For residential properties, there are many rules governing the relationship between the landlord and the tenant. Because the subject of such relationships is such a big deal (literally, a place to live), the disparate power between a landlord and tenant is effectively amplified and leads to laws that ensure that tenants are properly protected. Many of the protections deal with what provisions can and cannot be included in such leases.
Similarly, if or when a residential lease is broken by a tenant, there are specific steps that must be undertaken by a landlord to retrieve possession of the property.
The process typically begins with a tenant’s actual or alleged breach of a lease. Typically, the breach of the lease involves late or missed rental payments. However, misuse of the property (for example, clear abuse of the property’s exterior) can also constitute a breach of the lease.
The landlord must first prepare and serve a certain notice upon the tenant. The notice is often called a “three-day-notice,” because the notice must be served on the tenant at least three days before the landlord files documents in court. The notice is made up of one or more pieces of paper that must include certain language and must be either given to the tenant in person, mailed to the tenant by certified mail with a receipt of service or posted at the property. Practically speaking, the notice is most often either personally served on the tenant or posted at the property from which the tenant is sought to be evicted.
After the notice is served and three days have come and gone, the landlord may file an eviction action in the local municipal court. Notably, municipal courts have jurisdiction over these issues even if the house or apartment is located in a township that is not a part of a municipality.
The paperwork filed by the landlord is called a “complaint” even though the landlord is usually just asking for the tenant to be evicted and not just “complaining.” The complaint typically asks for two things specifically: return of the property to the landlord (eviction of the tenant) and money damages (for missed rent and/or for reimbursement to fix damage to the property, including damage uncovered after the tenant is evicted).
Nonetheless, the landlord will pay certain filing fees along with the complaint, a portion of which filing fees are used to get the complaint into the hands of the tenant.
The municipal court where the complaint is filed will typically have a hearing as soon as possible after the filing of the complaint, if the complaint has been delivered to the tenant by then.
The hearing is like a trial, where the issue is whether the tenant has breached the lease. Usually, a tenant defense that the landlord also breached the lease does not affect the eviction (removal) discussion, but landlord breaches can affect what money may be owed between the landlord and the tenant after the tenant no longer possesses the property.
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 Lee@LeeSchroeder.com 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.