Ohio Security Deposit
Ohio Security Deposit

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Security Deposits in Ohio

The OHIO SECURITY DEPOSIT is any money that is given to the landlord by the tenant to protect the landlord against unpaid rent or damages to the premises. Any rent that is paid in advance is considered part of the security deposit and is subject to all the restrictions listed below. Usually the money is deposited with the landlord when signing the lease and is deposited in an interest bearing account and returned after the tenant moves out.

Ohio law provides the tenant strong protection against landlord abuse of the security deposit. The laws and penalties apply to deposits given under both oral and written leases. The tenant should insist upon these rights and take follow-up action if the landlord delays or improperly withholds the security deposit. The tenant cannot defeat the purpose of the security deposit by using it for the last month’s rent. You can be charged a late fee.

The  "security deposit" is officially defined as "any deposit of money or property to secure performance by the tenant under a rental agreement." A landlord is permitted to request a security deposit of any size, but in general they are equal to one month's rent. 

If your landlord asks for more than a single month's rent and keeps your deposit for more than six months, the landlord must pay you interest on the amount that exceeds one month's rent.

RECEIPT TO TENANT The tenant must receive a receipt for the security deposit, although this may consist of a clause written into the lease. The receipt (or statement in the lease) must inform the tenant of his/her right to receive from the landlord a list of all existing damages (described below). The tenant should ask for this receipt and look for such a clause in the lease (although a request is not required). 

LIST OF EXISTING DAMAGES Money may be deducted from the security deposit at the termination of the lease for damages to the property. In order to protect the tenant from later paying for damages that already existed when the tenant moved in, THE TENANT SHOULD, WITHIN 15 DAYS OF MOVING IN, MAKE A WRITTEN REQUEST FOR A LIST OF EXISTING DAMAGES. Note that the tenant must ask for this list. Even if the landlord does supply such a list, it is a good idea for the tenant to prepare his/her own list (including damaged or worn items), which should be witnessed and signed by a third party and sent to the landlord. It is best to send this letter by certified mail, requesting it be included in management files. If there is any disagreement, both parties should check the property together. It's also recommended that photographs be taken. See RentLaw.com for information on NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR.

INTEREST ON THE SECURITY DEPOSIT After the landlord receives a security deposit, they must deposit it in a Ohio bank within 30 days. This deposit must be in a separate interest-bearing account that contains only security deposit money. If the deposit was $50 or more, simple interest at the prevailing per year will accrue to the tenant at six-month intervals from the time the tenant paid the deposit.

INSPECTION OF PREMISES WHEN MOVING OUT The tenant has the right to be present when the landlord inspects the premises for any damages at the end of the term. THE TENANT MUST NOTIFY THE LANDLORD BY CERTIFIED MAIL OF HIS/HER INTENTION TO MOVE, THE DATE OF MOVING AND HIS/HER NEW ADDRESS. The tenant should expressly request the landlord to inspect for cleanliness and damage in the tenant’s presence.

WITHHOLDING THE DEPOSIT The landlord is entitled to keep all or part of the deposit for expenses actually incurred by him/her due to the fault of the tenant in damaging the premises or failing to pay rent. Any unpaid rent for the remainder of the term may usually be withheld.

The landlord may also deduct for utility bills owed by the tenant, damages caused by the tenant’s violation of lease terms, or for unusual or unexpected damages to the property. The cost of repairing broken windows or holes in the walls or floors, for example, may properly be charged to the tenant and deducted from the deposit. However, the physical deterioration claimed must be more than ordinary wear and tear (such as worn rugs, rusted screens, or slightly frayed furniture) in order to be deductible from the security deposit.

A security deposit may not be forfeited automatically by breach of the lease by tenant.  A landlord may only deduct the amount by which s/he is actually damaged by the breach.

NOTICE OF WITHHOLDING TO TENANT Upon receiving your forwarding address, a landlord has 30 days to either return your deposit or give you an itemized list of what was withheld. If part or all of your security deposit was kept, the itemized list must be a detailed list of exactly what was withheld. Some landlords fail to provide any account of fees that are withheld or use vague terms like "cleaning fees" or "misc. costs." You have a right to know exactly what your security deposit is being spent on. 

NOTE: The tenant should closely scrutinize any list in which the cost of damages claimed exactly equals the amount of the deposit plus interest to make sure the landlord is not attempting an illegal forfeiture.

RETURN OF DEPOSIT AND INTEREST Leave your keys with the landlord. If you give your keys to anyone else, including the new tenant, you might be charged for lock changes.

Ohio law requires you to send your landlord a forwarding address in writing. This step is legally very important if you need to take your landlord to court later, because it allows you to sue for double damages, or twice the amount of your security deposit. You should also consider sending the letter by certified mail, so that your landlord cannot deny receiving it.

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