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Landlord enters without notice or in an unreasonable manner


Wonderwoman wonders: "I have an issue where my Landlord keeps Trespassing on the property and entering my home without my consent. I was told by the prosecutors office that this was more of a civil issue than a criminal one. He has used my home like as a bathroom stop when I am not home. About six months ago I was home sleep and woke up to a noise and found him rummaging around in the basement. just recently he scheduled a showing of the property on a day I did not consent to, because he gave me 24 hour notice the prosecutors office said he was fully in his rights. When he attempted to enter I was home working and i warned him that I would call police so I did. When they arrived they let him stay. as soon as the officers left he told me it was his house and he could do what he wanted. he began yelling at me and busted through the back door with his shoulder breaking the chain lock bolt/ I called police back and they still let him stay. The day before this he tried entering the front door while I was sleeping but he stopped because the second front door entrance had a chain on it. I told him that i would be home sleeping and he was mad because he could not get me via phone so he tried to enter. I am looking for another place. In the mean time, how can i protect myself legally. I heard about possibly being able to get injunction relief. I document incidents with police now because he is getting out of hand."
RHINO says: "Sorry to hear your story. These are complex issues that are often misunderstood by landlords and law enforcement. On the other hand, there are some avenues for redress. In the meantime keep your locks on, respond in writing to any requests for entry, and, if possible, have a witness with you whenever landlord makes an entry." Here's an edited response:
1. The Ohio Landlord Tenant Law talks about the landlord right of entry in three different locations. A lot of times people will cite one section without referring to the others. RHINO has tried to paraphrase the duties in the three different sections this way: Landlord has the right to enter the unit after giving a 24 hours notice, except in case of an emergency, and only enter at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner. 
2. "Without my consent" Under Ohio LLTL, landlord does not need your consent to enter as long as she/he gives notice and enters at a reasonable time and manner. Implicit in these definitions is the fact that if a proposed entry is at an unreasonable time or manner, you may respond to the notice by suggesting a more reasonable option.
3. Civil vs. criminal. The prosecutor is correct. This is a civil matter. Your recourse for repeated abuse of the right of access is to seek injunctive relief. ORC 5321.04 (B) Because this section of the law includes "attorney fees" if a claim is successful, you may be able to find a private attorney to take the case "on spec," that is, bringing an claim for which the attorney will be paid if/when the claim is successful.
4. Some other options
a. If you are in Cleveland, you may ask the Cleveland Housing Court for assistance in resolving this problem. Cleveland Housing Court has a staff of Housing Court Specialists that have broad non-judicial powers to work out problems like this.http://www.clevelandhousingcourt.org/
b. You mentioned a "showing" of the property. You may want to file a complaint with the Real Estate Licensing Bureau against the broker who attempted an entry without notice  More here.
c. You may want to file a complaint with the police department for the incident when the police told you to permit him to stay.
d. You may want to talk to your local FH agency about a possible discrimination claim. The Federal and State Fair housing acts treat women heads of households as a 'protected class." You will need to be able to show that the landlord's behavior constitutes sexual harassment and/or difference in treatment based on your gender. Fair Housing agencies usually have staff people who can review your documentation and talk with you about possible claims.
 
What does the law say?

5321.04 Landlord obligations.

(A) A landlord who is a party to a rental agreement shall do all of the following:

(7) Not abuse the right of access conferred by division (B) of section 5321.05 of the Revised Code;

(8) Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, give the tenant reasonable notice of his intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be a reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

and...

(B) If the landlord makes an entry in violation of division (A)(8) of this section, makes a lawful entry in an unreasonable manner, or makes repeated demands for entry otherwise lawful that have the effect of harassing the tenant, the tenant may recover actual damages resulting from the entry or demands, obtain injunctive relief to prevent the recurrence of the conduct, and obtain a judgment for reasonable attorney’s fees, or may terminate the rental agreement.

and...

5321.05 Tenant obligations.

(B) The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent for the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises, make ordinary, necessary, or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements, deliver parcels that are too large for the tenant’s mail facilities, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen, or contractors.


 Remember:  just like tenants are responsible for the behavior of their household members and guests, owners and agents are responsible for the entry of staff members and contractors.


Recommended landlord best practices

1.  provide a real 24 hour notice:  
24 hours means 24 hours
  • not 5 pm Tuesday to 9 AM wed AM;
  • not 'sometime between Tuesday and Friday"

Put it in writing (the law does not require this, but it's just a good business practice.  Texts, voice messages and stopping someone in the hallway are not suitable notices when they come from a tenant.)

Post at the door or slide under the door  (the law does not require this, but it's just a good business practice.)

2.  no knock and enter:  The policy of knock and enter catches tenants unprepared for visitors.  Knock and wait is the correct method.

3.  control access to keys:  Only one management staff person should have access to keys.  You can create an emergency system for those (rare) times when there's a fire, running water, medical emergency.  (just like managers don't want to make a lot of duplicate keys, tenants don't want owners to pass around access to the tenant's home to anyone who comes to the property.)

4.  no unescorted entry by contractors:  contractors must be accompanied by a management staff person when entering unoccupied units.

5.  prohibit intrusive inspection.  Landlords have a legitimate right to inspect the floor, walls, ceiling, HVAC unit, appliances (that are supplied by management) and plumbing fixtures.  

  • DO NOT INSPECT TENANT BELONGINGS! Drawers, contents of the refrigerator or closet are NOT YOUR PROPERTY.
  • DO NOT COMMENT ON TENANTS BELONGINGS!  What tenants own (food in the fridge, numbers of pairs of shoes in the closet) are none of your business.  If they are incidentally observed, keep it to yourself.
  • DO NOT PHOTOGRAPH TENANT PROPERTY OR FAMILY MEMBERS without tenant's permission,  


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