Real Estate Articles


By Larry D. Hudson
If you’re a housing provider, it’s just part of the territory. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in eviction court.
Most likely, it will be to seek the court’s authority to remove a tenant who stops paying rent.
Other times, it may be over a lease violation. Think of a tenant who is constantly shouting and arguing.
What can you expect when you bring your case to court? Greater Dayton REIA provided landlords and investors a sneak preview during May’s Third Wednesday meeting (5/17/17).
The occasion was a mock eviction court – led by longtime Greater Dayton REIA commercial member and attorney Derrick Strahorn.
Strahorn served as magistrate for the hearing. Greater Dayton REIA members, posing as tenants and landlords, brought their cases to the court. Strahorn asked questions, weighed evidence and issued decisions.
In the first case brought before the mock court, a landlord had posted the required three-day notice of eviction before bringing the case to the docket. But after questioning from Strahorn, the landlord admitted that he had counted a Saturday and Sunday as part of the three days covered by the notice. This was improper, Strahorn explained. He dismissed the landlord’s eviction case.
Strahorn explained that a three-day eviction notice must be served three business days before an eviction case may be taken to court. If you served a three-day notice to a tenant on a Thursday (by handing the tenant the notice or by taping it to the door of the property), you would count Friday as day one, Monday as day two and Tuesday as day three. Weekend days, Strahorn said, don’t count.
In the next case, a landlord seeking to evict a Section 8 (subsidized housing voucher) tenant for nonpayment served the required ten-day notice by taping it to the tenant’s door. At the end of the ten days, he brought his case in eviction court.
After putting a few questions to the landlord and tenant, Strahorn dismissed the eviction case.
The reason: improper notice.
Strahorn explained that federal rules require the ten-day notice the landlord posted – but the rules specify that the landlord must offer the tenant the opportunity to meet during the ten-day period covered by the notice. In this case, the landlord did not offer the meeting.
In addition, Strahorn said, the required ten-day notice must go both to the tenant and to the local housing authority that provided the Section 8 voucher.
In addition to the federally-required ten-day eviction notice, the landlord must also serve the three-day eviction noticed required by Ohio law.
Sometimes the matters brought before eviction court do not involve non-payment of rent.
In the next case, a landlord handed a 30-day notice of lease violation to a tenant. The violation alleged was that the tenant had an “unauthorized person” – someone not on the lease – living at the property.
Thirty days later, the “unauthorized person” – the tenant’s brother – was still living in the property. The landlord then posted a three-day eviction notice and refused rent.
The tenant told the magistrate she had been current in her rent before the landlord refused to accept her most recent payment.
Strahorn ruled in favor of the landlord. The action was not in pursuit of unpaid rent, he said. The case concerned the landlord’s enforcement of a lease provision prohibiting long-term “guests” in properties.
Strahorn went on to explain that the landlord could have required the “unauthorized person” to sign the existing lease or a new one – or that the eviction complaint could have been made against the “unauthorized person” instead of both occupants of the property.
In another case brought before the mock court, a landlord served a thirty-day notice of lease violation against a tenant who had brought a pet to the property without filling out the required authorization. After thirty days, the tenant still had the pet in the property, so the landlord posted a three-day notice of eviction. Following that, he took the eviction complaint to court.
What happened next may have surprised many in the audience. Strahorn ruled in favor of the animal-harboring tenant – and for good reason. The tenant told Strahorn that the “pet” was an “emotional support animal” – in effect, a service animal like a guide dog for a blind person.
The tenant produced a note from his physician explaining that the support animal was necessary to the tenant’s therapy.
Strahorn told the audience that the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair housing rules require landlords to provide “reasonable accommodation” to tenants who require service and support animals. It’s an evolving area of tenant-landlord law, Strahorn said.
Finally, Strahorn had a strong warning for landlords concerning security deposits. The law requires landlords to furnish a disposition statement to the departing tenant within 30 days of the end of tenancy, he said. Landlords who deduct for repairs and cleanup and send the balance to a former tenant without the disposition statement are asking for trouble, he said.
Big trouble, Strahorn said – as in being ordered to pay the tenant’s legal fees plus double damages.
To prevent this, Strahorn said, landlords should document tenant-caused property damage with photographs and include receipts for repair expenses. The disposition statement must be sent to the tenant’s forwarding address or last known mailing address, he said.   
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