Housing Conditions Problems

LASC PROVIDES ASSISTANCE AND REPRESENTATION FOR TENANTS WHO WISH TO ADDRESS HOUSING CONDITIONS PROBLEMS WITH THEIR LANDLORDS. CONTACT LASC INTAKE FOR HELP.

  • Who takes care of problems at my rental unit?

    What are my duties as a tenant?

    Who pays for repairs or other maintenance?

    What about bedbugs and other pests

    Exceptions to rent escrow and lease termination

    Negative landlord reactions

    Call code enforcement and request an inspection

  • LASC PROVIDES ASSISTANCE AND REPRESENTATION FOR TENANTS WHO WISH TO ADDRESS HOUSING CONDITIONS PROBLEMS WITH THEIR LANDLORDS. CONTACT LASC INTAKE AT 614-241-2001 FOR HELP.

    Franklin County Municipal Court Rent Escrow Program

    If you want your landlord to fix something, you MUST follow the rules set out in the law. If you do not follow these rules carefully, you could be evicted for non-payment of rent.

    Click here for a video explaining your rights and duties as a tenant.

    Residential landlords have a duty to repair:

    1. Any problems with the housing that “materially affect your health and safety” and violate local building, housing, or health and safety codes such as: broken windows, roof leaks, peeling paint and/or plaster, mice, rats, roaches, rubbish in your yard, lack of smoke detector or smoke alarms.
    2. Any problems with the housing that make it unlivable.
    3. Any defects in the hallway and/or stairway that could pose a danger to you or your guests such as: unsafe gas or electric heaters and appliances.
    4. Any electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating or air conditioning systems that are not working properly and pose a danger to you or your guests such as: unsafe gas or electric heaters and appliances.
    5. Plumbing or heating systems that are not working properly, leaving you without running water, hot water, or adequate heat for any period of time.
    6. Broken and unusable garbage cans that are shared by four or more apartments in the same building.

    Click here for a video explaining the steps leading up to rent escrow.

    Step 1. WRITE A LETTER  – Click here for a Sample Letter to Landlord

    If your landlord is not taking care of condition problems, you need to write a letter to your landlord telling him/her the specific repairs that you need done. Even if you have told your landlord on the phone or in person, you still need to give notice in writing to the landlord, telling the landlord what specific things you need repaired or remedied. Write this letter even if your landlord has been sent notices of code violations.

    1. Tell in detail each problem you wish to have repaired (the list should be specific so the landlord can use it to repair each problem).
    2. Tell the landlord that minor repairs should be taken care of within thirty days and major problems (emergencies such as lack of heat in winter) should be taken care of within five days.
    3. Tell the landlord what you will do if the problems are not repaired within the thirty day time period.

    You may have to prove that you sent this letter so keep a photocopy of the letter for your records. Then take the letter to the post office. Ask the postal clerk for a ‘certificate of mailing’. This costs about $1.30 and proves you mailed the letter. When you are done, you will have a photocopy of your letter and a ‘certificate of mailing’ showing that you mailed it to your landlord. This is good proof that you gave written notice to the landlord of the conditions problems.

    Unsure of the landlord’s name or address? The letter should be sent to the person or place where rent is normally paid. If you have a lease, the landlord’s name and address is usually near the beginning of the lease. If you are unsure of your landlord’s name or mailing address, go to the Franklin County Auditor’s website and do a search by address. The auditor’s website will show you the name and address of the owner of the property. Send the letter to the owner.

    Step 2. WAIT A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF TIME.

    After you have sent the letter, you have to wait “a reasonable amount of time” for the landlord to make the repairs, up to 30 days. What is reasonable depends on how severe the problem is and the time necessary to take care of the problem.

    A reasonable time can be just a few days if the problem is serious (e.g. broken furnace in winter) and can be fixed quickly.

    For other problems, especially ones that are time consuming to fix or less serious, a reasonable amount of time might be the full 30 days.

    Step 3. (Your Choice) TERMINATE THE LEASE OR OPEN A RENT ESCROW ACCOUNT.

    After you have waited a reasonable amount of time, if the landlord still hasn’t fixed the problems, you have a choice.

    Option A: Terminate the Lease

    You can terminate the lease and leave the rental unit. If you choose this option, you should write a follow-up letter advising the landlord of the date you are going to vacate. You will be responsible for paying rent for any days that you are at the rental unit, but not for time after you leave.

    Lease Termination Step 1: Write a Second Letter.  – Click Sample Termination Letter for a sample letter.

    This will inform the landlord that you will be ending your lease and moving out. Make sure you keep a photocopy of the letter and send it with a certificate of mailing. This letter should include how you will be returning the keys and your new mailing address (if you want your security deposit back).

    Lease Termination Step 2: Return Your Keys.

    If you give the keys to the landlord or apartment manager, ask for a receipt. If you drop them in a mail slot, put them in an envelope with your name and address, and take someone with you who witnesses you dropping them off. If you include them in a letter to the landlord, tape them to the letter, make a photocopy of the letter with the keys attached, and send with certificate of mailing.

    Lease Termination Step 3: Take Steps Regarding Your Security Deposit.

    If you are interested in getting your deposit back, you need to give a forwarding mailing address to your landlord so the landlord knows where to mail the deposit.

    After you return the keys, your landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit of give you a notice which explains what was done with the security deposit money. Your landlord can keep security deposit money for unpaid rent or fees, or for damages to the property that go beyond normal wear and tear.

    If the landlord wrongfully keeps deposit money, you may sue the landlord in small claims court for the return of the deposit plus damages in the amount that was wrongfully withheld. For more information on getting back your security deposit go to the Security Deposit Self Help Section or call LASC Intake.

    Option B: Start a Rent Escrow Account and Stay in your Unit.

    If you want to stay at your rental unit and try to get the landlord to make repairs, then you can start a rent escrow account at the Franklin County Municipal Court (for Franklin County residents) or your local court (Go to our Courts Section for more information). You will start paying your monthly rent to the court instead of to your landlord. The court will hold your rent in an escrow account. As long as you sent the written notice, waited the reasonable time, and stayed current on your rent, the landlord shouldn’t get the money until you agree the repairs are made. You can also file motions asking that the court order the landlord to make the repair, or asking that your rent be reduced until the repairs are made.

    If You Want to Start a Rent Escrow Account

    Remember: Before you can start this process, you must have written a letter to the landlord requesting repairs, and you must have given your landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem. You must also be current in rent. If you are not current, get caught up before starting a rent escrow account.

    Rent Escrow Step 1: Bring Your Rent and a Copy of Your Letter Requesting Repairs to Municipal Court.

    A day or so before your rent is due, bring your rent and a copy of the letter requesting repairs to the 3rd floor of the Franklin County Municipal Court located at 375 S. High Street (Franklin County Residents Only). Rent must be cash or money order only.

    When you get off the elevator on the 3rd floor there is a sign that points you to the “Rent Escrow” window. When you get there tell the clerk that you want to start a rent escrow account. There is no filing fee for doing this. The clerk will give you a form called “Application to Deposit Rent with the Clerk”. The application needs to be filled out and notarized. The rent escrow window clerks can notarize your application and give you a receipt for your rent.

    The court will then notify the landlord that the rent is being held in escrow. Every time rent is due, you must pay it to the Clerk of Court on or before the date it is due.

    Rent Escrow Step 2: Attend Mediation.

    Shortly after you escrow your rent, the court will send you and the landlord a notice telling you the date and time where you can attend a rent escrow mediation. Mediations are generally scheduled for 2-3 weeks after you start escrowing your rent.

    At the mediation you, the landlord, and a mediator can discuss the situation and try to reach an agreement. If you reach an agreement, the mediator will put it into writing, and the case will be over. If you don’t reach an agreement, or if the landlord does not come to the mediation, continue to pay your rent to the court each month.

    Franklin County Escrow Mediations are held on the 15th floor of the Franklin County Municipal Court.

    What if repairs are completed?

    If you are satisfied with the repairs, bring your ID to the Rent Escrow window on the 3rd floor. You can sign a release form that will allow the court to release the funds to the landlord. Going forward you would resume paying rent directly to your landlord.

    What if things don’t work out at mediation and the landlord is still not making repairs?

    You can file motions with the court asking that the Court order the landlord to make the repairs and reduce your monthly rent until the repairs are made. If there is enough money in the escrow account to allow you to make the repairs, you can ask the court to release the money to you, so you can make the repairs.

    There are several types of potential motions that ask the Court to:

    1. Order the landlord to make repairs;
    2. Reduce your rent until the repairs are made; or
    3. Release the escrowed money to you for repairs if there is enough money in the account.

    Note: Instead of waiting for the mediation, you can file motions for repairs and reduction in rent at the same time you file your application to start the rent escrow account. If you file a motion the court will schedule a hearing to decide if it will grant the motion.

    Escrow Motion Step 1: Fill Out a Motion

    Click here for a sample motion and blank motion you can use. When you file your rent escrow application you will be given a case number. Put that case number on the motion. Fill in the Plaintiff/Tenant and Defendant/Landlord names. Fill in the dates of the letter you sent to the landlord requesting repairs, the date you started your rent escrow account, and the amount the court is holding in the escrow account.

    Attach the Letter Requesting Repairs to Landlord to your motion. This will show the court that you have advised the landlord of the conditions problems. In the “Certificate of Service” section, fill in the date you will be able to mail a copy of your motion to the landlord.

    Escrow Motion Step 2: File the Motion

    Make two sets of photocopies of the motion. Mail one set to your landlord (or your landlord’s attorney if your landlord is represented by an attorney). Take the original and the other photocopy to the Franklin County Municipal Court Court Clerk’s office (375 S. High Street) (for Franklin County residents only) and ask to file the motion. The clerk will keep the original and return a time-stamped copy to you for your records. There should be no fee for filing this motion.

    If you file this Motion the court will make arrangements for a court hearing. You will get a notice of that hearing in the mail. It will give you the time and the location of the hearing. You can also look up your case on the court’s website: http://www.fcmcclerk.com/case/

    Escrow Motion Step 3: Bring Proof to the Hearing.

    At the hearing you should bring proof that the repairs have not been made, especially if you checked the box asking that the court order that repairs be made. Your proof could be some of the documents listed below, or just your testimony that the problems still exist. You can also bring witnesses who could testify that they have been to your rental property recently and that the problems still exist.

    What to bring with you:

    1. A copy of any notices you sent to your landlord and any mail receipts, if the complaint was done in writing and delivered through the US Postal Service.
    2. Any witnesses that went with you when you delivered your complaint to the landlord and has seen the defects or problems that need to be repaired.
    3. A copy of the receipts showing that you deposited rent with the court.
    4. Any photographs or documentation you made of the defects or problems that need to be repaired.
    5. Any reports from a building or health department inspector.

    If you are asking that the rent be lowered, the judge might ask for your opinion on what you think the reasonable rental value of the property is with all of its problems. For example, if the rent is $500 per month with everything working properly, how much is it worth with the problems that exist. You should tell the court your opinion on what the reasonable rental value of the property is with the problems (what you think it is worth) based on your rental experiences. Some courts have found the reasonable rental value to be $0 per month for extremely bad conditions. Most courts will find that the rental has some value, but not the full rental value.

    If you are asking that the rent escrow money be released to you so that you can make the needed repairs, it would be helpful to bring an estimate of what it would cost to make the repairs. That way the judge can see that you are serious about using the money for repairs and that releasing the escrow money will allow you to correct the conditions problem.

    Remember: LASC provides assistance with Escrow Cases, so contact LASC Intake if you would like help!

     

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    Directions to Franklin County Municipal Court

    Franklin County Municipal Court is located at 375 S. High Street in Columbus. The three closest parking locations are the Front Street Garage, the County Parking Garage, and the Columbus Commons Parking Garage. For Rent Escrow, go to the third floor.

    When you get off the elevator there is a sign that points you to the “rent escrow” window. When you get there you can give the clerk your application and your rent. The rent escrow window clerks can notarize your application and give you a receipt for your rent.

    Helpful Contacts

    Columbus Code Enforcement/Columbus Service Center(to request inspections)
    Call Center
    Hours: M-F 7:00am-6:00pm
    Phone: 614-645-3111
    Website: 311.columbus.gov

    Franklin County Auditor’s Website (to help find landlord/owner name and address)
    (“Search” menu allows you to search by address, condominium complex, landlord name, and more.)
    Website: http://www.franklincountyoh.metacama.com/altIndex.jsp

    Franklin County Municipal Court(rent escrow window, mediation)
    375 S. High Street
    Columbus, OH 43215
    Phone: 614-645-7420
    Website: www.fcmcclerk.com

    Clerk of Courts
    4th Floor
    Hours: M-F 8:00am-5:00pm
    Phone: 614-645-8006

    Rent Escrow Program
    3rd Floor
    Hours: M-F 8:00am-4:00pm
    Phone: 614-645-7420
    Wendy Miller, Disbursement Coordinator:

    Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio
    67 Jefferson Avenue
    Columbus, OH 43215
    Phone: 614-228-7191

    Central Ohio Asthma Coalition (Columbus)
    614-645-6226

    Franklin County Health Department
    614-525-3160
    (Outside of Columbus only)

 

Video: A tenant’s landlord is not making repairs.
This video is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship.
It is just some general information and could be outdated.
It discusses Ohio law only. Speak with a licensed attorney in your state if you want legal advice.

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