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.
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
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.