Breaking a lease in Ohio comes with certain guidelines that both the landlord and tenant must follow. Otherwise, both parties will be exposed to penalties or legal consequences.

Tenants in Ohio are able to end their rental agreement for any reason, although they may have to pay a penalty if they didn't end the lease for a valid reason.

The following page will cover everything you should know about ending a lease early, what you can do, and how you can prevent your tenant from doing it.

Notice Requirements

Tenants in Ohio should provide written notice if they want to end the agreement before the lease term expires. Currently, there are two established notice periods:

  • Weekly Leases - Seven days of notice.
  • Monthly Leases - 30 days of notice.

Ohio tenants don't have to provide notice for ending a fixed-term lease.

Landlords have the responsibility of including their preferred delivery method for the notice letter in the lease. Typically, most landlords decide to get in-person deliveries or mail deliveries.

Tenants must review the lease terms carefully if they want to avoid getting penalties for not sending notice appropriately.

Breaking a Lease Early

Tenants can move out of their rental unit for any reason. However, not using a valid argument for leaving can cause them to pay penalties.

There are a few scenarios where the tenant may be able to move out of the rental property without owing any additional rent payments. The following section will cover all of them:

Uninhabitable Unit

Most states in the US (including Ohio) have safety and health codes that the landlord must follow at all times. Otherwise, the tenant may be able to legally break the lease.

Generally speaking, landlords must make reasonable efforts to keep their property and its appliances in good working order. If the tenant ever notices any potential hazards inside the property, they must send the landlord written notice.

Landlords must fix the aforementioned problems promptly. If they fail to do it, the tenant could legally break the lease without any issues.

Some of the most common guidelines landlords need to comply with surrounding habitability include:

  • Providing repairs whenever necessary.
  • Keeping all common areas clean and safe.
  • Providing maintenance to all facilities inside the property.
  • Providing the tenant with receptacles and other conveniences to remove any waste or garbage.
  • Supplying running water and reasonable amounts of hot water.

Early Termination Clause

You can include an "Early Termination Clause" in an effort to protect yourself when a tenant is breaking a lease. Overall, this clause must include all the terms and conditions that need to be met so that the tenant can legally leave the unit.

Most of the time, landlords will allow their tenants to move out of the property in exchange for a penalty fee. The fee can vary depending on the case, although it typically ranges from one to two months of rent.

If your lease agreement already has an "Early Termination Clause," make sure you review all its terms carefully to see what's the best course of action.

Active Military Duty

Active service members are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). If the tenant is being relocated because of a deployment or permanent change of station, they could break the lease early without any penalties.

Tenants must send a written notice letter to their landlord, as well as a copy of the deployment orders. Then, they must prove that they entered active duty after signing the lease and that they will remain on said duty for at least 90 days.

It's important to note that tenants can only terminate the least 30 days after the next rent period starts. This protection includes members or commissioned corps of the:

  • Armed Forces
  • Activated National Guard
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Public Health Service

Privacy Violation or Landlord Harassment

A tenant may be able to avoid paying the remaining rent once they break the lease if they're able to prove they were being harassed by their landlord. Here are two common scenarios that may hold up in court:

  • Changing Locks: Ohio landlords aren't allowed to change their tenant's locks without their consent or permission. If they do it, they will be considered "constructively evicted."
  • Landlord Entry: Landlords in Ohio are required by law to provide at least 24 hours of notice before entering a property. Moreover, the landlord should only enter the property at a reasonable time or in an emergency case.

Other Reasons

There are a few other scenarios where a tenant may be able to break a lease in Ohio without facing too many penalties. However, these arguments aren't usually automatic, meaning they may have to get a court's approval before executing them.

Here are some of the alternative reasons tenants may use to end the lease:

  • The landlord violated the lease agreement repeatedly.
  • The landlord used an unenforceable contract.
  • The landlord failed to provide mandatory disclosures established by Ohio law.
  • The tenant is a victim of domestic violence. Some states grant domestic violence victims protection in case they need to move out of the property as soon as possible.
  • The rental unit doesn't include reasonable accommodations for people with a qualified disability.

Unjustifiable Reasons

Here, we'll include some other arguments tenants may try to use to end the lease early. However, keep in mind that typically, these arguments aren't enough justification on their own, so they won't provide the tenant protection against penalty fees.

Some of these arguments include:

  • Buying a new house.
  • Relocating for a new school or job.
  • Downsizing or upsizing.
  • Moving in to be closer with a family member, close friend, or partner.
  • Moving out because of a separation or divorce.
  • Criminal activity around the area.

Trying to break the lease agreement under any of those reasons may not relieve the tenant from their duty to pay rent. In these cases, the best thing tenants can do is to try to negotiate with their landlord to come up with a mutual termination agreement.

Landlord Compensation

Yes, landlords can get compensated if the tenant tries to break the apartment lease without a valid reason. Not staying on the property within the specified period in the lease is considered a breach of the agreement, so the landlord will have all the right to take legal action.

Landlords can include an "Early Termination Clause" that explains all the consequences and terms to break a lease early. As mentioned before, most landlords only charge a penalty fee to cover the remaining rent. Others decide to charge their tenant for all the money they owe, and others decide to file a lawsuit.

The penalty fees that come from breaking a lease early are often used to cover owed rent or re-rental expenses. Some landlords tend to keep the security deposit as compensation, but if its amount isn't enough to cover all the owed money, they may file a lawsuit with a small claims court to get the rest.

Many tenants, in an effort to reduce the number of fees they have to pay for their week-to-week or month-to-month lease, try to negotiate with their landlord. Depending on the case, the landlord may allow the tenant to move out of the property under certain conditions, such as helping them find a new tenant, paying lower penalties, etc.

Once the landlord is able to find a new tenant, the old one will no longer have a duty to keep paying rent, which is why it's in the tenant's best interest to help their landlord find a solution to the problem as fast as possible.

On the contrary, if the landlord isn't able to find a new tenant, landlord-tenant laws allow them to keep charging their old tenant for the owed rent.

Re-renting Units in Ohio

Landlords are required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent their property instead of charging their tenant for all the remaining rent. However, this doesn't apply if the lease has language that relieves the landlord or property manager from this duty.

It's important to note that landlords aren't required to lower their rental standards to find a tenant faster. If the landlord isn't able to find a replacement tenant, the old one will still have to pay what they owe.

Subletting the Property

Tenants could be able to sublet the property as long as they get permission from their landlord. Some leases already include a "Subletting Clause" which states the landlord's terms for doing it.

On the other hand, if the lease doesn't already include this clause, the tenant may send their landlord a letter that outlines the sublet request alongside any relevant information.

The landlord has the right to approve or refuse the request, as long as the response is based on legitimate and reasonable factors.

Bottom Line

The landlord-tenant law in Ohio is considerably easy to understand, compared to other states. As long as you follow all the rules established here and include an "Early Lease Termination" clause, you'll likely have a healthy lease term with your tenant.


Can a Landlord Evict Their Tenant for Not Paying Rent?

Yes. They can send them a notice to pay or quit, and if the tenant refuses to pay (or leave), the landlord may seek legal action.

What's Considered a "Constructive Eviction"?

It happens when a landlord continually violates the terms of the lease, constructively evicting their tenant. This means that the tenant may be able to terminate the lease without any penalties.

What Happens If the Tenant Refuses to Pay Penalty Fees?

The landlord may seek legal action through a small claims court, which can affect the tenant and their chances of renting in the future.

How Can Landlords Mitigate Damages?

They can make reasonable efforts to re-rent their unit or enforce penalties so that the tenant pays the money they owe.

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David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!