenant under a rental agreement.” So, if the landlord charges the pet deposit and key deposit to make sure your pet doesn’t cause any damage and you return the keys, the law will consider them both to be security deposits. The same is true when a landlord collects the first and last month’s rent, along with a deposit. The “last month’s rent” is considered a security deposit. Most refundable “fees” are considered security deposits.

A landlord may collect a fee at the beginning of the tenancy, without that fee being considered a deposit. For example, a landlord may charge an application fee, for processing the tenant’s rental application, or a pet fee, for treating the carpet before the tenant moves in. Where the fee is not refundable, and the landlord incurs an expense related to the fee, those fees are not security deposits.

You can make it more likely that your landlord will return your security deposit by doing the following:

  1. When you know you are moving, set up a time for your landlord to walk through the unit with you.
  2. Remove all your belongings and furniture from the unit. Don’t leave things “for the next tenant.”
  3. Clean the apartment or house, including the sink, stove, tub, and refrigerator. Take out the trash.
  4. Take photographs of each room after you have moved everything and cleaned, so you can show the condition you left it in.
  5. Do the walk through with your landlord. Discuss any concerns either of you have about how you are leaving the unit.
  6. If possible, return the keys to your landlord at that time. Get a receipt for the keys if you can.
  7. Give the landlord your forwarding address. If you do a walk-through with your landlord, give your forwarding address then. If not, send your landlord a letter, with your new address, the address of the property you rented, and the amount of the deposit. Keep a copy for your records. If you mail the letter, send it by certified mail or with proof of mailing from the post office.

Your landlord has thirty days after you give the forwarding address to return the deposit, with a written explanation of any deductions made. If your landlord withholds the whole deposit, the landlord must send you an itemized list of deductions that equal or exceed your deposit.

When a tenant moves, the landlord may apply all or part of the tenant’s security deposit to rent owed, late fees, or other charges (e.g. insufficient funds bank fees), and to damages the landlord has suffered because of the tenant’s failure to abide by the tenant’s duties under the law, or the terms of the parties’ lease.

Aside from back rent and fees, the most common item to which a landlord may apply a tenant’s security deposit is damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. Examples of this include broken doors, damaged light fixtures, missing or broken appliances, burns in carpeting, missing blinds, and holes in walls. A landlord can also charge the tenant, by deducting from the security deposit, the cost of removing furniture or other belongings the tenant leaves behind, or for cleaning beyond what usually would be required between tenants.

A landlord cannot apply the deposit to things that need to be repaired or remedied because of normal wear and tear. For example, if a tenant lives in an apartment for five years, and causes no damage to or marks on the wall, the landlord cannot withhold from the security deposit the cost of painting the apartment between tenants, because that is normal wear and tear.

Tenant’s Rights

Tenants and landlords both are have rights and responsibilities under Ohio law. For example, landlords must make repairs, keep the electrical, plumbing and sanitary fixtures in good working order, and give the tenant reasonable notice before entering the house or apartment. Tenants must keep their unit clean, use the fixtures and appliances properly, and not disturb their neighbors. The parties’ lease may impose additional requirements on landlords and tenants.

Yes. The law says you must prohibit your children and invited guests from damaging the property and from disturbing your neighbors. If you do not, their conduct may be grounds to evict you.

You are not responsible for the conduct of uninvited persons who are on the property without your permission or the permission of a family member.

Ohio law says that your landlord may enter your apartment to inspect the unit, make repairs, deliver parcels that are too large for your mailbox, or show the unit to repairpersons, contractors, potential tenants, or purchasers. Except in an emergency, or if it is impractical to do so, your landlord must give you reasonable notice before entering, and enter only at reasonable times. Twenty-four hours is usually considered reasonable notice.

As a tenant, you do have to let the landlord in if you receive the proper notice. But your landlord must be reasonable about coming into your apartment. For example, the landlord cannot demand to come in so often, or at such inconvenient times, that it has the effect of harassing you.

If you are a tenant in the City of Cleveland, and your landlord violates this rule, a City ordinance says that you may be entitled to recover actual damages (e.g. compensation for lost or broken items) or damages from $50 to $500, get an injunction preventing your landlord from entering your unit improperly, or terminate your rental agreement.

How you end a lease (rental agreement) depends on the terms of the lease itself.

A lease can be oral or in writing. The length of an oral lease is determined by the period for which rent is paid. Most tenants pay rent once a month, for the calendar month. This is a month-to-month lease. A landlord or a tenant may terminate an oral month-to-month lease 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. This same rule applies for written month-to-month agreements, unless there is a clause in the lease that requires a longer notice.

A written lease also may be for a longer term, such as a year. For a longer-term lease, the 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.

Some written leases have an automatic renewal clause. This means that the lease renews, usually for a term of the same length as the original lease, unless the landlord or tenant terminates it. In Cleveland, automatic renewal clauses must be conspicuous in the lease, so the tenant is sure to see them. Automatic renewal clauses usually require longer notice to terminate. If you think your lease may have an automatic renewal clause, look at the lease well in advance of the end date, and follow the notice instructions if you do not want the lease to renew.

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 lease, the tenant may liable for rent under the agreement until the unit is re-rented.

Here are some tips:

  • Before you move in, make sure you and your landlord agree about the terms of your tenancy:
    • How much is your rent? When is it due?
    • Does your landlord charge a late fee? How much is it? When does it apply?
    • How will the rent be collected? By mail? In person?
    • Who will pay for utilities?
  • If you are signing a written lease, be sure to read it carefully and make sure you clarify any confusing terms before you sign.
  • When you move in, get the full name, address, and telephone number of the landlord, and the name of the property owner, if that person is not the landlord.
  • On the day you move into a house or apartment, take photos of the condition of the property. Take another set of photos on the day you move out.
  • Communicate with your landlord. Notify the landlord promptly if problems arise. Good communication helps to set up a good relationship, which may benefit you later, if, for example, you have a problem with repairs or rent.
  • If you pay your rent in person, get a receipt. If you pay by mail, keep the money order stub or a copy of the check, and mail the rent using proof of mailing, available from the post office.
  • When you move out, walk through the property with your landlord if possible. Agree on how you will return the keys. Give your landlord your forwarding address, for the return of your security deposit.

A lease, sometimes called a rental agreement, is a contract between the landlord and the tenant. By signing the lease, both parties are saying they agree to all the terms.

Like any other contract, the parties can negotiate the terms. A landlord and tenant, for example, may agree to modify a written lease form to make the lease term shorter (e.g. six months instead of one year) or change the date the rent is due. To change the terms of a written lease, the parties can either re-write the lease, or just make the changes and have both parties initial them, then sign the lease, and keep a copy of the signed lease

If you feel the lease your new landlord is offering you is unfair, you can try to negotiate a change to that term. If the landlord refuses, you must decide whether to sign the lease as-is, for consider finding a new place to rent. If you sign the lease as-is, remember that you have agreed to follow all the lease’s terms.

Can I be evicted during COVID-19?

Eviction cases can still be filed and move forward in Ohio.  However, many courts in northeast Ohio have temporarily stopped allowing evictions to be filed or cancelled scheduled eviction hearings.  To find out if your court has stopped evictions, visit the court’s website or click here.  If you have a court date or deadline coming up, call the court directly to find out if evictions are currently stopped and how long they will be postponed.  Court policies change frequently.

What properties are covered by the federal law delaying evictions?

Federal law prevents landlords at some properties from filing an eviction at this time.  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) prevents a landlord from evicting a tenant from a property subsidized by the Federal government.  This includes all residents in the following properties:

  • public housing,
  • buildings receiving Section 8 rental assistance vouchers or subsidies,
  • buildings receiving USDA rental housing assistance,
  • buildings that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
  • where the owner has a loan backed by the FHA, USDA, VA, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Owners of these properties cannot file eviction until after July 25, 2020. After July 25, 2020, these owners must serve a tenant with a notice to vacate the property thirty (30) days before an eviction can be filed.  Then, the owner must still give the tenant a 3-day notice.

Do I still have to pay my rent?

Yes.  Even if evictions are temporarily stopped in your area, you are still responsible for paying your rent.  If you are unable to pay your rent, you should contact your landlord and ask if your landlord will accept late rent.  If your landlord agrees to take rent late, ask your landlord to put the agreement in writing. A text message from your landlord is good enough.  But, be sure to screenshot the message and save it on a computer, email it to yourself or send it to another electronic database so you can get it even if you no longer have your phone.

Where can I get rent assistance?

If you are unable to pay your rent, you may be eligible to receive rent assistance. You should tell your landlord that you are not able to pay your rent, but that you are looking for rent assistance. Call 211 (available 24 hours a day) or go online to 211oh.org and use the chat feature. You can also call the Tenant Information Line at (440) 210-4533 or (216) 861-5955.

Can my landlord shut off my utilities or lock me out of my property if I am unable to pay my rent? 

No.  The only way a landlord can force you to leave the property is by filing an eviction and getting a court order saying you have to leave.  A landlord is not allowed to shut off your utilities or lock you out of your rental property even if you have not paid your rent.  If a landlord is changing locks, shutting off utilities or removing your belongings from the rental property during this time you should consider calling law enforcement to report this illegal activity and call Legal Aid for assistance in enforcing your right to remain in the property.

What should I do if I need something repaired during COVID-19?

Landlords are still required to maintain your rental property so that it’s safe for you and your family.  If you need something repaired, you should make your request to your landlord in writing and save a copy of the written request.  Your landlord should make the repair in a reasonable amount of time, no later than 30 days after you make the request.  If your landlord fails to make the repair you’ve requested, you may have the right to pay your rent into the court using the rent escrow process.  You can find more information about that process at https://lasclev.org/my-rental-unit-needs-repairs-what-do-i-do/.  However, you should contact the court to see if they are allowing tenants to escrow rent under their COVID-19 policies. If the repair is an emergency, like a utility shout off or a condition that impacts your health and safety, the courts may make exceptions to their COVID-19 policies.

Can my landlord refuse to rent to me because someone in my household was sick with coronavirus?

Probably not.  The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects people with disabilities against discrimination in housing.  A person diagnosed with coronavirus is likely a “disabled” person under the FHA.  If a tenant is protected by the FHA, then a landlord cannot treat the tenant differently because of the disability, i.e. deny housing they would otherwise provide.  Tenants with questions about possible housing discrimination should call The Fair Housing Center at 216.361-9240.  Click here for more information about fair housing.

All residential landlords have certain duties or responsibilities, even if they are not spelled out in the lease. The landlord’s duties are listed below. These duties are in addition to any obligations that are included in the parties’ lease:

In Ohio a landlord has a 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, plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems and fixtures.
  • Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied or required by the landlord.
  • Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat, unless the hot water and hear 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 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.

All residential tenants have certain duties or responsibilities, even if they are not spelled out in the parties’ lease. The tenant’s duties are listed below. These duties are in addition to any obligations that are included in the parties’ lease:

In Ohio a tenant has a duty to:

  • Keep 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.

Leases, sometimes called rental agreements, usually include terms like the amount of rent and the due date, but the parties may include in the lease other terms they agree on, like terms about pets, use of the basement or laundry facilities, or parking.

There are some terms, however, that cannot be included in a lease. The law says that a landlord may not include in a lease any terms that:

  • allow the landlord to accept rent free of the duty to make repairs;
  • say that a tenant gives up their right to respond to an eviction filed against them;
  • requires either party to pay the other party’s attorney fees; or
  • limits the landlord’s liability for damages.

A court also may refuse to enforce terms that it finds are “unconscionable,” that is, outrageous, unreasonable, or very unfair. And, of course, the court will not enforce any term in which the parties agree to engage in illegal conduct.