At one time or another, income property owners will likely have to deal with the unfortunate experience of evicting tenants. While it is tough to get a figure on the how often evictions are necessary, some figures estimate that as many as 2.7 million Americans faced eviction in 2015 alone. With the rental market continuing to climb across many metro areas, the data suggests that renters will continue to feel the squeeze since as many as 1 in 4 renters spend at least 50% of their income on housing. Any landlord would be wise to have an action plan ready in the event the tenant breaks the lease. The following constitutes a typical journey through the process of eviction in Ohio and some information to assist a landlord.
(Please note: This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor should it be considered such.)
1. The landlord must have a valid reason to seek eviction
In Ohio a landlord may evict a tenant for failure to pay rent, for breaking a material term within the lease, or for failing to fulfill a tenant obligation pursuant to O.R.C. 5321.05. Once a landlord suspects the tenant has broken the lease or has failed to pay rent it is then time to seek the advice of an attorney. This is because whether a term within the lease is "material" or not is a grey area and if the landlord wrongfully evicts a tenant he/she will have a serious problem on their hands. Even if the tenant has failed to pay rent it is still wise to seek an attorney as the landlord must now do a few things to comply with the law going forward.
2. Send notice to the tenant
Once it is established the tenant has broken the lease the landlord must now send a 30-day notice of the landlord's intent to evict the tenant unless the tenant comes into compliance with the lease. If 30-days passes and the tenant still has not come within compliance the landlord must now send a formal notice to the tenant to leave the premises within 3 days. This formal notice should include the proper identifying information, include the requisite language to give proper notice, and be hand delivered to the tenant if possible. As stated earlier, it is here where an attorney can assist a landlord by ensuring a proper notice is served to the tenant and the tenant is granted the requisite time to leave the premises.
3. File a complaint for a forcible entry and detainer
If the tenant has been properly served a notice to leave the premises and still is within the dwelling after the grace period the landlord must now take action in court. It should be noted that under Ohio law landlords are not permitted to self-help. This means that a landlord may never evict the tenant by changing the locks, shutting off utilities, physically entering the tenant's dwelling and removing the tenant, or by entering and removing all of the tenant's personal property.
Once the court receives the complaint, the court will serve the tenant and set a date for a hearing. It is here where both sides will be granted the opportunity to speak. Again, it cannot be stressed enough an attorney can assist in achieving a favorable result and potentially obtaining all past due rent if possible. If a favorable result is achieved then the tenant will be granted a number of days to remove themselves and their belongings from the premises. However, if the tenant STILL has not left the premises after the court mandated deadline, the landlord has the right to have a law enforcement agent or bailiff personally escort the tenant out and place their belongings outside as well.
While not each case is directly the same, most evictions proceed along these lines. Of course some tenants will be easier to work with than others and may get out once given the 30-day notice but the chance always exists that a tenant may fight tooth and nail to stay on the premises. Seeing as how someone may lose their home, evictions can become emotional and should therefore only be sought as a last line of defense. However, as a landlord you are entitled to maximize your rental property's income so if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to evict a tenant we would love to help you out. Give us a call and see how easy it is to get your property back.
Joseph M. Braun is an attorney in Hamilton, Ohio. He specializes in estate planning, probate, real estate, administrative law, and other general practice areas. You can connect with him by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or liking him on Facebook