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Landlord-Tenant Law. Real Estate Transactions I Mike Brigner, J.D. Today’s Discussion. Leases at Common Law & Definitions Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law Preparing a Residential Lease Commercial Leases. Leases at Common Law & Definitions. Lease Law. Leases are covered by

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Landlord-Tenant Law

Real Estate Transactions I

Mike Brigner, J.D.

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Today’s Discussion

  • Leases at Common Law & Definitions

  • Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law

  • Preparing a Residential Lease

  • Commercial Leases

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Lease Law

  • Leases are covered by

    • Common law of contracts

    • Common law of real estate

    • Federal & state anti-discrimination laws

    • State landlord-tenant law

    • Local statutes

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Common Law: Contracts

  • A lease is a contract & must meet four basic criteria for a valid, binding agreement:

    • Offer & acceptance

    • Consideration

    • Capacity of parties to contract

    • Legal subject matter

  • Contracts are usually drawn by, & favor, landlord

    • Under contract law, in event of dispute over terms, all contracts are construed against the drafter

    • Best if both parties are represented, and negotiate a fact-specific and mutually fair agreement

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Common Law: Real Estate

  • Historically, caveat emptor, buyer beware

  • Tenant took premises as he/she found it

  • Landlord had no duty to provide habitable premises, or to make repairs

    • Most states now require habitable condition, and don’t allow tenant to waive this right

  • Landlord only had duty to keep common areas and fixtures safe

    • This idea has carried over into modern law

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Common Law Remedies

  • Constructive eviction: If premises becomes uninhabitable, tenant could move out & not pay rent

  • Distress: If tenant failed to pay rent, landlord could use self-help: forcibly remove tenant, and seize tenant’s goods to satisfy rent arrearage

    • Most states, including Ohio, now forbid self-help in residential leases, and require a legal eviction proceeding, with proper notice & hearing

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Statutory Law

  • Common law has been greatly modified, by statutory law, such as:

  • Federal laws

    • Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3604)

    • Handicap accommodation (24 CFR 100.204)

  • Ohio statutes

    • Landlord Tenant Law (R.C. Chap 5321)

    • Ohio Fair Housing (R.C. 4112(H))

  • Local ordinances

    • Zoning ordinances, health codes, rent caps

    • Occupancy & use limits, safety rules

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Lease Definitions

  • Lease: A document that conveys a leasehold interest in real property, which includes:

    • Right of possession, but not ownership

    • For a certain period of time

    • In return for the payment of rent

  • Statute of Frauds requires any transfer of an interest in real estate, including a leasehold interest, to be in writing (R.C. 1335.04)

    • Leases for less than one year generally do not have to be in writing (R.C. 1335.05)

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Parties to a Lease

  • Lessor = Landlord

  • Party to a lease who owns the property and transfers occupancy in exchange for rent payments

  • Issue: Does landlord have good title?

  • A concern for tenants primarily in long-term & commercial leases

  • They can: do title search

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Parties to a Lease

  • Lessee = Tenant

  • Party to a lease who occupies the premises and pays rent

  • Issue: Is tenant financially responsible?

  • A concern for landlords

  • They can: do credit check, get deposits, get third party guarantees

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Revised Code Chapter 5321

  • Applies to residential leases, except:

    • Condominiums

    • Hotels, motels, tourist homes

    • Boarding schools

    • Jails

  • Does not apply to commercial leases

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Forbidden Lease Terms

  • R.C. 5321.13

  • Agreement to pay other party’s attorney fees

  • Agreement to waive legal duties of landlord

  • Limitation or forgiveness of a landlord’s legal liabilities

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Landlord’s Obligations

  • R.C. 5321.04

  • Comply with all health, safety, housing codes

  • Keep premises fit & habitable

  • Keep common areas safe & sanitary

  • Supply running water, hot water, reasonable heat

  • Give reasonable notice (24 hours) of intent to enter, except in emergencies

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Landlord’s Restrictions

  • R.C. 5321.15

  • Forbids landlord from

    • cutting off utilities,

    • locking out tenant,

    • seizing tenant’s possessions,

    • or threatening any unlawful act against tenant

  • Violation allows tenant to recover damages and attorney fees

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Tenant’s Obligations

  • Keep premises safe & sanitary

  • Obey applicable safety & housing rules

  • Don’t damage or destroy premises or fixtures, or allow others to do so

  • Maintain appliances supplied by landlord

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Tenant’s Obligations

  • Use electrical & plumbing properly

  • Do not disturb neighbors, or allow others to do so

  • No controlled substances

  • Allow reasonable access for inspection & repairs

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Tenant’s Rights

  • R.C. 5321.02

  • Landlord may NOT increase rent, decrease services, or start eviction to retaliate for tenant’s action of:

    • Complaining to landlord of a breach of any R.C. 5321.04 duty

    • Depositing rent with clerk

    • Complaining to a government agency of any code violation

    • Joining other tenants to bargain collectively with landlord

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Tenant’s Rights: Security Deposits

  • R.C. 5321.16

  • Security deposit of over one month’s rent kept for 6 months or more carries 5% interest

  • Deposit may be applied to any unpaid rent

  • Landlord must provide written statement of any deductions within 30 days

  • Tenant must provide forwarding address

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Residential Lease Elements

Date the lease is executed

Parties to the lease

Description of the premises

Duration of the lease, & renewal


Misc. terms: security deposit, default, pets, option to purchase, alterations, subletting, etc.

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Lease Elements

PARTIES: By name or at least number. Can landlord forbid: Kids? Seniors? Handicapped? Sexual predator?

DESCRIPTION: Address, apartment number, in some states legal description, parking places

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Lease Elements

DURATION & RENEWAL: Notice required? Terms of renewal?

RENT: Total amount, monthly installments, date & place due, late fees. Sometimes 1st &/or last month’s rent payable in advance

DEPOSITS: Security deposit, pet deposit -- amount, conditions for return, interest

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Lease Elements

PERSONALTY: If furnished premises

--Should have inspection before/after

INSURANCE/INDEMNITY: Landlords may try to limit liability for property or personal injury damages to tenant (Illegal in Ohio)

MAINTENANCE/REPAIRS: Spell out who is responsible for what

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Lease Elements

ALTERATIONS: What may tenant change? May require written permission. May restrict tenant from placing liens. Fixtures (existing & new) to remain after lease.

SUBLETTING: Require prior consent? --Tenant remains liable until original lease term expires

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Landlord-Tenant Law

END OF CLASS: (EVERY Class) Clean up classroom; log off computers; check for personal property & computer disks; make sure you have signed in.


Thank You

Mike Brigner, J.D.