When tenants believe their landlords are not upholding their legal obligations, can they withhold rent?
The only legal way to withhold rent in Ohio is through Rent Escrow. This is when tenants deposit their rent with the court rather than pay it to the landlord.
On this page you can find details about:
If you are concerned with the living conditions in your rental home in Cincinnati or Hamilton County, reach out for help.
What does it mean to put rental payments into escrow?
Rent escrow allows tenants to deposit their rent with the Clerk of Courts if they reasonably believe the landlord failed to meet its obligations under the law or a lease agreement.
If properly filed, rent escrow protects the tenant from evictions for nonpayment of rent.
Tenants can still be evicted for other lease violations and could be evicted for nonpayment if they stop paying their rent into escrow after they started.
Under Ohio law, are there any situations when tenants can't put rent into escrow?
Yes, some Ohio landlords are exempt from rent escrow rules.
If a landlord with three or fewer dwelling units provides the tenant written notice of the fact that the landlord leases three or fewer dwelling units at the time of the initial occupancy, they could be exempt.
If your landlord has brought an eviction lawsuit against you, can you start putting rent into escrow with the court?
Usually no, tenants facing an eviction lawsuit can't begin to put rent in escrow.
Escrow requires a tenant to be up-to-date in rent and give the landlord a 30-day notice (see below). If these requirements aren’t met, the escrow wouldn’t help.
What happens if you had started putting your rent into escrow with the court, but then don't do it? Or you do it after rent is usually due?
If you stop paying rent into escrow, you could be evicted for nonpayment of rent.
This also applies if you pay rent into escrow late, after the rent is due. You may be evicted for nonpayment.
Can they request a property inspection, based on concerns with the quality of the home?
Yes, the tenant is allowed to call the building and/or health inspectors.
Tenants on Section 8 are also allowed to ask for an inspection from Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). Or you can call CMHA at 513-721-4580 and ask about an inspection of your home.
The Cincinnati Property Maintenance Code Enforcement is here. This can help you understand how the city deals with home safety hazards, building repairs, and quality of life concerns. Call them at 513-352-3275.
The Cincinnati Health Department is here. This government agency is in charge of health problems in neighborhoods, including around pests, mold, lead, water, and other concerns. The phone number for mold, insect, and housing complaints is 513-352-2908.
If you think the landlord is not following their obligations under the law or your lease, how can you start paying rent into escrow with the court?
To begin a rent escrow, the basic step-by-step is as follows in Hamilton County, Ohio.
When the tenant follows these steps, they will need a few things to begin paying rent to escrow with the Court:
Pay your rent escrow at the Clerk of Courts at the Courthouse. Escrows are accepted daily until 3:30 P.M. in room 115 of the Courthouse. See a Rent Escrow Application form here.
For help with this process, visit the Help Center in room 113 of the Courthouse.
What happens to the money? What happens if my landlord challenges it, or tries to evict me?
After the escrow is filed, the path of the case is determined by what the parties do.
If the two parties are able to fix their dispute, how do they get the money from the court? How do you avoid a lawsuit about the Rent Escrow?
Yes, a Rent Escrow can be released without a lawsuit.
If the landlord and tenant come to an agreement, they can ask for the money to be released by the Clerk according to what is in the agreement.
Please be sure that the agreement is written down, and that both sides agree.
How can the renter make sure their problems are addressed?
A tenant can ask the court for several things, regarding their Rent Escrow.
How can they get access to the rental payments a tenant has made to the court?
The landlord can file a Rent Escrow Complaint with the court, if they believe the escrow should be terminated and the funds should be returned to them.
The reasons the court can return the funds to the landlord are:
If the landlord files a rent escrow complaint, the Tenant is required to file an Answer within 28 days.
The Answer states defenses against what the landlord says in the complaint.
If the tenant believes they should receive the rent escrow money back themselves, they would also need to file a counterclaim stating claims against the landlord.
A sample Rent Escrow Answer and Counterclaim are here.
If a landlord brings a complaint to get the money, what will happen at court?
A rent escrow hearing occurs after a landlord files a rent escrow complaint or the tenant has filed a motion.
In any rent escrow hearing, the tenant will have to prove that he/she has met the requirements of escrow.
The general structure of a rent escrow hearing is:
The landlord and tenant may bring the following to court, to support their side of the case: