Before You Sign a Lease

Many leases offered by local landlords contain terms that are prohibited by Ohio law. Before signing a lease with more than one other student for any house in Kent, we recommend that you ask the landlord to show you proper verification that it is properly licensed as a “board and care” home. If the house is not properly licensed, the City of Kent can file a lawsuit asking the court to require you to move. Student Legal Services recommends that you refrain from signing any lease agreement if:

1. you have not read the entire agreement, understand its contents and feel that the terms are fair to you;

2. it does not contain the name and address of the owner and the agent of the owner;

3. it shifts the responsibility for repairs to the tenants. Landlords are responsible for keeping the rental property in a fit and habitable condition at all times. (Tenants can be made to pay for repairs if they cause damage to the landlord’s property through their own negligence or willful misconduct.);

4. it requires you to pay the landlord’s attorney’s fees;

5. it contains penalty clauses or “liquidated damages “ clauses. That is, the lease requires a tenant to pay a “fine” or agreed amount upon certain events (e.g., you didn’t clean the yard up quickly enough, you are in default of payment of rent, for carpet cleaning upon move out, etc.) Such clauses have been stricken down by Ohio courts as unenforceable;

6. it automatically entitles the landlord to retain a portion of your security deposit. Landlords may only retain security deposit at the end of your lease for (a) rent that is due; (b) damages suffered due to breach of the lease or (c) costs of repairing something the tenant damaged beyond ordinary wear and tear;

7. it makes you strictly liable for damages caused by any third party. (if someone you have invited onto the property is committing damage, you are required to try to stop the person from doing so.);

8. it contains any blanks that are not filled in;

9. it enables the landlord to seize your personal property because you haven’t paid the rent;

10. it gives the landlord the right to enter the property without giving you reasonable notice;

11. provides for late fees in excess of $30.00 per month;

12. it does not give you the right of full credit for any rent you have paid in advance if the property is transferred to another owner.

13. Also, many leases contain clauses that require you to notify the landlord in writing a certain amount of time prior to the termination date of your lease if you do not intend to renew (e.g., 60 days). Ohio Courts have found such terms to be enforceable. If you fail to do so, you may continue to be liable If your lease has this requirement, make sure you comply.

14. If the lease is a joint lease, parents should not co-sign a lease or a guarantee unless the document clearly states that the parent is taking on liability only for his or her own child, and not for the other students on the lease.

15. Finally, initial each page of the lease and make sure that you receive a copy at the time of signing. Keep your lease in a file for future reference.

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