D. Duties of Landlord and Tenant
1. Landlord’s Duties
2. Tenant’s Duties
A. The Rental Agreement
Generally, the relationship between a landlord and a tenant begins with a lease. A lease can be either written or oral and is enforceable in a court of law. Landlord and Tenant law in Ohio is governed by Ohio Revised Code section 5321, and is implied into every rental agreement whether written or oral. Ohio Revised Code section 5321.06 allows the landlord and tenant to include in a rental agreement any terms and conditions, including any term relating to rent, the duration of an agreement, and any other provisions governing the rights and obligations of the parties that are not inconsistent with or prohibited by Chapter 5321 of the Revised Code or any other rule of law. However, Ohio Revised Code section 5321.18, requires rental agreements to include the property owner’s name, address, and if applicable, the name and address of the property owner’s agent. If the property owner or property owner’s agent is a corporation, partnership, limited partnership or other entity, then the address shall be the principal place of business in the county in which the property is located. In the event that no principal place of business in this county exits, then the principal place of business in Ohio. If the lease is oral, then the landlord must provide the tenant with the above information in writing.
B. Landlord and Tenant Defined by Ohio Law
Ohio Revised Code section 5321.01 defines a tenant as “a person entitled under a rental agreement to the use and occupancy of residential premises to the exclusion of others.” Landlord is defined as “the owner, lessor, or sublessor of residential premises, the agent of the owner, lessor, or sublessor, or any person authorized by the owner, lessor, or sublessor to manage the premises or to receive rent from a tenant under a rental agreement.”
C. Types of Tenancies
There are four types of tenancies: (1) tenancy for a term; (2) periodic tenancy; (3) tenancy at will; and (4) tenancy at sufferance. A tenancy for a term is a tenancy that has a fixed term and ends automatically and without notice from the landlord or tenant at the end of the term. A periodic tenancy has a fixed period, but the fixed period and all the terms of the tenancy are continuously and automatically renewed unless proper measures are taken to terminate the term. This is the opposite of a tenancy for a term which ends automatically unless measures are taken to continue the term. A periodic tenancy is what is commonly referred to as a month to month lease. A tenancy at will lasts until either party elects to terminate the tenancy. This can be done either expressly or impliedly. A tenancy at sufferance refers to the tenant who has held over after the expiration of the lease.
D. Duties of Landlord and Tenant
Both the landlord and the tenant have duties that are implied into every rental agreement whether written or oral and are governed by Ohio Revised Code sections 5321.04 and 5321.05.
1. Landlord’s Duties
Ohio Revised Code section 5321.04 sets forth the obligations to which the landlord must abide by and include:
(a) Comply with all health, safety and housing laws;
(b) Conduct repairs so that the property is habitable and in good condition;
Maintain all common areas of the property so that they are safe and clean;
(c) Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances, and elevators, that the landlord supplies or is required to supply;
(d) Provide garbage cans and arrange for trash removal if the landlord’s property contains four or more units in the same building;
(e) Provide running water, reasonable amounts of hot water and heat unless the property is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose, or the premises is constructed that heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection;
(f) Not abuse the right of access.
(g) Give at least twenty four hours notice if it is necessary to enter the premises and enter the premises at reasonable times unless there is an emergency.
(h) Evict the tenant if the tenant fails to abide by the terms and conditions of the lease or if informed by a law enforcement officer of drug activity by the tenant, and the tenants’ household, or a guest of the tenant occurring in or otherwise connected with the property.
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code section 5321.07, if the landlord fails to fulfill his obligations the tenant may give notice in writing to the landlord, identifying what duty the landlord has failed to fulfill. The notice shall be sent wherever the rent is normally paid. If a landlord does not fix the condition within a reasonable time, or within thirty days, whichever is sooner, and if the tenant is current with his/her rent payments, the tenant can do one of three things which include: (1) deposit rent and all future rent payments with the clerk of the appropriate court; (2) request that the court issue an order directing the landlord to fix the problem. When making this request, the tenant may deposit rent with the clerk of court and can also request an order from the court to reduce the rent due the landlord until the landlord fixes the condition. The tenant may also request that the court allow the rent deposited to the clerk to be used to fix the condition. With orders issued pursuant to this division, the court may require the tenant to deposit rent with the clerk of court; (3) Terminate the rental agreement.
Ohio Revised Code section 5321.07 does not apply to a landlord who is a party to rental agreements that cover three or fewer premises and provides notice of that fact in a written rental agreement or, in the case of an oral tenancy, delivers written notice of that fact to the tenant at the time of initial occupancy by the tenant or to premises occupied by a student tenant.
2. Tenant’s Duties
Ohio Revised Code section 5321.05 sets forth the obligations to which the tenant must abide by and include:
(a) Keep the property safe and sanitary;
Dispose of garbage and/or waste in the proper manner;
Keep the plumbing fixtures as clean as fixtures condition permits;
Properly use all electrical and plumbing fixtures;
Obey state and local housing, health, and safety codes;
Refrain from conduct which will cause damage to the property and refrain guests from conduct which will cause damage to the property;
(b) Maintain appliances supplied by the landlord to the tenant in good working order;
(c) Behave and make sure that guests on the property behave in a manner that will not disturb neighbors;
(d) Comply with drug laws and make sure that guests comply with the drug laws with regard to the property;
Tenant can’t deny the landlord entry if reasonable purpose and/or notice is provided by the landlord.
If the tenant does not perform these duties, the landlord pursuant to 5321.11 may terminate the rental agreement by delivering written notice to the tenant identifying the specific conduct that constitutes noncompliance with the tenant’s duties. The written notice must also state the date on which the rental agreement will terminate, however, this date cannot be less than thirty days after providing the tenant with the notice. If the tenant does not fix the conduct identified by the landlord in the written notice, then the rental agreement will terminate as indicated in the notice.
E. Security Deposit
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code section 5321.16, the landlord is entitled to charge $50.00 or one month’s rent, whichever is greater, as a security deposit. A security deposit in excess of one months rent shall include interest at the rate of 5% with a requirement that the tenant reside in the property of at least six months to receive the interest payment. The interest is then paid annually by the landlord to the tenant.
Once the lease agreement has terminated, the landlord may apply the security deposit to the payment of past due rent and to the payment of the amount of damages to the property. Within thirty days after termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession, any amount deducted from the security deposit must be itemized by the landlord in a written notice delivered to the tenant together with the amount due. If the landlord does not comply with this, the tenant may recover the security deposit together with damages in an amount equal to the amount wrongfully withheld, and reasonable attorneys fees. However, if the tenant does not provide the landlord with a forwarding or new address then the tenant is not entitled to damages or attorneys fees.
F. Landlord May Not Retaliate Against a Tenant
A landlord can not retaliate against a tenant by increasing the tenant’s rent, decreasing services that are due to the tenant, or bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession of the tenant’s premises because: (1) the tenant has reported to a governmental agency of a building, housing, health, or safety code violation that is applicable to the premises, which violation materially affects health and safety; (2) the tenant has complained to the landlord about the landlord’s failure to fulfill his duties; and (3) the tenant along with other tenants have joined forces to negotiate with the landlord on terms and conditions of a rental agreement.
If the landlord does retaliate against the tenant, then the tenant is authorized pursuant to Ohio Revised Code section 5321.02 to do the following: (1) use the retaliatory action of the landlord as a defense to an action by the landlord to recover possession of the premises; (2) recover possession of the premises; or (3) terminate the rental agreement. The tenant may also be able to recover actual damages as well as reasonable attorney fees. A landlord may, however, increase the rent based on the cost of improvements made by the landlord on the premises or because of an increase in operation costs of the premises.
G. Landlord May Commence an Action Against Tenant
A landlord may bring an action to recover possession of the premises from tenant if any of the following occur:
(1) The tenant fails to pay rent as required by the rental agreement;
(2) The tenant or a guest on the premises with tenant’s consent has violated building, housing, health, or safety codes;
(3) In order to comply with the applicable building, housing, health, or safety code would require alteration, remodeling, or demolition of the premises which would effectively deprive the tenant of the use of the dwelling unit;
(4) A tenant is holding over his term.
However, if the landlord commences an action under section 5321.04, the tenant may still be able to recover for damages for any violation by the landlord of the rental agreement or failure to fulfill his duties.