Evictions

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.

Are you in need of virtual meeting space?

Do you have a court hearing and need technology access for a virtual hearing?

Or, are you already a Legal Aid client and need a way to connect with your attorney for a virtual meeting?

Libraries across Northeast Ohio are providing study rooms equipped with tools for you to conduct virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom, MS Teams, and WebEx. This page contains information regarding public libraries with study rooms that enable private video conferencing, along with instructions for how to reserve a room.

Ashtabula County:

Andover Public Library
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-293-6792 and indicate interest in reserving a room to schedule an in-person visit. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting options when visiting the library. The Andover Public Library has recently expanded services, including a video conferencing station.

Lake County:

Madison Public Library
The library has 13 Chromebooks and 6 Windows laptops available for use. The computers are available on a first-come, first-serve bases at the circulation desk and are available to any library member. The member must sign an equipment waiver.

Mentor Libraries
To reserve virtual meeting space, fill out an online application. The meeting rooms are available for up to two hours at a time and must be reserved by an adult. Once the application is filled out, the attendee will receive meeting information for a Zoom room.

Willoughby-Eastlake Libraries
The library has Chromebook bundles available including the computer and an internet hotspot. The bundles can be checked out to adult library members for 14 days with a library card and photo ID.

Cuyahoga County:

Cleveland Public Library
Select Cleveland Library branches will soon have virtual meeting rooms, thanks to support from the NFL Foundation!  Check back to this page to learn more.

Cuyahoga County Public Library System
19 branches have study rooms available.  Here’s a link to a video that explains how to reserve and use them: https://youtu.be/o-JRuyIKKW0.  

Rooms can be reserved 1 week in advance for up to 2 hours, during regular library hours. Each room features: a computer, speakers, microphone, webcam, and keyboard. A library account is required to use the video conferencing equipment. For more information, including a complete list of the qualifying libraries, click this link to view a downloadable PDF.

The County library also has virtual Zoom Rooms. If you are connected to a computer but not a Zoom license, you can book a “room” using the County library license.  Click here for info, and visit this link for an instructional video: https://youtu.be/H4QDOdZW3XM

Lakewood Public Library – Main Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 216-226-8275, ask to speak with the reference desk, and then a supervisor. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology once they attend the room.

Westlake Porter Public Library
To reserve meeting space for a virtual meeting, first call 440-871-2600 and ask to speak with adult services. From there, you will be able to register to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology once they attend the room. Walk-in reservations are also available, but space may be limited.

Geauga County:

Geauga County Library – Bainbridge Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-543-5611, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.

Geauga County Public Library – Chardon Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-285-7601, and ask to speak with the reference desk ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.

Geauga County Public Library – Geauga West Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-729-4250, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.

Geauga County Public Library – Middlefield Branch
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-632-1961, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.

Geauga County Public Library – Thompson Station
To reserve virtual meeting space, first call 440-632-1961, and ask to speak with the reference desk. From there, you will be able to reserve a room. Once the reservation is complete, the attendee will have access to virtual meeting technology when visiting the library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

What is Cleveland’s “Right to Counsel” in Housing?

Check out this video!

 

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.

QUICK LINK –
CLICK HERE if you need to fill-out and print a Declaration Form related to the CDC Eviction Moratorium.  Other languages can be found via this link. [Se pueden encontrar otros idiomas a través de este enlace.]

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 July 31, 2021. 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 July 31, 2021.

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 July 31, 2021, 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.

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.

You may also qualify for rent assistance being administered by Ashtabula County Community Action Agency (ACCAA). ACCAA will be operating two Home Relief Programs between February 2021 and December 31, 2021 (unless funds are exhausted prior to the end of the year) to provide a range ofrental assistancemortgage assistance, water/sewer assistance, trash assistanceand heating/electric assistanceFunds are federal and are provided through the Governor’s office and the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA). Click here to inquire about eligibility and apply.

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.

You may also qualify for rental assistance being administered by the Lorain County Community Action Agency (LCCAA). To apply for assistance, as well as to inquire about eligibility and document requirements, click here.

 

Repairs

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.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, causing damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers these suggestions for protecting your family from lead exposure:

  • Ask your local water department if you have a lead service line. If so, use bottled water for cooking and drinking. If you cannot afford bottled water, look for a “point of use” filter certified for lead removal;
  • Use only cold water for cooking or drinking, and run your faucet on cold for one to two minutes before using it;
  • Request that your landlord fix surfaces in the home that have peeling or chipping lead-based paint;
  • Clean your floors, windowsills, and other surfaces using a damp cloth or mop, to minimize dust, which may contain lead;
  • Keep yourself, your children and your pets out of areas where your landlord is making repairs in which a lot of dust is created. Make sure your landlord is using lead-safe practices, keeping the dust confined, and cleaning thoroughly with a wet mop when done;
  • Remove your shoes before entering your house, and, if possible, leave them on a mat outside the door;
  • Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often;
  • Making sure children eat nutritious meals high in iron and calcium; and
  • Talk to your health care provider about testing your children for lead. Your pediatrician can check for lead with a simple blood test;

Tenants may call The National Lead Information Center hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD(5323), and request a general information packet. For more information about lead, visit https://www.epa.gov/lead/real-estate-disclosure#renters, or https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/default.htm

If the tenant has have given the landlord notice in writing of the conditions that need to be repaired, a reasonable time has passed (usually 30 days), and the tenant is current in rent with the landlord, the tenant may deposit the rent in escrow with the municipal court in the city in which the tenant lives. The tenant must deposit rent by the due date and must be current in rent to deposit the rent, or the tenant will not be protected from an eviction action for nonpayment of rent.

The tenant then can deposit the rent with the court each month as it falls due. The hope is that the landlord will make the required repairs, to begin receiving rent from the tenant once again.

The rent deposit will end when either the tenant decides to stop depositing because the repairs are made, or when the court decides that the tenant is to stop depositing.

Some courts will schedule one or more mediation opportunities when a tenant is rent depositing. In mediation the landlord and tenant meet with a neutral third-party, usually a member of the court staff, to see if they can reach an agreement about what repairs will be made, and a schedule for the work. In mediation, issues about access to the property and the way that work will be performed can be addressed as well.

Note: The rent deposit process is not available if the landlord has three or fewer rental units, and gives the tenant notice of that when the tenant first moves in.

Sometimes asking your landlord to make a repair will be enough. If a simple request does not get the repairs made, the tenant can start the legal process for forcing the landlord to make repairs. The first step in that process is for the tenant to request those repairs in writing.

Ohio law says that IF a landlord:

  • fails make repairs required by law; or
  • fails to make repairs or maintain the property as required by the lease; or
  • the tenant reasonably believes that the landlord has failed to make repairs required by the law or the lease; or
  • if a governmental agency, for example the City’s Building and Housing or Health Department, has found that the property is in violation of city code, and that violation could materially affect the health and safety of the tenant or another occupant of the property;

THEN, the tenant may give notice in writing to the landlord, specifying the conditions that violate the landlord’s duties.

The tenant should include in the notice all the conditions that need repair. The tenant must send the notice to the person or place where rent is normally paid. The tenant should keep a copy of the notice, for the tenant’s records.

After receiving the notice, the landlord must correct the problems within a reasonable time. Thirty days usually is considered a reasonable time, unless the condition is more urgent. For example, if the tenant does not have heat in the winter, a reasonable time to make repairs likely will be shorter than thirty days.

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:

If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:

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

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

If you live in Lake County:

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

 

Bed bugs can be found in houses and apartments, office buildings, stores, buses – any place where people are. They are excellent hitchhikers and are spread by moving furniture, clothing or other belongings from one place to another.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

  1. Know how to identify bed bugs:
  • Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown, wingless insects;
  • Adult bed bugs are about ¼ inch long; young bed bugs are quite small and may be clear in color;
  • Bed bugs do not fly or jump, but do crawl very fast.
  1. Know the signs of a bed bug infestation:
  • red itchy welts on skin that is exposed while sleeping;
  • small black or rusty-colored spots on bed linens, pillows, or mattresses;
  • live bed bugs, eggs, and cast skins.
  1. Inspect for Bed Bugs
  • Look for live bed bugs, eggs, or blood spots on mattresses, box springs, headboards, upholstered furniture, papers, backpacks, gym bags, and curtains.
  1. Treat Bed Bug Infestations
  • If you suspect you have bed bugs in your unit, tell your landlord about the problem. The landlord should contact a professional pest control company for advice and assistance. Complete elimination of a bed bug infestation can be difficult and may require several treatments.
  • To help with the process,
    • Eliminate clutter. Don’t keep piles of clothes, papers, etc. on the floor, under the bed, or in closets.
    • Wash infested bedding and clothing in hot water and dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes.
    • Encase an infested mattress and box spring in a zippered cover that is certified “bed bug proof”. Leave the covers on for at least one year.
    • Vacuum bedrooms thoroughly and often, paying attention to the bed and the area around itself.  Put the vacuum cleaner bag in a zip-lock plastic bag in the trash outside.

Bed bug infestations can happen to anyone. Do not be reluctant to discuss a possible infestation because of embarrassment. It is important to report the infestation to management. The earlier it is addressed, the more likely it can be quickly controlled.

Lead poisoning has long been a problem in Northeast Ohio. Children are exposed to lead through paint chips, lead in the soil, and lead in toys. Exposure to high amounts causes lead poisoning, which impacts how our children learn, behave, and develop. Visit www.leadsafecle.org for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland.

Who is at risk?
Children ages 0-6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts renters, minorities, and low-income residents who have less access to affordable, quality housing. Certain zip codes are at higher risk for lead hazards because of the age of their housing and the number of other children who have been poisoned there. (For a list of high risk zip codes, click here.)

Where is this problem?
Anywhere children may be exposed to lead. Common sources include old homes with peeling paint, the yard around such homes, outside near high traffic areas, old school buildings, and other buildings where children spend time (e.g. relatives, babysitter, and day care).

What are the signs?
Lead poisoning can cause many negative health impacts but children may not immediately present any symptoms of lead poisoning. Some long term consequences of lead poisoning in children include behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and trouble learning. High levels of lead poisoning can lead to hospitalization. Housing inspections don’t routinely check for lead so parents must spot potential lead hazards in the home and insist on having their child’s lead level’s tested.

When do I need to address this?
Immediately. If your child has not been tested for lead poisoning, talk to your pediatrician. Medicaid pays for lead testing.

What can you do if you’re concerned?
In addition to having your child’s lead levels tested, you can take some steps to limit their exposure to lead. Use HEPA vacuum filters and vacuum windowsills, wipe surfaces periodically, keep shoes at the front door to not track in lead, wash your kids’ hands and faces routinely, clean toys, watch where they play (avoid areas near peeling paint), feed them three meals a day with plenty of iron and calcium (greens, protein, milk). If your child’s lead levels are high, try to identify the source of the exposure and if necessary, talk with your landlord or explore moving to a new home.

My child has been poisoned, what are my options?
• Get your house inspected. Contact your local health department to request an inspection.
• Request that your landlord remedy the lead paint problem.
• Discuss your options for suing your housing provider with an attorney.
• Seek early intervention. Talk to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Help Me Grow program for enrichment services that can help mediate the impact of lead poisoning.
• Inform the school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services to address cognitive or behavioral problems.

Visit the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition website at www.leadsafecle.org for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland. You can also visit the Lead Safe Resource Center at 4600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44103 or call the Lead Safe Hotline at (833) 601-5323. For additional information and resources, visit https://lasclev.org/leadpoisonresources.

By Lauren Roberts

If the tenant gives notice of the repairs that are needed, and landlord does not respond by making the repairs within a reasonable time, a tenant may file a civil complaint with the court asking the Court to order the landlord to correct the problems. As part of that complaint, the tenant also may ask the court to reduce the rent until the landlord makes the repairs. And, the tenant can ask the court for an order releasing the rent to the tenant or a contractor, in order to have repairs made. In urgent situations, the tenant may ask the court for an emergency order in the case, by filing a motion for a temporary restraining order, to address urgent conditions like no heat or water immediately, before a hearing can be held.

The tenant also can terminate the rental agreement and leave the property. A tenant may choose this option if they are in a long-term lease, and don’t foresee being able to work with the landlord. The process of terminating the rental agreement does not require court approval, but it does come with some risk. If a landlord later sues the tenant for rent for the balance of the lease, the tenant must be able to show that the bad conditions existed, the tenant gave notice to the to the landlord, and the landlord did not make the repairs. The court then must determine that the conditions were severe enough to justify the tenant terminating the lease.

Finally, a tenant whose landlord fails to make repairs after notice and a reasonable time, may be able to recover money damages from the landlord, for a loss in use or value of the house or apartment, or for the value of personal property damaged or destroyed by the landlords’ failure to make repairs.

A landlord must to give a tenant any information the landlord has about the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home, but, the landlord is not required to investigate whether there is lead present, unless that lead presents a hazard to the tenant.

Federal law requires landlords, before signing a lease for a house or apartment built before 1978, to give the tenant:

  • An EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards, Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home (PDF);
  • Any information the landlord has about the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home.; and
  • An attachment to the contract, or language inserted in the contract, that includes a “Lead Warning Statement” and confirms that the landlord has complied with all notification requirements.

Ohio law requires a landlord to address lead hazards and comply with lead abatement orders when they are issued, as part of their duty to maintain the property in good repair. They also must use lead-safe practices when making repairs or remodeling at properties where tenants live.

Local ordinances in some cities also address lead. For example, a Cleveland city ordinance requires that landlords pay for private inspections and get lead-safe certificates for their occupied rental units and give additional disclosures to tenants about whether a home has an identified lead hazard. The ordinance declares lead hazards a public nuisance and the Commissioner of Health may order the landlord to abate, or clean up, the nuisance.

If a 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.

What sort of repairs is my landlord required to make?

Ohio law says that landlords all have certain duties with respect to maintenance of the property, whether or not they are mentioned in the lease. All landlords are required to:

  1. Keep the property in livable condition.
  2. Keep the common areas clean and safe.
  3. Comply with building, housing, health, and safety codes.
  4. Keep all electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation equipment in good working order.
  5. Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied by the landlord.
  6. Provide running water hot water and heat (unless the hot water and heat are controlled entirely by the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up).
  7. Provide garbage cans and trash removal (if the landlord owns four or more residential units in the same building).

The parties’ lease may give the landlord additional obligations.

Your landlord is not required to make repairs or improvements to the unit that are simply cosmetic, like painting it the color of your choice, or installing light fixtures of a style that you prefer.

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.”

Probably.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What is Cleveland’s “Right to Counsel” in Housing?

Check out this video!

 

QUICK LINK –
CLICK HERE if you need to fill-out and print a Declaration Form related to the CDC Eviction Moratorium.  Other languages can be found via this link. [Se pueden encontrar otros idiomas a través de este enlace.]

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 July 31, 2021. 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 July 31, 2021.

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 July 31, 2021, 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.

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.

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.