If you rent a home or apartment and are injured as a result of a defect in or on the premises, the Ohio Landlord Tenant Statute may allow you to recover for your injuries. This hasn’t always been the case. Previously, a landlord could escape responsibility for the defects in a dwelling.
Here’s what the statute says in plain English: A landlord is required to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition, and a landlord must comply with all building, housing, health, and safety codes. The law also requires that a landlord keep all common areas safe and sanitary as well. If your landlord violates this statute by failing to do what is required, and you can prove you were injured as a result, the landlord is automatically considered negligent.
But there’s a big catch. It is the tenant’s responsibility to make the landlord aware of the unsafe condition. The case Schroades v. Rental Homes requires proof that the landlord either (1) received notice of the defective condition of the rental premises, (2) that the landlord knew of the unsafe condition, or (3) that the tenant made reasonable, but unsuccessful, attempts to notify the landlord. If a tenant fails to make the landlord aware of the problem, the landlord may not be held responsible.
These notice requirements are strict, and failure to provide proper notice often kills a tenant’s ability to recover. Here’s an example: A tenant complained to her landlord that the paint was peeling in her apartment and that her grandchildren had lead poisoning. The landlord denied any knowledge of the existence of lead-based paint. At trial, the landlord argued that while the tenant made him aware of the peeling paint; the tenant did not make him aware that the peeling paint was lead-based paint. The landlord argued he hadn’t been properly notified, and the Court agreed. The case was dismissed, and the tenant did not recover.
If the judgment seems harsh, it’s because it is. Contrast the previous case with Brown v. Dermer, a case from Maryland There, the Court held that knowledge of peeling paint in an apartment sufficed to put the landlord on notice that there might be lead in the paint. The Court reasoned that the landlord could reasonably foresee the danger that was posed to the children living in an apartment that had peeling paint.
From where I stand, the Maryland Court’s reasoning was much more sound. I also believe the Maryland case had better evidence and was developed well at the trial. I suppose it could have been the political bent of the courts too, certainly Maryland Court of Appeals’ judges are being appointed by more liberal governors than the purple state of Ohio which leads to different laws in both personal injury and landlord tenant cases.