Terms to Include in Ohio Leases and Rental Agreements
State law in Ohio covers many aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship that are spelled out in leases and rental agreements. An example is the use and return of security deposits (a frequent source of friction between landlords and tenants). To avoid confusion, Ohio leases and rental agreements should be clear on all details (such as the state requirement that Ohio landlords must return deposits within 30 days of the end of the rental agreement, along with a written statement of any deductions).
Here are some of the most important items to cover in your Ohio lease or rental agreement.
Terms to Include
Name all tenants. Every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both members of a married or unmarried couple, should be named as tenants and sign the lease or rental agreement. This makes each tenant legally responsible for the full amount of the rent, the proper use of the property, and all other terms of your agreement. This means that (if you wish) you can legally terminate the tenancy for all tenants on that lease or rental agreement—even if only one tenant violates an important term of the tenancy.
Limit the number of occupants. Clearly specify that the rental unit is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the lease and their minor children. This guarantees your right to determine who lives in your property (ideally, people whom you have screened and approved), and to limit the number of occupants. The value of this clause is that it gives you grounds to evict a tenant who moves in a friend or relative, or sublets the unit, without your permission.
State the term of the tenancy. This is one of the few items that will vary depending on whether you use a rental agreement or a lease. Here’s the difference:
- A lease sets a specific beginning and expiration date, and obligates both landlord and tenant to a specific term, typically a year.
- Rental agreements, on the other hand, usually run from month-to-month and self-renew unless terminated by the landlord or tenant. You should spell out the notice requirements in your lease or rental agreement. By law in Ohio, both landlord and tenant must provide 30 days’ notice to terminate the agreement. And landlords must provide 30 days’ notice to change a term of the agreement.
Provide all rent-related details. Your agreement should include the amount of rent; when it is due (typically, the first of the month); whether there’s any grace period before you charge a late fee (and the amount of any late fee); how rent is to be paid, such as by mail or delivered to your office; and acceptable payment methods (such as personal check only).
Spell out all your security deposit requirements, including:
- the dollar amount and use of the deposit (Ohio does not set a limit, but most landlords find it impractical to charge more than one or two months’ rent)
- when and how you will return the deposit (by law in Ohio, you must return the deposit within 30 days of the end of the rental agreement, and you must provide a written statement of any deductions), and
- other details, such as whether you will pay interest (Ohio landlords must pay interest on deposits in certain situations).
Clearly set out responsibilities for repair and maintenance in your lease or rental agreement, including:
- the tenant's responsibility to keep the rental premises clean and sanitary and to pay for any damage caused by his or her abuse or neglect
- a requirement that the tenant alert you to defective or dangerous conditions in the rental property, with specific details on your procedures for handling complaint and repair requests, and
- restrictions on tenant repairs and alterations, such as adding a built-in dishwasher, installing a burglar alarm system, or painting walls without your permission.
Clarify your legal right of access to the property -- for example, to make repairs -- and state how much advance notice you will provide the tenant before entering. Ohio requires landlords to give tenants 24 hours’ notice before entering, except in case of an emergency or when it is impractical to do so.
Restrict illegal tenant activity. An explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise, and illegal activity, such as drug dealing, will help you avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors.
Clearly state your pet policy. If you do not allow pets, be sure your lease or rental agreement says so. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets and any special pet rules.
Meet your legal disclosure requirements. Federal law require landlords to make certain lead-based paint disclosures before tenants move in. Ohio also requires that you give tenants the name and address of the property owner or manager.
Comply with all other relevant state and local Ohio laws including health and safety codes, occupancy rules, and anti-discrimination laws. Also, spell out in your lease or rental agreement any other legal restrictions (such as limits on the type of business a tenant may run from home), and important rules and regulations covering parking and use of common areas.
Where to Find Ohio Lease and Rental Forms
For Ohio rental documents, including leases and rental agreements, see the Real Estate and Rental Property Forms section of Nolo. These ready-to-use legal forms include detailed, clause-by-clause instructions that cover the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Ohio. Options include the following: