Landlord-Tenant Law basics
Understanding rental home rules in Hamilton County, Ohio

Find answers to frequently asked questions about landlord-tenant law. This page can help you find solutions to your problems with residential rentals.

These rules only apply in Hamilton County, Ohio. If you are in another region, please check with your courts and legal aid for your local rules.

How can I solve problems with my landlord or tenant?

Are there ways to negotiate solutions to problems with my landlord, or with my tenant?

Many landlord-tenant disputes can be resolved by communicating with one another. 

It can be helpful to know specifically what you are asking for and to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand their perspective. 

As you communicate, be sure to maintain written records of it. This could be in the form of paper letters, or emails and texts that you are able to print out.

Written agreements often protect both parties because it makes the agreement clear to everyone and can be referred to later. 

What can I do about a security deposit?

Can I get my security deposit back from my landlord?

Can I withhold a security deposit from my tenant?

A landlord may require a tenant to pay a security deposit to compensate for any unpaid rent, damages or other unpaid charges at move out. 

Unless agreed to, the security deposit cannot be used as the last month’s rent. 

Ohio law says that if the tenant provides the landlord with a forwarding address when they move out, the landlord has 30 days to send the security deposit or an itemized list of why all or part of the deposit is being withheld. 

If the landlord does not do this, the tenant can sue for double the wrongfully withheld portion of the deposit. This is often done in small claims court. 

However, if the unpaid rent, damages and other charges are more than the security deposit, the landlord could countersue the tenant for the difference.

What are Ohio landlords obliged to do?

What does the law require from residential landlords?

If the tenant reasonably believes that the landlord violated these obligations, the tenant is able to begin the rent escrow process. 

The landlord’s obligations in the Ohio law are:

  1. Housing Rules Compliance: Comply with the requirements of all applicable building, housing, health, and safety codes that materially affect health and safety;
  2. Repairs: Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
  3. Common Areas: Keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition;
  4. Maintenance: Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances, and elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord;
  5. Trash: When the landlord is a party to any rental agreements that cover four or more dwelling units in the same structure, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the occupancy of a dwelling unit, and arrange for their removal;
  6. Water: Supply running water, reasonable amounts of hot water, and reasonable heat at all times, except where the building that includes the dwelling unit is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose, or the dwelling unit is so 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;
  7. Access: Not abuse the right of access conferred by division (B) of section 5321.05 of the Revised Code;
  8. Notice about Entry: Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, give the tenant reasonable notice of the landlord's intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be a reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
  9. Tenant Removal: Promptly commence an action under Chapter 1923. of the Revised Code, after complying with division (C) of section 5321.17 of the Revised Code, to remove a tenant from particular residential premises, if the tenant fails to vacate the premises within three days after the giving of the notice required by that division and if the landlord has actual knowledge of or has reasonable cause to believe that the tenant, any person in the tenant's household, or any person on the premises with the consent of the tenant previously has or presently is engaged in a violation as described in division (A)(6)(a)(i) of section 1923.02 of the Revised Code, whether or not the tenant or other person has been charged with, has pleaded guilty to or been convicted of, or has been determined to be a delinquent child for an act that, if committed by an adult, would be a violation as described in that division. Such actual knowledge or reasonable cause to believe shall be determined in accordance with that division.
  10. Military and Veterans: Comply with the rights of tenants under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 117 Stat. 2835, 50 U.S.C. App. 501.

These obligations are from Ohio law R.C. 5321.04.

What are Ohio tenants obliged to do?

What do residential renters have to do to follow the law in Ohio? What kind of behavior can lead to an eviction?

If the landlord believes the tenant violated these obligations, the landlord can start the eviction process after giving proper notice to the tenant.  

The tenant’s obligations in the Ohio law are:

  1. Safety and Cleaning: Keep that part of the premises that he occupies and uses safe and sanitary;
  2. Trash: Dispose of all rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner;
  3. Plumbing Fixtures: Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by him as clean as their condition permits;
  4. Electricity and Plumbing: Use and operate all electrical and plumbing fixtures properly;
  5. Housing Safety: Comply with the requirements imposed on tenants by all applicable state and local housing, health, and safety codes;
  6. Damaging home: Personally refrain and forbid any other person who is on the premises with his permission from intentionally or negligently destroying, defacing, damaging, or removing any fixture, appliance, or other part of the premises;
  7. Appliances: Maintain in good working order and condition any range, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, or other appliances supplied by the landlord and required to be maintained by the tenant under the terms and conditions of a written rental agreement;
  8. Neighbors: Conduct himself and require other persons on the premises with his consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb his neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of the premises;
  9. Substance Abuse: Conduct himself, and require persons in his household and persons on the premises with his consent to conduct themselves, in connection with the premises so as not to violate the prohibitions contained in Chapters 2925. and 3719. of the Revised Code, or in municipal ordinances that are substantially similar to any section in either of those chapters, which relate to controlled substances.
  10. Landlord Access: The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent for the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises, make ordinary, necessary, or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements, deliver parcels that are too large for the tenant's mail facilities, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen, or contractors.

These tenant obligations are from Ohio Law RC 5321.05.

How can month-to-month tenancies end?

If a lease is month-to-month, how can a landlord or tenant legally end them?

Most renters are not on a written lease and are considered “month-to-month.” They may have been on a written lease for their first year and then transitioned to a month-to-month after that, or they may never have had a written lease. 

Either the landlord or tenant can terminate a month-to-month tenancy by giving a written notice a full 30-days before the “periodic tenancy date.” This usually refers to the date rent is due. 

So, if rent is due on the 1st, the landlord or tenant would need to give a notice to the other a full 30-days before the 1st of the next month. 

Example: Tenant gives the landlord a notice on October 15th saying they would be out by November 30th. If the tenant does not give the landlord a proper notice, they could be charged for the next month. If the landlord gives a proper notice, and the tenant doesn’t leave, they could face eviction. 

When can a landlord increase the rent?

When is it okay to raise the rent? What does a landlord have to do to follow the law?

When a written lease is in effect, rent increases would only be allowed if the written lease allows it. They usually don’t for the period of the lease.

For a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord can increase the rent with “reasonable notice.” This isn’t well-defined, but a full calendar month of written notice is consistently considered “reasonable notice.”

What is landlord retaliation?

What can a tenant do if they think their landlord is treating them poorly out of retaliation?

Ohio law prohibits the landlord from retaliating against a tenant by increasing the tenant's rent, decreasing services that are due to the tenant, or bringing or threatening to bring an eviction against the tenant. 

The landlord cannot retaliate against the tenant for the following situations:

  1. Health and Safety Complaints: The tenant has complained to an appropriate governmental agency of a violation of a building, housing, health, or safety code that is applicable to the premises, and the violation materially affects health and safety.
  2. Law Violations: The tenant has complained to the landlord of any violation of their obligations under Ohio law (see above). 
  3. Tenant Collective Action: The tenant joined with other tenants for the purpose of negotiating or dealing collectively with the landlord on any of the terms and conditions of a rental agreement.
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