Ohio Security Deposit Laws in 2024

A security deposit is a payment required by landlords to cover potential damages to a rental property during a lease. Under Ohio law, landlords can charge a security deposit, but there are rules and restrictions on how much they can charge, what it can be used for, when it must be returned, and more. 

This guide will provide an overview of Ohio's security deposit laws, outline what is considered normal wear vs. damage to a rental, discuss recourse for tenants if deposits aren't returned properly, and answer frequently asked questions. The goal is to inform renters in Ohio of their rights and best practices around security deposits to avoid issues and ensure the return of their full deposit when moving out.

Ohio Revised Code Section 532116

Ohio Revised Code Section 532116 outlines the laws and procedures for security deposits in rental housing. This section of the code is part of Title 53 Real Property, under Chapter 5321 Landlords and Tenants. 

The statute requires landlords to provide tenants with the name and address of the financial institution where the security deposit is being held. Landlords must return security deposits, minus any lawful deductions, to the tenant within 30 days after the rental agreement ends and possession of the property is returned to the landlord.  

If a landlord intends to withhold any portion of the security deposit for damages or other charges, they must provide the tenant with a written notice itemizing the deductions. This notice must be sent to the tenant's last known address within 30 days after the termination of occupancy.

What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear

Normal wear and tear refers to the expected decline in condition that occurs naturally over time from standard occupancy and use. Landlords cannot deduct costs to repair normal wear and tear from the tenant's security deposit.

Examples of normal wear and tear that landlords cannot charge tenants for include:

  • Minor nail holes from hanging pictures on the walls
  • Scuff marks and scratches on floors or walls from regular use and moving furniture
  • Fading, discoloration or slight staining of carpet or paint over time 
  • Appliances and fixtures operating less efficiently due to age and accumulated use
  • Wood floors or railings that creak from normal settling
  • Excessive damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear includes:
  • Large holes in walls or damaged drywall from removed fixtures
  • Broken appliances, plumbing fixtures, doors or windows
  • Pet urine stains or odors soaked into carpet 
  • Permanent stains or burn marks on flooring or countertops
  • Infestations due to uncleanliness or negligence  
  • Mold, water damage or stains from unreported leaks
  • Missing or damaged flooring tiles, cabinets, railings or trim

If a landlord tries to make deductions from the security deposit for normal wear and tear, the tenant should dispute it in writing and consult housing authorities or legal aid if needed. Keeping a documented record of the unit's move-in and move-out condition also helps protect tenants against unfair charges.

Using Deposit for Unpaid Rent  

Under Ohio law, a landlord cannot deduct unpaid rent from the tenant's security deposit without the tenant's consent. If a tenant fails to pay rent or moves out owing rent, the landlord must go through the proper legal process to claim the unpaid rent. This involves providing proper notice to the tenant and filing for eviction in court if the tenant does not pay or vacate the unit.

The security deposit is intended to cover damages beyond normal wear and tear, not unpaid rent. Even if the lease agreement states the deposit can be used for unpaid rent, the landlord still must go through the eviction process and cannot simply keep the deposit. Tenants have legal protections that prevent landlords from arbitrarily claiming unpaid rent without due process.

If a landlord deducts unpaid rent from the deposit without consent, the tenant can sue to recover the improperly withheld funds. It is advisable for tenants to respond in writing disputing any improper deductions. Additionally, tenants should keep records of rent payments as evidence in case of a dispute.

By following proper procedures, both tenants and landlords can avoid conflicts over unpaid rent. Tenants should be aware the security deposit is not a substitute for paying rent. And landlords must use legal channels like eviction to claim unpaid rent instead of improperly deducting it from the deposit.

Damages Exceeding the Deposit

When a landlord claims damages that exceed the amount of the security deposit, the tenant is not automatically obligated to pay the difference. The landlord must provide proper documentation and evidence to justify charging for damages beyond the security deposit amount.

Some things to keep in mind if a landlord requests additional payment:

  • The landlord must prove the tenant is responsible for the damages, not normal wear and tear. Pictures of damage compared to move-in records can help determine liability.
  • The tenant should review the landlord's itemized deductions list and evidence of damages. Make sure they are accurate and reasonable. Question any unclear or exaggerated charges.
  • The tenant can try negotiating with the landlord if there is a dispute over damage claims. Offer to cover reasonable costs but not exaggerated or unproven expenses.
  • If the landlord demands payment that seems unfair, the tenant can refuse to pay. The landlord would have to take legal action to try recovering costs.
  • Consult a tenant lawyer if the landlord pursues legal action over disputed damages. The tenant may be able to defend against paying unreasonable demands.

The takeaway is that while a landlord can request additional payment for damages beyond the security deposit, the tenant is not necessarily obligated to pay without proper documentation and evidence justifying the charges. Refusing unfair demands can prevent being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous landlord.

Getting Your Full Deposit Back

When your lease ends, you'll want to get back as much of your security deposit as possible. Here are some tips for tenants to maximize chances of a full refund:

Document the condition 

at move-in and move-out. Take dated photos and videos showing the state of the walls, floors, appliances, etc. Having a record protects you if the landlord tries to claim damages.

Clean thoroughly

Scrub and dust everything, and consider professional carpet cleaning. Leave the rental spotless and in the same condition as when you moved in.  

Make minor repairs

Fill holes, touch up paint, replace burnt out lightbulbs, etc. Landlords can deduct for labor costs if they must fix minor issues.

Notify landlord of move-out

Send a letter with your forwarding address requesting return of your full deposit. Follow up if you don't get it back in 30 days.

Dispute improper deductions

Review the itemized list and challenge any unfair charges in writing. Quote the law if deductions seem unreasonable.

Consult a lawyer if needed

For large disputed amounts, consider consulting a tenant lawyer who can review the case and draft a demand letter. 

File official complaints

If the landlord unlawfully retains your deposit, file complaints with the state attorney general's office and local housing authority.

Following these best practices improves your chances of recovering your full security deposit back when you move out. Know your rights and hold your landlord accountable.

Recourse If Deposit Not Returned Properly  

If your landlord does not return your security deposit within 30 days or makes improper deductions, you have a few options for recourse:

Small Claims Court

  • You can sue your landlord in small claims court for the amount of your deposit plus court costs
  • No lawyers are required in small claims court
  • There is a limit on the amount you can sue for, often $3,000-$6,000  
  • You will have to file paperwork, pay a fee, and attend the court date

Consult a Tenant Lawyer

  • You may want to consult with a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law
  • They can review your case and advise you on the best way to recover your deposit
  • Fees apply but may be worth it to have an experienced representative

File a Complaint

  • You can file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's office or your local housing authority
  • They may investigate or take action against landlords with multiple complaints
  • This puts the landlord on notice and can help establish a record 

The best approach depends on the amount of your deposit and strength of your case. With proper documentation, you have a good chance of recovering your full deposit through legal action in Ohio.

Maximum Allowable Security Deposit

There is no Ohio state law that caps the maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit. The limit is set by the landlord and specified in the lease agreement.

However, it is typical for security deposits to range from 1-2 months' rent. Landlords commonly require a deposit equal to 1 month's rent. Higher deposits around 2 months may be charged for tenants with pets, credit issues, or other risk factors. 

While landlords legally could charge a higher deposit, amounts over 2 months' rent would be considered excessive and unreasonable for most standard rental units. Tenants should try to negotiate down an unusually high deposit that seems disproportionate.

Ultimately the allowable deposit amount will depend on what the landlord requests and the tenant agrees to in the lease contract. But tenants in Ohio can expect to put down around 1-2 months in a standard security deposit based on common practices.

Pet Deposits

Many landlords in Ohio require an additional security deposit for tenants with pets to cover any potential damages the animals may cause. However, there are no statewide laws in Ohio regulating how much a landlord can charge for a pet deposit. 

Landlords have full discretion to set pet deposit fees unless it is restricted in the lease agreement. Pet deposits typically range from $200 to $500 for one pet. Additional pets or larger dogs may require higher deposits.

It is common practice for landlords to charge pet deposits up to 1.5x the standard security deposit. For example, if the normal deposit is $1000, the pet deposit could be $1500. Landlords cannot charge an unreasonable or exorbitant pet deposit.

Pet deposits are subject to the same laws and procedures as regular security deposits in Ohio. The landlord must return the remaining deposit within 30 days of move out after deducting any damages caused by the pet. It's advisable for tenants to take dated photos and videos showing the condition of the property when moving in and out.

If a landlord wrongfully keeps a pet deposit, the tenant can take them to small claims court. Consulting a tenant lawyer can help determine the best course of action. Overall, tenants should understand and follow all pet policies outlined in the lease to ensure the best chance of getting their full pet deposit back.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the security deposit law in Ohio?

Ohio's security deposit law is outlined in the Ohio Revised Code Section 532116. This law governs how landlords must handle security deposits for rental properties in the state.  

How much can a landlord charge for a security deposit in Ohio?

Ohio law does not specify a maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit. The amount is set in the lease agreement between the landlord and tenant. Typically security deposits are 1-2 months' rent.

What is considered normal wear and tear in a rental in Ohio?

Normal wear and tear refers to the expected decline in condition that occurs naturally through standard occupancy and use. Minor scuffs, nail holes, faded paint and worn carpet would be considered normal wear and tear in Ohio.

How long does a landlord have to return the security deposit in Ohio? 

Under Ohio law, landlords have 30 days after the termination of a lease to return any remaining security deposit to the tenant. 

Can a landlord deduct unpaid rent from the security deposit?

No, the security deposit cannot be used to cover unpaid rent in Ohio without the consent of the tenant. Landlords need to go through the proper eviction process to claim unpaid rent.

What can you do if the landlord does not return the security deposit in Ohio?

If a landlord wrongfully withholds a security deposit in violation of Ohio law, the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord in small claims court. Consulting with a tenant lawyer is also an option.

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