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Your landlord must give you at least 24 hours notice before entering your apartment, unless it is an emergency or you give the O.K.

Getting Things Fixed

At the first sign of trouble, WRITE the landlord about what needs repaired. Keep a copy of your letter. Contact Wood County Health District - (419) 352-8402 and request an inspection for housing code violations. If problems persist, you may be able to escrow your rent with the court or terminate the lease. Also, check out our tenant letters section.

Security Deposits

Photograph/Video document your apartment on the first day you move in and on the last day you're there. Clean your place before you leave. Leave your keys and a written forwarding address. Your landlord has 30 days to return your monies after you have given the apartment back to them. You are not liable, as a tenant, for normal wear and tear! Get the security deposit letter here:  Security Deposit Letter

Jump to a Section:
Renter's Insurance | Housing Inspections | House Safety
Avoiding Roommate Conflicts | 21 Tips for Tenants

 

Renter's Insurance

  • It is NOT your landlord's responsibility to cover the cost of your belongings or to pay for items that are damaged or stolen by others. If you want to be sure you are covered, you should purchase renter's insurance.
  • First, check with your parent's Insurance Agent, many home owner insurance policies provide coverage to children temporarily living away from home. If you are not covered, then call several agents to get quotes on coverage.
  • There are many types of renter's insurance; make sure you get the amount of protection you think you'll need. Some policies will protect from fire, theft, AND flood, while others will limit your payments to certain types of losses. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT TYPE OF PROTECTION YOU ARE GETTING.
  • Some more expensive policies will pay to replace your belongings, while others will give you the cash value of an item at the time it was destroyed. For example, replacement insurance will pay for a new television, while fair market insurance will give you the value of the television at the time it was destroyed.
  • Certain types of renter's insurance also pay for the cost of personal injury on the rental property.

Housing Inspections

If a polite call or letter to your landlord doesn't remedy a housing complaint, a confidential inspection by the Wood County Health District [(419) 352-8402] may be the answer. Make sure you ask the health inspector to provide you with a copy of the notice he sends to the landlord if he finds any violations.

House Safety

Know where the fire extinguishers are and make sure they are in working condition. Make sure their charge has not expired. Check smoke detectors monthly. If you use natural gas, your house should have a carbon monoxide detector. Lock doors at night. When leaving for long weekends and breaks, secure all valuables. Purchase renter's insurance to protect your belongings.

Avoiding Roommate Conflicts

Conflict is inevitable. Deal with it in healthy ways. Consider mediation to resolve disputes. Make out an alternating weekly chore list. Live with people you know well and trust. Respect other's possessions. Disrespect of one another is the fastest way to an argument.

21 Tips For Tenants

By following these 21 simple steps, you may be able to avoid legal problems later.

  1. In shopping for a place to live: Go to the Wood County Health District (410) 352-8402 and review their file on the address you are considering. Check with the utility company to determine previous winters' heating. Talk with current/ prior tenants of the landlord you are considering.
  2. Read your lease. Any provision of your lease that conflicts with the landlord-tenant law is not enforceable.
  3. Don't agree to an oral modification of a written lease. Write all modifications down and sign with the landlord.
  4. Avoid "shared utilities systems". (Several apartments and one electric/water, etc. bill)
  5. Do not pay rent in cash. Get receipts.
  6. To increase chances of getting your security deposit back, photograph/video-tape/document the condition of the apartment when you move in and when you move out.
  7. Contact your landlord IN WRITING at the first sign of condition problems in your apartment. (check out our tenant letters section)
  8. Make a copy of everything you send the landlord. Keep everything you receive from the landlord.
  9. Don't argue with your landlord, nor write in haste or anger.
  10. Be a good neighbor. Respect yourself and others.
  11. Don't accept legal advice from your landlord.
  12. Meet all your legal obligations: Keep your apartment safe and sanitary, get rid of garbage in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner, use appliances properly, prevent others from damaging your place, don't disturb your neighbors, don't unreasonably withhold consent for your landlord to enter your place.
  13. Recycle, Reduce and Reuse.
  14. When you move out, leave a written forwarding address for your ex-landlord. (check out our tenant letters section)
  15. If your landlord fails to repair a problem that materially affects your health and safety, you may be able to escrow your next rent with the court instead of your landlord. You must be current in your rent payment and you must have given written notice about the problem to your landlord.
  16. Seek help at the first sign of a problem.
  17. Register and vote in local elections.
  18. Try not to rent from your employer or work for your landlord.
  19. Landlords must give reasonable notice, presumed to be 24 hours, to the tenant before entering the apartment. This notice doesn't apply in emergencies.
  20. If problems arise between housemates or your landlord, consider mediation as a way to resolve the conflict.
  21. Know where the fire extinguishers are and make sure they are in working condition. Check smoke detectors monthly.

Jump to a Section:
What is a Security Deposit? | Preventative Measures | Moving In | Moving Out
Deductions from Deposits | Legal Remedies | The Strongly Worded Letter | Small Claims Court
Preparing for Trial | Know Your Rights
 

What is a Security Deposit?

In any rental situation, your landlord will probably ask you to pay an amount of money above your first month's rent to cover any unpaid rent or damages you might cause during your tenancy. According to Ohio law, this "security deposit" is officially defined as "any deposit of money or property to secure performance by the tenant under a rental agreement." A landlord is permitted to request a security deposit of any size, but in general they are equal to one month's rent. If your landlord asks for more than a single month's rent and keeps your deposit for more than six months, the landlord must pay you interest on the amount that exceeds one month's rent.

Preventative Measures

The law is very specific about what a landlord may withhold from your security deposit. Unfortunately, some landlords keep this money illegally. They are counting on the fact that you will move from town or will be too busy and discouraged to pursue the matter. Early preparation is the best way to make sure that this does not happen to you.

Moving In

When moving into your apartment or house, you should take the following steps:

  1. Inspect the residence with someone over the age of 18 who can be your witness. Try to find an unbiased witness, someone other than a friend, relative, or previous tenant of the residence. If possible, invite your landlord for the inspection as well.
  2. Make a written list of all defects. Student Legal Services, Inc.has rental inspection forms that include all the items that you should check both inside and outside the residence. Give a copy to your landlord and keep a copy for your own records.
  3. Take pictures or video tape all the defects in the apartment. During the year, pay rent on time and keep your receipts. Never pay with cash. Additionally, you should always inform your landlord of any items that break immediately. Make no more than one oral request for these repairs and make a copy of all written correspondence with your landlord.

Moving Out

When you move out you should make sure that you take the following steps:

  1. Make sure the residence is clean, including ovens and refrigerators.
  2. Remove all of your property and leave the residence in a condition suitable for a new tenant to move in.
  3. Upon moving out, go through the apartment again with a witness (ideally, the same one as before) and, if possible, with your landlord.
  4. Make another list of damages and take pictures or video tape again.
  5. Leave your keys with the landlord. If you give your keys to anyone else, including the new tenant, you might be charged for lock changes.
  6. Ohio law requires you to send your landlord a forwarding address in writing. This step is legally very important if you need to take your landlord to court later, because it allows you to sue for double damages, or twice the amount of your security deposit. You should also consider sending the letter by certified mail, so that your landlord cannot deny receiving it. (Check out our Tenant Letters section.)
  7. You must take all of these steps to get the full protection of security deposit law.

Deductions from Deposits

Upon receiving your forwarding address, a landlord has 30 days to either return your deposit or give you an itemized list of what was withheld. If part or all of your security deposit was kept, the itemized list must be a detailed list of exactly what was withheld. Some landlords fail to provide any account of fees that are withheld or use vague terms like "cleaning fees" or "misc. costs." You have a right to know exactly what your security deposit is being spent on. Here are some common reasons that landlords cite for keeping your security deposit:

  1. Cleaning fees - According to Ohio Law, tenants are not responsible for normal "wear and tear" on a residence. You cannot be held accountable for cleaning costs unless the cleaning required is excessive or constitutes some sort of damage. For example, you cannot be charged for carpet cleaning, unless you damaged the carpet. Also, the landlord cannot keep money on the premise that cleaning will be done. Talk to the tenants who moved in after you to see if cleaning was actually done.
  2. Unpaid rent/Late fees - A landlord can keep any amount of rent you have not paid. Keep receipts, cancelled checks, and NEVER PAY WITH CASH! Some leases have a clause that allows them to charge fees if your rent payment was late. However, you cannot be charged late fees if your rent was mailed on time and the postal service was slow. If a large amount of late fees has been withheld from your deposit, you might be able to argue that these costs are punitive and therefore illegitimate.
  3. Damage to the apartment/house - A landlord can rightfully withhold any money for damages that tenants cause to the apartment or house. This does not include items like roof repair, broken plumbing (unless tenants broke it), peeling paint/wallpaper, or previous damage. If you fail to tell your landlord immediately about a situation that causes additional damage, a leaking roof that leads to wood rotting for example, you may be held accountable. If repairs are not made and your money is kept, you maybe entitled to sue. When estimates are used to determine how much money will be kept, tenants should assess how reasonable these estimates are. In general, it does not cost $5,000 to replace a door hinge!
  4. Missing keys - You must return all the keys you were issued at the beginning of your tenancy to your landlord, otherwise lock change charges can be assessed. Check your lease to see if there is a specific number of keys listed.
  5. Supplies - Occasionally, a landlord will attempt to keep deposit money for items like light bulbs or batteries for smoke detectors. Unless your lease specifically states that tenants are required to supply these items, the landlord is responsible.
  6. Waste Disposal - Tenants are responsible for the removal or cleanup of excessive amounts of waste left behind at the end of a tenancy. This includes furniture that a tenant left behind or trash outside in the yard. Your landlord should be explicit in telling you what "trash" you are being charged to remove.

Legal Remedies

If your deposit has been taken unfairly, you should not be discouraged; getting it back is easier than you might think. Tenants who feel that part or all of their security deposit has been improperly withheld have several ways to resolve such a dispute. Ohio Law allows tenants to sue their landlord for the return of the security deposit and possibly recover:

  1. the original amount of the security deposit, and
  2. additional damages equal to the amount of the deposit which was wrongfully withheld, and
  3. reasonable attorney's fees.
     

This law can serve as a powerful incentive for a landlord to return a security deposit without going to trial.

The Strongly Worded Letter

The first step in getting back your security deposit is both effective and easy to do on your own. Some landlords will keep your security deposit hoping that you will do nothing, but will return or negotiate with you if threatened with legal action. First, try writing your landlord a letter explaining which parts of your security deposit you believe were wrongly withheld. Do not exaggerate your claim or ask that money that was properly withheld be returned; use your best, honest judgment of what you are owed. You should remind the landlord in this letter that Ohio Revised Code allows you to recover twice the amount he has wrongfully withheld. Tell your landlord to contact you immediately, and give a contact address or phone number, so that you can remedy the situation. You should make it clear that if the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction, you might be forced to pursue the matter in court. Send your letter by registered mail, keep a copy for yourself, and also send a copy to Student Legal Services, Inc. Inform your landlord in the letter that you have contacted the Student Legal Services, Inc regarding the matter. (Check out our Tenant Letters section.)

Small Claims Court

If your letter is ignored or your landlord refuses to return to you the amount you think you're owed, the next step will be to pursue the matter in court. If the amount of money in question is less than $3,000, you will be able to sue your landlord in small claims court. Call Student Legal Services, Inc. and set up an appointment to see one of our lawyers. Bring all of the correspondence with your landlord to the meeting. Try to find out the names of the current tenants in case you need them as witnesses.

Preparing for Trial

Student Legal Services, Inc. can help you to plan the specifics of your case or may give you actual representation in court.

Here are some general tips on what you can do to prepare for trial:

  1. Be organized.
  2. Review in your mind what you will say in court.
  3. Tell your story in the order in which events occurred and stick to the facts.
  4. Bring with you all the materials that will support your case such as receipts, bills, canceled checks, warranties, and any other evidence relative to your dispute.

Know your rights!

As you can see, getting your security deposit back is not as hard as you might think. Some Bowling Green landlords have grown complacent with the fact that students will not pursue matters regarding security deposits. By taking action and empowering yourself, you will improve the situation for generations of students to come. 

  1. Notice of remedy condition letter
    The law requires your landlord to maintain your home in a safe, decent, sanitary, and livable way. At the first sign of a problem in your home, call the landlord and send this letter. To create legal options, tenants must notify their landlords about problems IN WRITING! There are two versions provided for you. Use the one you prefer.
    Conditions Letter 1 (pdf)
    Conditions Letter 2 (pdf)
  2. Violation of privacy letter
    This letter can be used if your landlord has made an illegal entry into your home. The law generally requires the landlord to give you 24 hours notice of coming into your home!
    Violation of Privacy Letter. (pdf)
  3. Security deposit letter
    Give your landlord, IN WRITING, your forwarding address when you move out. Once you have left, the landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit. If you don't get all of it back, the landlord must send an itemized statement regarding the deductions. If you paid more then one month's rent for your security deposit, you should receive interest on the amount that is greater than your security deposit. There are two versions provided for your convenience.
    Security Deposit Letter 1 (pdf)
  4. Sublease agreement and approval
    Standard forms for you to use for subleasing.
    Sublease Agreement Form. (pdf)
    Sublease Approval Form. (pdf)
  5. Notice of illegal entry
    Form letter for you to use for illegal entry of landlord.
    Notice of Illegal Entry Letter. (pdf)
  6. Notice of intent to breach contract
    Another form letter to inform your landlord that you will be breaching your rental agreement.
    Notice of Intent to Breach Contract. (pdf)
  7. Notice of neighbor's interference
    Letter to landlord notifying him or her that the neighbors are hindering your stay at your place.
    Notice of Neighbor's Interference. (pdf)

 

To your landlord the most important thing about you, as a tenant, is that you pay rent on time.

It is a mistake to pay in cash, but if you do, make sure you get a receipt each time you pay the rent. Do not agree to have a receipt sent to you by mail. If you pay by check or money order, keep your cancelled check or your copy of the money order which will prove you paid the rent. Besides paying your rent on time, you have other legal obligations as a tenant. In general, you must avoid damaging the apartment. Specifically you must:

  1. Keep your apartment or house safe and sanitary.
  2. Dispose of trash and garbage in a sanitary manner.
  3. Keep all appliances that the landlord provides in good working order.
  4. Keep the electrical and plumbing fixtures clean and use them properly.
  5. Not damage the apartment or permit your guests or visitors to do so.
  6. Not disturb other tenants.
  7. Except with good reason, permit your landlord to enter your apartment if you get at least 24 hours notice.
  8. Make certain that you, your family or guests do not violate Ohio's drug laws.

You are responsible to your landlord for any damage you cause that is "beyond normal wear and tear." Your landlord can take the money out of your security deposit when you move out and sue you for additional damages. However, you are not responsible for normal wear and tear (for example, walls that routinely need to be repainted, or plumbing fixtures that break down because of long use). Your landlord can ask a judge to evict you if you do not perform your obligations.

To evict you for violation of one of those obligations, you must receive written notice of the violation. If you do not remedy the condition within 30 days, your landlord can begin an eviction action in court. If you make repairs to the apartment, your landlord will not be required to pay you for the work you did except according to a written agreement or if you can convince the Court that he made a promise to pay you.

The relationship between landlord and tenant is ideally friendly. Usually, the tenant makes a verbal request that repairs be made and the landlord responds quickly. However, sometimes problems can occur in this process. The following information is for the use of those tenants who have decided that rent escrowing is the only way their landlord will make the necessary repairs.

The following are the necessary steps you need to take to escrow your rent.

Step 1: Define Your Problem
Step 2: Notice to Remedy Conditions
Step 3: Request an Inspection
Step 4: Depositing Your Rent in Escrow
Step 5: Going to Court

Step 1: Define Your Problem

Your landlord has many obligations under the law and your lease. Problems which you have the right to demand be solved by your landlord are of several types. Your landlord is required to maintain the property in a fit, habitable, safe and sanitary condition. Your landlord must maintain the property, as required by applicable building, housing, health and safety codes. Your landlord must adhere to all requirements of your lease.

Some Examples of Problems:

  • Insufficient heat
  • Plumbing problems
  • Garbage/rubbish collection facilities
  • Dangerous stairways or steps
  • Furnished appliances that do not work

Step 2: Notice to remedy conditions

You must give your landlord a written "Notice to Remedy Conditions." The written notice must be delivered to your landlord at least 30 days before you put any rent into an escrow. If you pay your rent in person, you may hand deliver the original "Notice to Remedy Conditions" when you pay your rent to your landlord. It would be wise to have a witness there when you do this. If you pay your rent by mail, send it Certified Mail--Return Receipt Requested. Several days after mailing the Notice you will receive the receipt in the mail. Do not lose it! It is your proof that you sent the notice and your landlord received it.

The "Notice to Remedy Conditions" informs your landlord of what things need to be done. It must be clear and specific. It must have enough detail so that the landlord and the court will be able to understand exactly when you are complaining about.

Step 3: Request and Inspection - Gather and Document Your Evidence

Photograph or video tape any of the problems that you have given "Notice" on. Try to keep a record of the date you took this picture or video. Problems that do not photograph or video tape well, such as inefficient heat, electrical outlets that do not work, or no water pressure, are proven with witnesses. Have a friend, eighteen or older witness the problem.

Both types of problems should be reported to an appropriate government agency. If you request an inspection by Wood County Health Department [(419)352-8402], you will be able to obtain a report from them which will be valuable to prove existence of the problem you notified your landlord about.

If you live in Bowling Green contact Wood County Health District at (419) 352-8402.

Step 4: Depositing Your Rent In Escrow

After thirty days from the date you gave "Notice" to your landlord, you may deposit your rent with the Clerk of Court. Get the Rent escrow form here. Do not deposit your rent if everything you gave Notice about has been fixed, but if anything that you gave Notice about is still not fixed , you have the right to pay your rent to the Clerk of Court.The Clerk of Court will give you a form to fill out: Application by Tenant to Deposit rent with the Clerk of Court. After you have filled out that application, the Clerk will accept your rent payment and give you a receipt. The clerk does accept personal checks.

After that, every time your rent is due, you should pay it to the Clerk of Court. You will not have to fill out the application after the first time. Each time you pay the the Clerk of Court, you will receive a receipt. Save the receipts.

If your landlord fixes everything you gave Notice about, you may resume paying your rent in the normal manner. You may also instruct the Clerk of Court to pay all the rent you deposited with the Clerk to your landlord.

The Clerk's address is: Clerk of Court, Bowling Green Municipal Court, 711 Dunbridge Rd., Bowling Green, Ohio 43402.

Step 5: Going to Court

Your landlord may ask the court to release your rent from escrow. Your landlord will be required to prove to the Court that the money should be released; all you have to show the Court is that the repairs have not been made. There are a limited number of reasons that the Court will accept as sufficient to justify giving your deposited rent money to your landlord.

They are:

  • The problem(s) complained about have been fixed
  • The tenant did not give the notice required
  • The tenant was not current in rent payments when the rent was deposited with the Clerk of Courts
  • The problem complained about was not a violation of the Ohio-Tenant-Landlord Law, and was not a requirement of the lease
  • The problem was a result of an act of the tenant
  • The tenant acted in bad faith

In court, you will be given an opportunity to tell your version of why you decided to escrow your rent. You can win, it's not hard. You may call or subpoena witnesses. You may ask questions of anyone who testifies for your landlord to help make the situation clear to the judge. You may represent yourself, however it may be wise to seek help from an attorney. If you have an attorney, you are all set. If you do not have an attorney, you can call us at 372-2951.

The landlord must:

  1. Supply the tenant in writing with the landlord's name and address.
  2. Make the house or apartment comply with all building, housing, and health codes which significantly affect health and safety.
  3. Make all repairs necessary to make the house or apartment livable.
  4. Supply running water, reasonable amounts of hot water and heat at all times.
  5. Keep all hallways and stairways safe and sanitary.
  6. Provide garbage cans (for four or more units in the same building).
  7. Give tenant at least 24 hours notice before entering the apartment. A landlord cannot walk in for any reason. Except for an emergency, a tenant may refuse to admit the landlord if proper notice has not been given.
  8. 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.

There are several things that landlords are prohibited by law from doing:

  1. A landlord cannot do anything to prevent a tenant from exercising rights. The landlord may not increase rent, decrease services, bring, or even threaten to bring an eviction because a tenant participated in a tenant's union, contacted the Wood County Health District Office at (419) 352-8402, or sought advice from SLS.
  2. A landlord is not permitted to shut off any utilities, change the locks on any apartment or threaten any of these acts in order to make a tenant move out of an apartment.
  3. A landlord cannot harass a tenant by repeatedly demanding to enter an apartment or by entering at unreasonable times of the day.
  4. A landlord is not permitted to remove any property belonging to a tenant from a dwelling without a proper court order. Even if a tenant is behind in paying rent, a landlord has no right to do any of the things listed in this section. If the landlord does anyway, the tenant should consult SLS.