Rent Escrow Step-by-Step
You may have heard that you can escrow your rent whenever a landlord refuses to fix something, but you must be careful to avoid a potential eviction action against you.
Step 1: The 30-Day NoticeOhio law requires that a landlord fulfill their obligation to repair and maintain the premises once the tenant gives them notice that a problem exists. 30 days is considered to be a reasonable amount of time to fix most problems and courts will typically err on the side of caution by requiring tenants to wait 30 days after notifying their landlord of the issue.
What this means for you is that you should send notice of the problem to the landlord by certified mail. The letter should explain the problem you are experiencing, followed by a request that the problem be fixed within the next 30 days. The letter should also alert the landlord that if the problems persists beyond 30 days then you will be escrowing your rent with the local municipal court. Be sure to double-check which court has proper jurisdiction.
Sending the letter by certified mail gives you the ability to track and prove when the letter was received.
Step 2: Escrow with the ClerkIf you have sent your letter and nothing has happened after the 30 days are up, then it is time to head to the court and escrow your rent. You will need a copy of the letter you sent, your rent payment, and a complaint.
Most municipal courts have what is known as "pro se" forms that you can use for your complaint. Simply fill it out and turn it in with the letter and rent payment. If you are hesitant about anything simply speak with the clerk and they will usually make sure that you have all the necessary documents. The clerk can't give you legal advice but they can make sure that you have submitted all of the correct paperwork.
Step 3: The HearingOnce you have submitted everything to the clerk of court your landlord will receive notice that the rent has been escrowed. The court will set a hearing where the landlord will have to show proof that the issue has been resolved. In between escrowing your rent and the hearing you will need to keep track of everything that your landlord does to fix the problem. If the problem still exists you will have to be able to show that the landlord hasn't fixed it. Whatever happens, you absolutely can not interfere with your landlord's attempts to fix the problem.
Step 4: Release of Rent, Abatement, and Termination.At the hearing, the court will have three options on how to handle the problem. If the problem has been fixed then the court can order the release of the rent back to the landlord. If the problem is not fixed then the court could order a rent "abatement," which is a reduction in the amount of rent paid based on the loss of use of parts of the premises.
In extreme cases, the court could terminate the rental agreement. This terminates the tenancy and if this is the option you are pursuing then you have to make sure you have a plan on how to vacate the premises.
Step 5: Eviction DefenseIf you have successfully escrowed your rent and your landlord threatens to evict you then you need to document it as it is a separate violation of Ohio Landlord/Tenant law.
While your rent is escrowed with the court it acts a defense to any potential eviction action against you and you will need to make sure that you bring it up should any eviction action get filed by your landlord.