What do I do if my landlord keeps coming into my apartment without notice?
A. Ohio Revised Code Section 5321.04 (A)(8) requires that a landlord must give a tenant reasonable notice before entering the tenant's apartment unless there is an emergency. Twenty four hours is presumed to be reasonable notice (meaning that the Court will use this as a starting point for reasonableness unless some facts are introduced to show that more or less than 24 hours notice is reasonable). Keep in mind that the Court will require you to be reasonable in accommodating the landlord's needs to make repairs and show or inspect the apartment. This question often comes up in the context of the tenant making a request for repairs, and the landlord treating that request as a carte blance invitation to stop by without warning. Accordingly, you should specify in any letter requesting repairs that the request is not an invitation to enter and that you expect to be consulted with a mutually convenient time for the repairs to be done.
There are several problems with enforcing your rights in this situation. The first is that it is very difficult to prove to a court months after the fact that someone came into your apartment without your permission. Even if you could prove this, a court will only award you money for your actual damages. That's fine if you have a video tape of your landlord sneaking in and throwing a brick through your television screen, but just walking around in your apartment is hard for a judge to quantify as to damages. This is so even if you are stepping out of the shower as your landlord opens your bathroom door.
Ohio Revised Code Section 5321.04(B) does allow the tenant to terminate his lease upon the landlord's unlawful entry into the premises. In the case of Limage v. Citiscene Apartments 1992 Franklin County Ohio App. No. 92AP190 (June 9, 1992 unreported), the Tenth District Court of Appeals allowed three tenants to terminate their lease for the landlord's merely walking through the apartment without notice while they out. But you should be warned that if you are in Ohio's Fourth Appellate District, the Courts there go by the rule laid down in TKD Enterprises v. Zimmerman 1998 Athens County Ohio App. (July 11, 1998, Athens App. No. 97CA44 unreported), that there has to be more than one unauthorized entry. It is unfortunate that many judges don't take this complaint from tenants very seriously.
Read your lease carefully. If you don't see a clause that requires the landlord's permission for altering the premises, then install an additional lock on the door and don't give the landlord the key. This is permitted under the case of Spencer v. Blackmon (1985), 22 OMisc.2d 52, so long as there is not a contrary lease term.
Most leases however, require the tenant to get the landlord's permission before doing any alteration. If that is the case with you, then go to a local department store and get a portable motion detector (these are pretty cheap and require only a nine volt battery). Set it about ten feet back from the door and turn it on when you leave. Your landlord will not want to spend too much time in your apartment while that thing is going off at 120 decibels. Otherwise, keep the chain on the door while you are there (or if you don't have chain get one of those door stops that you can wedge between the door knob and the floor) and tell the landlord to come back later if he doesn't have an appointment.
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Disclaimer: The information provided on ohiolandlordtenant.com is not intended to be legal advice, but general information related to legal issues commonly encountered. The law in your state may be different from that discussed here. The facts in your case may be different too.
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