This post is directed to the many “do-it-yourselfers” in the residential leasing market. This post is not meant to help the large, multi-dwelling landlords with full-time management and legal staffs. No, this is for the guy who gets transferred to another city and decides to rent out that house or condo in his current location rather than deal with market, or those budding real estate mogulists who’ve squirreled away money from their day job to have acquired 3 or 4 properties rented around town. These are the landlords that will most likely deal directly with tenants, and those that are least prepared to do so, considering their skills lie in engineering, or medicine, or building decks, or anything besides leasing residential housing. So here is a quick checklist for those who play landlord on the weekends:
1) Make sure to reduce the lease agreement to writing if the tenancy period is going to last over a year. You should always reduce your agreements to writing in order to prove the deal anyway, but oral tenancies lasting longer than a year are not even enforceable.
2) Never threaten to physically remove the tenant or lock the tenant out of the premises, even if they have failed to pay rent. Self-help is completely illegal in Ohio. Even if you can do so peacefully, you are never allowed to personally dispossess the tenant from the premises. The only legal way to evict a residential tenant in Ohio is through the statutory procedures proscribed in O.R.C. Sec. 2913, and the eviction must be sanctioned by a court in all circumstances.
3) You have a duty to keep the premises in a safe and habitable condition. This duty is not negotiable and you cannot shift this duty to the tenant, even in exchange for lower rent. It is ultimately the responsibility of the landlord to ensure the premises is up to building, housing and health codes, and at all times remains in habitable condition
4) Never retaliate against a tenant should they report code violations. You could be open to damages and attorneys fees if the court finds that you initiated eviction proceedings in retaliation for the tenants reporting alleged code violations.
5) Make sure to carry-out each duty the law requires of you under the Landlord-Tenant Act (O.R.C. Sec 5321). Most of the duties are self-evident and require only that you conduct yourself with basic human decency in the leasing of property, but you should look them over nonetheless.
6) If you intend to evict the tenant for the non-payment of rent or other default, make sure you provide the required Three-Day notice to vacate, required under state law before you do anything else. Do not file the eviction action in court until you have first provided the tenant with a notice to vacate, and then have waited at least three days. The court will lack jurisdiction to hear the eviction action unless the tenant is given the notice.