Well first and foremost be sure to attend the hearing at court on March 31. If you do not show, then a default judgment could be filed against you and you will have no remedies. You should review the complaint (papers served on you) carefully to see what the Landlord's claims are against you. An eviction complaint is just a claim as to who has the right of possession, but often Landlords will also file additional claims for unpaid rent and possibly damage to the apartment. So you should look at this.
You can speak with the Landlord to see if he will defer the eviction if you can pay your rent. You should try to get an in-person meeting to talk with him. However, he will want all the money up front, and might not want payments. It is worth a shot to ask him or her to take partial payment however. That said, if you can't pay all the money you owe him, you may need to start looking for another place to stay. But if you have the money, or at least most of the money, the Landlord might consider stopping the eviction. But he will want to know what job or money you two will have to pay any future rent, so prepared to answer these questions.
Some other defenses for the court hearing are if you know you haven't paid rent, but also that there are problems with the apartment, such as building code violations, the eviction might be preventable. You would have to talk with an attorney on this. Another defense may be if you think the Landlord has been charging you more for rent than the apartment is worth. If so (and you can prove it to the court) this won't prevent an eviction but will reduce the amount you currently owe to the Landlord. Finally, your last defense is to ensure that the Landlord has followed all the correct notice procedures for giving you the eviction papers. You must have received the notice either by certified mail, delivered to you in person, or left at the property. The notice had to be signed by the Landlord or Landlord's agent. Finally, it must include conspicuous language that "You are being asked to leave the premises. If you do not leave, an eviction action may be filed against you. If you are in doubt about regarding your legal actions and obligations as a tenant, it is recommended you seek legal assistance." Failure to do the correct notice procedures will delay the eviction, which will buy you time to pay your rent which is due to the Landlord. However, you will still need to speak with him or her to let you stay.
If and when you go to court, be sure to bring proof of what rent you have paid (cancelled checks, receipts, etc.) to prove your case. If the court finds that you should move, they will place a "red tag" on your door which states the date you must be out. This will result in a judgment and note on your credit report - so this is what will affect you.
If you can get the Landlord to work with you, you can prevent a judgment against you in court and on your credit report. You should contact Legal Aid if you would like an attorney to help you with this and cannot afford an attorney. http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/
This should not be construed as creating an attorney client relationship or legal advice. Any individual seeking legal advice for their own situation should retain their own legal counsel as this response provides information that is general in nature and not specific to any person's unique situation.
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