The renting of houses and apartments between landlords and tenants is typically called “residential leasing” because the arrangement involves the renting of a “residence.” The pressure for tenants (many times without the money to purchase homes) to find and maintain a house or apartment to rent can be intense. This is especially true in rural areas like ours, because many families in our communities can be large and there are very few, last-resort “safety nets” (like homeless shelters) in our region.
As a result of those factors, residential leases throughout Ohio are governed by a large number of detailed requirements. The list of requirements, especially for landlords, is extensive. Even if all of the requirements of a particular rental agreement are technically satisfied, the law still allows judges to declare almost any provision of a lease invalid if the Judge decides that the provision in question was “unconscionable” when the tenant or landlord agreed to it. Typically, unconscionability only applies where a tenant literally had no meaningful choice when entering into the lease and the provision in question is incredibly one-sided in favor of the landlord.
For instance, there may be a family in our area that becomes homeless in the midst of a blizzard. That family would be desperate for a place to live in order to literally stay alive. With the potential for death of the tenant family looming, the landlord might ask the tenant for 10 times the regular monthly rent rate and a five-year lease term/duration in order to lease an apartment to the family. In this instance, the lease duration and the rent rate might later be found to be so shocking to the conscience that a judge could change these lease provisions to more reasonable ones. As this example demonstrates, these situations are usually incredibly dire for a judge to change a provision in a lease agreement.
For residential leases, a written lease agreement is usually prepared by the landlord and signed by the tenant or tenants. Typically, the lease’s duration (called the lease’s “term”) will be at least several months or a year. Usually, leases dictate that the landlord cannot raise rent, and the tenant may not quit paying rent when it is due during the lease term.
If a tenant does not vacate the property after the lease duration/term, the landlord can usually decide to evict the tenant or raise the rent (requiring advance notice to the tenant to do either). Very frequently, though, the landlord and the tenant will decide to simply continue the lease arrangement, sometimes with a small increase in rent due to the landlord.
This period of time when the tenant and the landlord keep their relationship in place after the initial lease term expires is called “holding over.” During holdover tenancy, the law treats residential leases as being “month-to-month” between landlord and tenants. During month-to-month tenancies, the landlord or the tenant who wants to end the lease arrangement must give a month’s advance notice to the other person.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.