Tenants rights when being evicted

By Alicia Finch, Editor-in-Chief

Being evicted from a rental property can be a stressful process. It is important for a renter to get a written agreement signed by both parties, and to know what type of lease—whether house or apartment—is being signed.

Arne Englehart owns five properties near UA’s campus and has rented to UA students for 20 years.

Englehart said the most common cause for his tenants’ eviction was breaking the lease, committing a crime, or not paying rent.

In Ohio, a landlord must give a “Notice to Leave the Premises.” This notice tells the tenant that they are to move out; however, a tenant does not have to move only based on this notice. A tenant does not legally have to move until the eviction lawsuit is filed and the court orders it.

The landlord cannot file the lawsuit until three days after giving the notice to the tenant. After this is filed the tenant then receives a summons and complaint from the courts.

Lacking a written lease, a tenant can still be protected under Ohio Landlord-tenant law.

With a lease, a tenant is more protected, and can stay in the home until the landlord claims that the lease has been violated or that a legal obligation has been broken. A 30-day notice ending tenancy will be served along with court summon papers. This court date can be set in as little as seven days after receiving the summons or complaint.

The tenant should also receive two copies of the lawsuit filed; one by mail and the other by certified mail, personal (hand delivered) service, or by leaving it at the residence.

Tenants should attend this court date; if the tenant believes they did nothing wrong, this is the tenant’s one chance to stand up for themselves. It is advised by the Ohio Legal Services to bring a people to speak on the tenant’s behalf.

As a renter, eviction from premises can make it harder to find housing to rent in the future. Ohio Legal Services advises a tenant—as soon as they receive a notice—to work things out with the landlord and get the agreement in writing, and also to take it to court to let the courts know the eviction has been settled.

There is no requirement for a lease to be written in the state of Ohio. Oral agreements are valid; however, it is recommended that a tenant get a written document or lease agreement that states exactly what a tenant’s responsibility is.

According to Ohio Legal Services, “probably the most common exclusion is that a landlord may not use the lease to take the duties placed on the landlord and transfer them to a tenant.”

Tenant’s responsibilities are normally written in the lease agreement, if one is provided, and should include: the length of time tenant is renting the property, due date of the rent, the amount of the rent, a grace period (usually a five day period to be late on rent, but not required), late fees with the amount and date they apply, and information on who pays for utilities.

Leases normally contain much more information that a tenant should carefully read before signing the rental agreement.

If there is no written lease, the renter still has the right to ask for something in writing, but the landlord legally does not have to provide a tenant with any written document. If the landlord provides a written lease agreement, the tenant has to sign in order to rent the property.

Whether the landlord fulfills the duties responsible to rent a property, tenants are advised to not withhold rent.

Although it puts the tenant at risk of eviction, the tenant can file the “escrow process” on the landlord. This is a legal process designed to make landlords fulfill certain duties to their rental properties.

When rent is late, the landlord may accept it past the grace period; however, tenants should get a written agreement that it is being accepted as “current” rent. This will make for a defense in court, if needed. If the landlord refuses rental payment, that landlord probably intends to file for eviction.

Upon leaving a rental property, tenants should make sure that the keys are returned to the proper landlord or office. Upon completion of moving, papers are signed stating the tenant has vacated the premises.

“If the tenant does not vacate and take their belongings out themselves, we then call a bailiff to come remove the belongings,” said Matt Ganska, leasing consultant at University Edge.

In the event of an eviction, tenants should contact the Ohio Legal Aid office toll free at 1-866-59-6466 or online at <www.ohiolegalservices.org/programs> for help. A lawyer to represent the tenant in court is helpful. Although Ohio Legal Aid’s advice is free, not every person is entitled to a lawyer.

Tips to prevent eviction:

  • Pay rent by the time of the date it is due.
  • If notice is given because of damages that the tenant caused, offer to fix the damage caused to the property, if one wants to stay. Get a written agreement.
  • Try to make a payment plan with the landlord if behind on rent before the three days pass.
  • With a 24-hour notice, the landlord can stop by and walk right into the rental property. Make sure that no laws are being violated.
  • Do not disrupt other tenants.
  • Even if a tenant has violated the lease agreement, he or she must make sure the landlord has not violated the lease by law—this may be able to help stop the eviction.
  • If a tenant needs more time to move,  he or she should tell the landlord and try to agree on a date to move out that is best for the tenant and landlord. This way the landlord does not file the eviction case and the tenant can avoid the eviction lawsuit on the tenants record.

Some defenses to an eviction can include:

  • A landlord refuses tenant’s rent (tenant may need a witness to prove this unless landlord admits refusing the payment).
  • A tenant paid all or part of the rent after the three-day “Notice to Leave the Premises.”
  • A landlord did not give the “Notice to Leave the Premises.”
  • Tenant paid some or part of the rent and the landlord accepted it.
  • Discrimination against race, sex, disability, religion, color, etc.

This information provided by The Buchtelite above is not intended as legal advice.