Frequently Asked Questions - Evictions Process

This information is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

1. What is a forcible entry and detainer (FED) case?
  1. When a landlord seeks to have a tenant removed from rental property, the lawsuit filed in an action in forcible detainer and entry, commonly known as eviction.
  2. This type of case is governed by the law of the State of Ohio and all procedures must be strictly followed in order for the Court to grant the landlord a Writ of Restitution which is the order permitting the tenant to be removed from the rental property.
  3. The FED statutes in Ohio confer rights and obligations on each party to a rental agreement which may be more complicated than expected. Therefore it is strongly recommended that both the landlord and the tenant consult legal counsel to ensure that his/her rights are protected during these cases.
2. What if I do not know the names of each person occupying the rental property I am trying to recover?
  1. Frequently, tenants permit other persons to live in the rental property who are not parties to the rental agreement. Those persons must be named in the complaint for eviction and receive notice to leave the property. They must receive notice of all hearings.
  2. If the names of those persons are unknown to you at the time you file an eviction action, you can name them as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" initially but you must identify them by name by amending the complaint and causing a copy of the amended complaint to be served upon them prior to any hearing which might result in a decision against them.
3. Must the landlord give the tenant notice to the leave the rental premises before going to court?

YES, there are two types of notices that may be granted.

  1. In all cases, the landlord must give the tenant a 3 day notice to leave the premises before starting the eviction action.

    1. The notice must inform the tenant of the landlord's intent to commence an eviction action and the reason the tenant is being asked to leave the premises.
    2. The notice must be delivered to the tenant by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by handing a written copy of the notice to the tenant in person, or by leaving it at the tenant's usual place of abode, or by leaving it at the premises from which the tenant is to be evicted.
    3. In cases involving all residential premises, the 3 day notice must contain the following language: "You are being asked to leave the premises. If you do not leave, an eviction action may be initiated against you. If you are in doubt regarding your legal rights and obligations as a tenant, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance"
    4. The eviction action may not be filed with the Court until 3 days has expired after service of the notice on the tenant, providing that the tenant has not vacated the premises.
  2. In addition to the 3 day notice to leave the premises, the landlord may be required to also give the tenant a 30 day notice to terminate the rental agreement if the tenant fails to fulfill an obligation under Ohio law that materially affects health and safety.
  3. If the premises at issue are subject to a federal subsidy or "Section 8", the landlord must comply with the notice requirements set by federal laws and/or regulations in addition to giving the 3 day notice required by Ohio law. It is best that the landlord consult an attorney regarding these matters.
4. Are there limitations on the money damages that a landlord can recover in an eviction?
  1. The maximum monetary jurisdiction of the County Court is $15,000.00. If the landlord has damages greater than that amount, the claim should be filed in Common Pleas Court.
5. What is service of process and why is it necessary?
  1. Service of process is the delivery of the Complaint to the tenant. When you file a Complaint the Court will attempt to send the Complaint to the tenant at the address you provide. Service of process notifies the tenant that you have filed a lawsuit and enabled him or her to prepare to admit the claim or prepare a defense. If the tenant is not served, your case cannot go forward.
  2. There are several ways the court attempts to serve the tenant:

    • First, one copy of the Complaint and Court Summons is served by Postal Service certified mail. If the certified mail is returned unclaimed or refused, service must be obtained another way.
    • Second, one copy of the Complaint and Court Summons is served by Postal Service regular mail with certificate of mailing. If the envelope is not returned, then service has been obtained.
    • Third, one copy of the Complaint and Court Summons is personally served on the tenant or posted in a conspicuous place on the rental property by the sheriff. If the sheriff is unable to locate or serve the tenant for any reason, then this service is unsuccessful.
  3. If service is not obtained by one of the listed methods, then your case will be dismissed and you will need to file the case again when you are able to obtain service.
6. How many hearings are there in an eviction case?
  1. Unlike other types of cases, there may be two hearings in an eviction case; one for restitution of the property and one for money damages.
  2. If the landlord is requested both the return of the rental property and money damages, the Clerk will schedule the first hearing upon service of the Complaint and Court Summons. At the first hearing, the date/time of the second hearing will be discussed.
7. How do I prepare my case for trial?
  1. Organize your testimony and arguments so the Court will be able to understand the facts. It is best to write down your thoughts in advance and organize the in a timeline so that you can explain them to the Court in an orderly manner.
  2. Gather evidence that will help you prove your case by collecting documents related to your claims. Examples are: receipts, cancelled checks, estimated bills, contracts, photographs. Bring an extra copy of each so that you can provide a copy to the opposing party. If photos are on your phone, you will need to print out a paper copy for the Court.
  3. Alert your witnesses to the date of the trial. If necessary, you may subpoena witness who will not appear voluntarily.
8. What should I do on the day of the trial?
  1. Be on time! If the landlord is late or absent, the case may be dismissed. If the tenant is late or absent, a default judgment may be granted.
9. What happens during the trial?
  1. The Court will call the case and ask the parties the status of the matter. For example, if the tenant has already vacated, the matter may be resolved without a trial.
  2. Trial on the first cause (restitution of the property) happens first. The landlord presents his/her evidence. After the landlord presents evidence, the tenants may ask the landlord questions. The tenant may also ask questions of any witnesses who present testimony. Next, the tenant presents evidence. The landlord may also ask questions of the tenant after they testify.
  3. REMINDER: a person representing a corporation or limited liability company without a lawyer may not ask questions of any witness.
  4. Evidence may include relevant testimony of witnesses, and relevant documents. Remember to bring extra copies as the court will keep your original.
  5. Witness testimony must be from a witness with first-hand knowledge of the facts. Written or recorded statements from witnesses who are not present at trial are considered hearsay and cannot be considered by the court.
  6. The Court may ask questions to clear up testimony. It is important that only one person speak at a time as the trial is being recorded. Please remain polite to the Court and the other party; do not interrupt or argue.
10. Damages
  1. A hearing on the second cause (damages) may be held on the same day as the first cause or may be at a later date since damage to the property may not be known until the tenant vacates.
  2. Damages may be for back rent or for alterations or physical damage to the property.
  3. Back rent is just as it sounds, unpaid rent due during the tenancy.
  4. Ordinary wear and tear is not recoverable as a damage in an eviction action. R.C. 5321.05(A). Ordinary wear and tear happens with normal use and passage of time, even if the tenant cleans regularly and takes care of the premises. Examples are: faded paint, carpet may wear down, electrical switches may break.
  5. Property damage may be the result of unreasonable use, accidents or alterations to the property. Damage can include excessive dirt or mold, stained carpets, broken windows or doors, holes in walls or damages to appliances. If the landlord can prove property damage, the amount awarded will be the depreciated value of the property.
11. What happens after trial?
  1. With regard to the First Cause, the Court will determine whether the landlord is entitled to restitution of the property and if so, the Court will set a date, usually 10 days from the Court date, for the tenant to vacate.
  2. If the tenant has not vacated by that date, then the Clerk will issue a Writ of Restitution. Upon receiving the Writ, the landlord contacts the sheriff pursuant to Local Rule 8.02 to schedule a set out. The details of how the set out happens are in Local Rule 8.02.
  3. On the Second Cause, after hearing the damage evidence, the Court will issue a written decision regarding damages after reviewing all the evidence and the testimony.
  4. If the parties disagree with either decision of the Court, they have the right to appeal. Specific questions regarding appeal should be directed to a qualified attorney.

Any Questions not resolved by this document should be addresses to a qualified attorney. Court clerks are not attorneys and are not permitted to give parties legal advice.