Basic Landlord - Tenant Information
Obligation to Pay Rent
A tenant must generally pay all of the rent when it is due or risk eviction for non-payment of rent. If a landlord refuses to accept a partial payment, a late payment, or a payment offered after the start of an eviction, the tenant may still owe rent for the time he or she remains in the property or the duration of the lease. When a tenant moves out he or she must typically return the keys to the landlord to let the landlord know that the tenant no longer has possession of the property. A tenant who keeps the keys may owe rent even if he or she has left the property and removed all belongings.
Rent Deposit/Rent Escrow
While Ohio law requires landlords to keep rental units in habitable condition, a tenant who withholds rent because a property needs repairs risks eviction for non-payment. The law does provide a safe harbor for tenants through the rent deposit/ escrow process. After giving the landlord notice in writing and a reasonable amount of time to fix the problems (30 days or less considering the severity of the condition and the time necessary to fix it), the tenant can deposit the rent with the Clerk of Courts. R.C. 5321.07. Visit the "Rent Escrow Process For Tenants: How to Get Your Landlord to Make Repairs" portion of our website for more information.
Ordinary Wear and Tear
A tenant may be responsible for damage or alterations to the property, but is not responsible for the costs of addressing ordinary wear and tear. R.C.5321.05(A).
Ordinary wear and tear happens with normal use and the passage of time, even if the tenant cleans regularly and takes care of the premises. For example, paint may fade, electrical switches may wear out, pull strings on blinds may fray or break, and carpet and tile may wear down.
Damage may be the result of unreasonable use, accidents, or alterations to the property. Damage can include such things as excessive dirt or mold, stained carpets, broken windows or doors, or holes in walls from hanging pictures or shelving. Because alterations, including paint, may be considered damage, tenants must usually get the landlord’s written permission before making changes that will remain after the tenant’s departure.
Property Damage and Depreciation
If a landlord can prove property damage, for certain items, like carpet, blinds, appliances, the amount awarded will reflect the depreciated value of the property, not the cost of a new replacement. For example, if a landlord proves that the tenant caused damage to a carpet that was 5 years old, but the carpets life expectancy was 10 years, the landlord can recover the value of the remaining useful life, i.e. 5 years, not the amount for brand new carpet.
Refusal of Rent
A landlord’s refusal to accept late rent or a partial payment after service of the 3 Day Notice does not automatically mean that the tenant no longer owes the landlord that rent money. A landlord can accept back rent and continue with the eviction proceeding. However, if a landlord accepts rent, even partial rent, for the period the Three Day Notice to Vacate cites as the cause for eviction, the case can be dismissed.
Burden of proof
As a landlord or tenant you must prove your case to win. The burden of proof in landlord-tenant cases is proof by “a preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the landlord must show that it is more likely than not that he/she is entitled to a judgment.
For example, for an eviction case, the landlord must typically prove (1) that he/she owns the property or has a right to lease it, (2) that there was a breach of lease (typically, that rent was unpaid) (3) a proper 3 day notice was served; (4) that no current rent was accepted after service of the 3 Day Notice; (5) the tenant has not moved out and returned the keys to the property to the landlord. The tenant may defend against these claims, with evidence, but is not required to do so. The same burden of proof applies to other types of landlord-tenant claims, as well as a tenant’s counterclaims against a landlord.
The amount claimed in the complaint for property damage may be an estimate. Parties sometimes estimate damages because the complaint is filed before they have had a chance to fully inspect the property. However, a dollar amount in a claim for damages must be included in a complaint for money damages to be awarded. Before receiving a judgment from the Court, a party must prove the actual amount of damages.
Duty to Mitigate Damages by Re-renting
If a tenant breaches a lease by leaving before the lease is up, the landlord may recover for the remaining months, even if the tenant no longer lives in the property. For example, if a tenant signs a lease for one year, stops paying rent after five months, and is evicted, the tenant may still be responsible for the rent for the remaining seven months left on the lease. But the landlord must show a reasonable effort to find a new tenant for the unit. Such effort may include posting signs, advertising, and/or showing the property.
Disclaimer: This information is meant to be for educational purposes only; it is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions about how this information applies, please consult an attorney.