Residential Tenant Rights

How can I get out of my residential rental lease in Ohio?

  • As a tenant in Ohio, you may find yourself in a position where you need to get out of your lease. There could be an issue with the property and your landlord either refuses to fix the problem, or you just can’t get a response from them. You could also find yourself having to move out before your lease expires. Whether you are moving for a job or buying a house. I can help you avoid large fees for breaking your lease.

My landlord refuses to fix serious issues with the property. Is there a way to get out of my lease without paying any penalties or risk getting an eviction on my record?

  • Yes. In Ohio, there is a process called constructive eviction. Basically, the tenant can remove themselves from the property and legally break the lease if the landlord fails to perform certain obligations laid out by Ohio law.

How does constructive eviction work?

  • Your landlord has several obligations according to Ohio law. If they violate one of the obligations, you may have the ability to remove yourself from the property.
    • They must comply with building, housing, health, and safety codes that materially affect health and safety
    • Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the property in a fit and habitable condition
    • Keep all common areas of the property in a safe and sanitary condition.
    • 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.
    • If they have a structure that has four or more rental agreements, they must provide receptacles for the removal of garbage and waste.
    • Supply running water, reasonable amounts of hot water, and reasonable heat at all times.
    • Not the abuse the right of access to the property for reasons of repairs.
    • Unless it is an emergency, give the tenant reasonable notice of the landlord’s intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times.
  • If you find that your landlord has violated one of these obligations, you must give them a written notice that specifies the problem.
  • If the landlord receives the notice and fails to fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time, you have three options. IMPORTANT: YOU MUST BE CURRENT ON YOUR RENT PAYMENTS AT THIS TIME.
    • You can deposit your rent into escrow at your local municipal court.
    • You can place your rent into escrow and ask the court for an order telling the landlord to fix the problem. You can also ask the court for permission to use the rent money to fix the problem on your own.
    • You can choose to terminate the lease.
  • What happens if I choose to terminate my lease?
    • Your attorney would send a written notice to the landlord that they failed to fix the problem and that you will be moving out of the property by a particular date.
    • Once you move out, the lease is terminated. You will not be able to move back in once you leave. The landlord will be free to enter into a lease with another tenant.
    • It’s important to note that your landlord could choose to be petty and file to evict you. However, if you took all proper steps, this case would very likely get dismissed in court.

What happens if I want to break my lease but my landlord hasn’t done anything wrong?

  • This generally happens when someone finds a new job or they find themselves buying a house quicker than they anticipated. Don’t let the fear of breaking your lease prevent you from taking a new job or buying a new house.
    • A lease is a contract, so you are held responsible for what you signed. However, an attorney can help reduce the money you owe if you decide to move out early.
  • Your landlord can’t keep charging you rent if they have filled your rental. This would be a windfall. Meaning, they would be charging you rent and the person who moves into that apartment. They can’t earn double the rent for just one rental. Your landlord also needs to do their due diligence to try and fill the apartment. For example, they just can’t leave the rental vacant if there is demand for it.

What is a liquidated damages clause in my rental lease?

  • These are clauses that state you will owe a fixed amount of money if you decide to break your lease. They are often an amount equal to one month’s rent. Generally, the landlord puts this in the lease to try and prevent you from breaking your lease.
    • Example: Your landlord has a liquidated damages clause in the lease that states you will owe $1500 if you break your 1 year lease. After 6 months, you find a new job in another city and you have to break your lease. The landlord will demand that you have to pay $1500 because you are leaving the property earlier than you signed on for.

If I break my lease, will I have to pay liquidated damages?

  • Most likely, NO. Liquidated damages clauses are very common in residential leases. However, most of these clauses are unenforceable. Ohio law states that these liquidated damages clauses are unenforceable if they are used a penalty or punishment and for breaking a lease. Additionally, they need to be difficult to calculate before the lease is signed.
    • In Ohio leases, these are almost always used as punishments. They are not based on anything other than a random number, usually one month’s rent. This random number shows that they are just used as a penalty. In addition, these damages are very easy to calculate. It usually just costs a minimal fee to post the opening on a rental website. The landlord generally doesn’t have to go out of their way to re-rent the property. Additionally, if it does cost them a small fee, that can be deducted from the security deposit.

Can I tell my landlord to remove the clause before I sign the lease?

  • You can. However, most leases are generally take it or leave it. Meaning, sign it or find another place to live. Residential tenants have very little bargaining power in rental leases. Especially in Columbus, Ohio, where the rental market is in very high demand.

Are liquidated damages clauses in residential leases legal?

  • In most cases, no. Most liquidated damages clauses in residential leases are unenforceable.

Why do landlords put them in the lease if they are unenforceable?

  • They do this to try and prevent you from breaking your lease.

How do I avoid paying them?

  • You need to call an experienced attorney to help you avoid paying these liquidated damages clauses. An attorney will look at the lease to make sure the liquidated damages clause is unenforceable.

Can I expunge or seal an eviction in Ohio?

  • Yes. You can apply to have your eviction sealed. The landlord has to approve, but generally, they don’t care anymore because you’re not their problem anymore.

What’s the process to seal an eviction in Ohio?

  • An attorney can file an application in the local municipal court. Your attorney will get in touch with the landlord’s attorney and negotiate their willingness. Once this happens, the court will set the matter for a hearing. Once the magistrate grants the application, the clerk of court will seal the record.

How does the eviction get removed off of my credit report?

  • Once the clerk of court seals the eviction, your attorney can call the credit bureaus and have them update their records.

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