Landlords in Ohio can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Ohio.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 1, 2021
Eviction can be a scary and confusing time for many tenants and renters. This article is designed to provide an overview of Ohio’s residential eviction process to help ease this stress. It includes information about tenants’ rights and legal protections, as well as what tenants can do to fight an eviction. This article will also address most of the reasons for eviction, although we focus on evictions resulting from being behind on rent or having a lease that’s about to expire.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is the legal process that a landlord uses to remove a tenant or renter from a piece of property like an apartment or rental home. To evict a tenant, the landlord must first get a court order. If the landlord doesn’t follow the necessary steps to get a court order to evict a tenant, they’ll be liable for an illegal eviction. Generally speaking, the eviction process is similar for all residential evictions, regardless of the landlord’s reason for evicting the tenant. Most differences are minor and relate to eviction notice requirements.
Who Can Be Evicted in Ohio?
For an eviction to take place in Ohio, there has to be a landlord-tenant relationship. This relationship is created when a landlord or property manager and the renter enter into a contract that explains the rights and duties of each party to rent a property. Most of the time, this contract is in writing and is referred to as a lease or rental agreement.
The eviction process may also be used in other situations that don’t involve a landlord-tenant relationship. For instance, if someone lives with a tenant, but isn’t part of the lease, they must leave the property if the tenant gets evicted.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Ohio?
Evictions can occur for several reasons, but the majority are due to the following five reasons:
Being behind, late, or short on rent.
Engaging in illegal activity relating to drugs.
Jeopardizing the health or safety of others.
Violating a lease term or provision (other than the requirement to pay rent).
Ending the lease because it’s expired or is being terminated.
In all these situations, the eviction process is similar, but the amount of notice the landlord is required to give the tenant before evicting them can vary.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
Ohio is similar to many other states in that a rent payment is late if it’s not paid on the day it’s due. That said, many residential lease agreements offer a grace period of a few days before a rent payment is considered late. This is helpful for not just avoiding an eviction for nonpayment of rent but also for avoiding late fees.
Lease Expiration or Termination
In Ohio, a landlord can evict a tenant even if the tenant is current on rent and hasn’t violated a law or the lease. This could occur if the lease’s term has ended and the landlord refuses to renew or extend the lease.
A lease may also end ahead of schedule, such as when a landlord terminates the lease. Ohio law only allows landlords to terminate a lease early for certain reasons. These typically relate to a violation of law, increased risk to the health and safety of others, or a lease violation.
The Ohio Eviction Process
Evictions can occur in both commercial and residential settings. But this article focuses on residential evictions in Ohio.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
Every eviction in Ohio starts with the landlord giving the tenant a written notice. The amount of notice depends on the reason for the eviction, although most evictions require a three-day and/or 30-day notice.
If the landlord wants to evict a tenant because the tenant is doing that seriously affects the health and safety of others (excluding crimes related to controlled substances), the landlord must give the tenant 30 days’ notice. For example, if a tenant doesn’t properly dispose of trash or spoiled food in their apartment and this leads to a bug and mice infestation, that would likely qualify as something that affects the health and safety of others. The tenant will then have 30 days to remedy the problem or move out. If the tenant hasn’t fixed the problem within 30 days, the landlord must give a three-day notice informing the tenant they must move out within three days.
If the landlord chooses not to renew a month-to-month tenancy they must give the tenant a 30-day notice before starting an eviction. After these 30 days pass, if the tenant is still on the property, the landlord can serve a three-day notice. This gives the tenant three days to leave or face eviction.
If the eviction relates to the nonpayment of rent, illegal drugs, or a breach of the lease, the landlord must provide a three-day notice. The tenant must move out in three days or face eviction. The landlord isn’t required to allow the tenant to avoid eviction by addressing the reason for the eviction in these cases. This is true even if the tenant wants to make up missed or late rent payments or take steps to address the breach of the lease.
If the eviction is due to the non-renewal of a lease, then the amount of notice depends on the type of tenancy.
For week-to-week tenancies, the landlord must give seven days’ notice.
For fixed-term tenancies, such as six months or a year, there’s no notice requirement because the tenant already knows when the lease ends if it’s not renewed. Despite this, many written leases will contain language that explains how much notice the tenant will get if the landlord chooses not to renew the lease.
All of these notices may be served on the tenant by the landlord:
Mailing a copy to the tenant via certified mail, return receipt requested,
Handing a copy to the tenant, or
Leaving a copy of the notice in a visible location at the tenant’s residence (which will usually be the rental property).
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
The next stage in the eviction process takes place when the landlord begins the eviction lawsuit, which is sometimes called a Forcible Entry and Detainer case. The eviction lawsuit starts when the landlord files a complaint. They’ll file the complaint in a municipal or common pleas court, depending on how much they’re trying to recover in monetary damages.
In the complaint, the landlord will explain what they want and provide evidence supporting their claim. The first “count” in the complaint will be for eviction. If the landlord also seeks monetary damages from the tenant, they’ll add a second “count” to the complaint. Most courts will schedule separate hearings for each count.
After filing the complaint with the court, the court issues a summons. This will briefly explain the tenant’s rights and what they can do to challenge the landlord’s eviction. The summons will also contain the time and date for the eviction hearing. Depending on the legal claims made, the hearing will be scheduled for either seven or 30 days after the tenant is served with a copy of the complaint and summons.
The exact method of service will depend on the court, but it typically involves a court bailiff or sheriff’s deputy hand-delivering the complaint and summons to the tenant or posting it in a visible place at the rental unit. The court will also mail a copy to the tenant via certified mail.
If you get a summons to appear for a hearing, you need to attend. If you don’t appear, the judge probably won’t enter a default judgment in the landlord’s favor. But the judge will hold the hearing as if you were present. If you aren’t there to present your defenses, the landlord will likely get the eviction and/or a monetary judgment.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
You’ll have up two chances to tell your side of the story to the court. The first chance comes when you get served with the summons and complaint. You can file an answer, which is your official response to the landlord’s allegations in the complaint.
If you don’t want to file an answer, you can assert your defenses on the day of the hearing. Keep in mind that depending on the defenses you assert at your hearing, the landlord may ask for a continuance to reschedule the hearing to better prepare their response to your defenses.
The types of defenses you assert will take one of two forms. The first form is an affirmative defense. These are defenses you raise on your own that directly undermine the legal basis for the landlord’s eviction. If you don’t raise an affirmative defense, the court will consider them waived. An example of an affirmative defense might be telling the court that your landlord is evicting you in retaliation for complaining about your heater that keeps failing during the winter.
Your eviction defense could take the second form of a counterclaim. This is a legal claim that’s separate from the eviction action, although it may rely on facts from your eviction. For instance, if your landlord shuts off your utilities to persuade you to move out after you get behind on rent, you could recover monetary damages from your landlord.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
If the landlord wins the eviction trial, they can ask the court clerk to issue a Writ of Execution. Sometimes called a “red tag,” this is the final court order telling you to move out of the property. How much time you have to move out depends on the court, but it often ranges from 5-10 days.
The sheriff’s deputy or bailiff will often not be present when your personal property is removed. And if they’re present, their job will be limited to overseeing the property’s removal. It’ll be up to the landlord to physically remove your belongings.
If a second trial is held concerning monetary damages and the landlord wins, the court will issue a monetary judgment in their favor, and they’ll become a judgment creditor.
If you disagree with the court’s decision you may file an appeal. Most eviction hearings occur in municipal court and are decided by a magistrate. To appeal, you’ll file a written objection within 14 days of the magistrate’s decision. A judge will review the magistrate’s decision and decide to uphold it or disagree with it. If the judge upholds the magistrate’s decision you have another opportunity to file an appeal, but this time it’ll be to the district court of appeals.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Ohio
If you’re planning on fighting your eviction, you need to take steps to identify and gather any relevant evidence. This includes documents like a copy of your lease, letters, invoices, receipts, and bank statements. If any of your defenses relate to the property’s condition, it might be helpful to have photographs and videos. If possible, consider getting a municipal building inspector to visit the rental property and prepare a report about the condition of the rental property.
Do everything you reasonably can to avoid missing your eviction hearing. Not showing up means the landlord can present their eviction case uncontested, which will likely result in you losing your case. If the date and time set by the court don’t work for you, you can ask the court for a continuance, which means the hearing gets rescheduled.
Have good communication with your landlord. It makes it easier to know what’s going on and increases your chances of reaching some sort of agreement with your landlord. This might include getting extra time to move out in return for the landlord dropping the eviction lawsuit against you. It’s important to avoid having an eviction show up in your rental history. Having an eviction in your rental history will make it harder to find a new apartment.
An agreement could include other things, like extra time to make up back rent payments or cure a violation of your lease. Whatever agreement you reach, see that it gets put into writing and is signed by you and your landlord (or their representative, like a property manager).
If you’re allowed to address the problem that led to the eviction, make sure you carefully abide by the conditions and document anything you do to meet them. This includes taking pictures, getting copies of invoices, or asking for a receipt when you make a rent payment.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many nonprofit legal aid and housing organizations, as well as tenant’s rights lawyers willing to help you with your eviction. They can offer legal advice or general assistance in figuring your options and how to take advantage of your rights.