Some rights and responsibilities of renters and landlords go unknown

Christina Stavale

Under Ohio law, landlords and tenants of any rented property must be aware of certain obligations.

Carol Crimi, senior staff attorney for Student Legal Services, said the Ohio Landlord and Tenant Act, which includes a statement of these obligations, was created to even the playing field between landlords and tenants.

Landlord rights include the rights to:

• Have the property returned in the same condition it was in when rented

• Evict tenants who have not paid rent or have broken conditions they previously agreed on

• Rent the property for any amount desired

• Refuse to rent the property to someone as long as the conditions do not conflict with Ohio law

Landlord obligations include:

• Keeping the premises in livable, sanitary and safe conditions

• Maintaining good working condition of utilities

• Supplying reasonable amounts of hot water and heat

• Not abusing his or her right to enter the property

• Not attempting to evict tenants by changing locks, terminating utility service or removing tenants’ belongings

Crimi said one right most student tenants are unaware of is the right to receive their security deposit after the lease is up. The landlord may only withhold money if tenants have caused damage beyond ordinary wear and tear or not paid the full rent. It is the tenant’s responsibility to send a written request for the security deposit to the landlord with a return address.

An important tenant obligation, Crimi said, is to be responsible for guests’ behavior.

“If you have a party and people start busting up stuff, you’ll be responsible, most likely,” she said.

Students may not know that landlords have the right to enter the property with adequate notice, which Crimi said is usually 24 hours in advance. However, the landlord must have a valid reason for entry, such as to repair something or present the property to prospective buyers.

According to a pamphlet from the Ohio State Bar Association about tenant and landlord rights and obligations, some tenants’ rights include the rights to privacy, to have repairs made in 30 days or fewer and to complain if living conditions affect health and safety. They also have the right to escrow the rent – withholding the next monthly payment and depositing it with the county court – if repairs are not made within one months’ time.

A tenant’s obligations to the landlord include complying with health and safety measures, disposing of garbage, preventing illegal drug use on the property, keeping plumbing devices clean and keeping guests from damaging the premises.

Crimi said students are very split on their compliance with these rights and obligations.

“Some take very good care (of their apartments),” she said, “and for others, it’s pretty questionable.”

Contact news correspondent Christina Stavale at [email protected].