Basic Eviction Rules In Ohio. A Primer For Landlords
PUBLISHERS NOTE: It seems like several of my recent divorce cases have ended with my client receiving rental property as part of the property settlement. Those individuals now finds themselves “learning how to become a landlord”. So, while not exactly in the usual scope of the Ohio Family Law Blog, this primer written by Attorney Joseph Balmer at Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues seems quite worthwhile.
Should one get into the landlord-tenant business and stick with it long enough, one will probably, at some point, have to deal with evicting a tenant. With respect to this area, there are certain basic rules in Ohio that you must know.
3 Basic Eviction Rules In Ohio
First, most landlords know that it is good common sense for a landlord to set up as a corporation or a limited liability company and then transfer the rental property into the business entity. This is so that if there is ever an accident on the property or a dispute, the landlord’s personal assets are protected. However, if the landlord is a corporation or an LLC, the business entity cannot represent itself in court for an eviction. In Ohio, a corporation or an LLC must be represented in court by an attorney in an eviction action.
Second, in Ohio, with respect to residential property, self-help is strictly prohibited. If a tenant fails to pay his or her rent, you cannot just change the locks and retake possession of the property. You must go through an eviction action. Also, if a tenant fails to pay rent or violates some other term of the lease, you cannot turn off the tenant’s utilities. You will get sued and you will lose.
Third, depending on your ultimate goal, the type of service you request or get on delivering the eviction complaint upon the tenant is critical in pursuing damages. Most eviction complaints have two branches; one requesting restitution or possession of the premises and a second requesting monetary damages. If your main goal is to get the tenant out of the property, residential service or posting the complaint at the property is considered good service. However, if you intend to pursue monetary damages, you have to prove that the tenant actually received the complaint and will probably have to pay a process server to track down the tenant and serve the complaint upon them.
Finally, what if a tenant appears to have moved out but has left possessions behind? My view is that unless they have turned the keys over to you, if there are still items left behind you must assume that they have an intent to return to the property and have not abandoned it. In this situation, it is better to play it safe and go through the eviction process than risk having the tenant later sue you for the value they have placed on their possessions left behind which you may have disposed of.
Following these basic rules will help you avoid unnecessary headaches should you ever have to pursue an eviction action.
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Joseph E. Balmer
Joseph Balmer manages the Probate, Trust and Estate Administration department at Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has been certified by the Ohio State Bar Association as a specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law since 2006.