Tenant Rights & Obligations
my rights as a tenant?
A tenant is any person who occupies or possesses the residential property of
another and pays for it under a rental agreement.
As long as you, the tenant, do what the rental agreement and/or the law
requires you to do, you have the right of exclusive possession of the property
until the lease expires.
- You have the right to complain to a government agency about your
landlord's violation of housing laws or regulations that affect health and
- You have the right to complain to your landlord if he or she
fails to perform any legal duties. If you complain and the landlord
retaliates against you by increasing rent, decreasing services or seeking
to evict you for taking such action, the landlord has violated the law.
- You have the right to join with other tenants to bargain with
your landlord about the terms of the rental agreement.
- You have the right to know the name and address of the owner of
your residential premises and that of the owner's agent, if there is one.
This information must appear either in your written lease or be given to
you in writing at the beginning of your tenancy if the rental agreement is
- You have a right of privacy, which the
landlord must respect. The landlord may enter your apartment after
reasonable notice (at least 24 hours) for certain legitimate reasons.
- You have the right to have repairs made within
30 days or less (depending on the severity of the housing conditions) for
conditions that significantly affect health and safety if the landlord has
received a written complaint from you about the premises. If the landlord
fails to make repairs within 30 days, you, as a tenant, may have a right
to escrow your rent. You may also terminate the rental agreement and move
Escrowing your rent means withholding your next monthly rental payment and
depositing it with the clerk of the municipal or county court in the
county where you reside. However, if your rent is due on the first of the
month and you give your landlord the written complaint notice on the 15th
of the month, you still will have to pay rent to the landlord on the first
of the following month. You can only escrow your rent after having waited
the full 30 days (unless there is an emergency such as lack of heat in the
winter or lack of water).
Warning: If you do not follow the proper escrow procedure, you can be
- The right to deposit rent money with the court
cannot be used against a landlord who owns fewer than four dwelling units
if you receive written notice of this fact when you originally move into
the premises. You may not use the remedies of termination or rent deposit
if you are not current in your rental payments.
- Your furnishings or possessions may not be seized by the landlord
for the purpose of recovering rent payments.
What are my
obligations as a tenant?
As a tenant, you must meet the following obligations:
- Comply with the standards of all housing laws that materially
affect health and safety.
- Refrain from and prevent others from damaging the rental
- Keep the premises safe and sanitary.
- Keep plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit as clean as their
- Dispose of all garbage in a safe and sanitary manner.
- Operate all electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.
- Maintain in good order all appliances provided by the landlord.
- Cause no disturbance and forbid others to disturb your neighbors.
- Allow your landlord reasonable access (upon 24 hours notice) to
the premises to inspect, make repairs, deliver large parcels or show the
property to prospective buyers or renters.
- See that controlled substances are not illegally used on the
The tenant cannot alter any of these legal duties. However, the landlord may
agree to assume responsibility for fulfilling any of these tenant duties.
What are my rights as
If you own rental property and permit another to use, occupy or possess your
residential premises for a period in return for money or something of value,
you are a landlord.
- You, as a landlord, can rent your property for any amount you
desire. You can increase rents in any amount, upon giving adequate notice,
as long as a rent increase is not a retaliatory act against a tenant.
- Subject to the provisions of Ohio's Fair Housing Act, you may
rent to anyone you wish and establish any conditions and terms in a rental
contract that do not conflict with state law. You may, in fact, refuse to
rent to anyone, provided you do not discriminate against a tenant because
of the tenant's race, color, religion, ancestry, sex, national origin,
handicap or family status.
- You may evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent, or for breaking
any material conditions that you have agreed on. Written notice of the
intent to file an eviction action must be given to the tenant before you
file such an action in court.
- You may notify the tenant in writing if you wish to secure the
tenant's compliance with obligations under the law.
- After reasonable notice, you have the right to enter the dwelling
unit to inspect, repair, make improvement or supply services, or show new
tenants the property.
- You have the right to have your property returned to you in as
good a condition as it was when the tenant took possession, except for
ordinary wear and tear.
What are my
obligations as a landlord?
The landlord has certain obligations whether or not they are written into a
rental agreement. You, as landlord, cannot change them or require the tenant to
assume them, and the tenant cannot agree to do without the performance of these
obligations under any circumstances.
As a landlord, you must do the following:
- Comply with all the standards of housing and health codes that
materially affect health and safety.
- Make all repairs and keep the rental premises in a livable
- Keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary
- Maintain in good working condition all electrical, plumbing,
heating and air conditioning fixtures and appliances that you have
supplied or are required to supply.
- Provide and maintain trash receptacles and remove all trash when
you own four or more units in the same building.
- Supply running water, reasonable amounts of hot water and
reasonable heat at all times unless the tenant has assumed responsibility
with the utility company.
- Terminate the lease of a tenant illegally using or permitting the
use of controlled substances on the property.
- Not abuse your right to enter the property for legitimate
reasons; if this right is abused, you have invaded the tenant's privacy.
- Not attempt to evict a tenant without a court order by changing
the locks, terminating utility service or removing the tenant's
A landlord may be liable to a person sustaining injuries in an area over which
the landlord retains control or as a result of failure to maintain and repair
certain basic items as required by law. If there is a written rental agreement,
you, as a landlord, are required to furnish the tenant with your name and
address and the name and address of your agent, if any. If there is an oral
rental agreement, you are required to furnish the same information in writing
to the tenant when the tenant moves in.
What is a rental
A rental agreement or lease is a written or an oral contract between persons. A
properly written agreement will eliminate most of the misunderstandings and
problems that commonly arise between a landlord and a tenant. A rental
agreement benefits and protects both parties, and is an efficient way of
handling a business transaction. Your written agreement may create a tenancy
from week to week, month to month or year to year. For your protection, either
as a landlord or as a tenant, it is usually wise to specify the exact manner in
which the rental agreement may be terminated. If there is no written lease, the
landlord or the tenant may end a week-to-week tenancy by giving the other party
at least seven days notice prior to termination. Both parties may end a
month-to-month oral tenancy by giving the other party at least 30 days notice
prior to the end of the current monthly term.
A landlord may not limit or escape responsibility for legal liability by the
use of contract clauses in a rental agreement signed by the tenant. If such a
clause appears in any rental agreement, it will not be used against the tenant.
Ordinarily, a rental agreement is prepared by the landlord. For this reason,
any doubtful or ambiguous terms are decided against the landlord and in favor
of the tenant.
Under Ohio law, both tenants and landlords may recover damages and reasonable
attorney's fees, in some situations, for the unlawful act of the other party.
How do I get back my
When a tenant moves out at the end of a rental agreement, there are certain
rules for both the tenant and the landlord to follow.
The tenant should surrender the premises in as good condition as they were when
the tenant moved in. This requires the tenant to leave the premises as he or
she found them, making only the repairs needed to restore the premises. The
tenant is not responsible for ordinary wear and tear on the premises. The
tenant must leave a new or forwarding address in writing with the landlord.
After the tenant moves out, any of the tenant's money or property that the
landlord holds as a security deposit can be applied to damages the landlord has
incurred as a result of the tenant's actions. If the landlord deducts any
amount, the deductions must be itemized in writing by the landlord and
delivered together with the balance due to the tenant at the forwarding address
provided by the tenant within 30 days after the tenant has moved.
If the landlord does not comply with this law, the tenant may recover damages
and attorney's fees through a court action. This is one of several instances
where, under Ohio law, tenants and/or landlords may recover damages and reasonable
attorney's fees for the unlawful act of the other party.
Who owns what?
In general, unless otherwise agreed, "fixtures" belong to the
landlord. Fixtures include parts of the building such as sinks, furnaces, water
heaters and other equipment that is either built-in or fastened to the
property. Obviously, anything brought onto the premises by you as a tenant,
which does not become a fixture, belongs to you and may be removed by you at
the termination of the lease.
Do I need an
This information is based on Ohio law and is issued to inform, not to advise.
As a landlord or tenant, you should not try to apply or interpret the law
without the help of an attorney who knows the facts, because the facts may
change the application of the law. Low-income tenants may qualify for free
legal services from legal aid programs, which are available in all Ohio
Reprinted courtesy of the Ohio State Bar Association