Rent Escrow Process For Tenants: How to Get Your Landlord to Make Repairs
If you want your landlord to fix something, you must follow the rules set out in the law. If you do not follow these rules carefully, you could be evicted for non-payment of rent. Tenants who are current on rent may use the rent deposit/escrow process to assist them in having needed repairs made to the rental property. Withholding rent in an attempt to force a landlord to make repairs subjects tenants to a possible eviction.
Residential landlords have a duty to repair:
- Any problems with the housing that “materially affect your health and safety” and violate local building, housing, or health and safety codes; Such as: broken windows, roof leaks, peeling paint and/or plaster, mice, rats, roaches, rubbish in your yard, lack of smoke detector or smoke alarms.
- Any problems with the housing that make it unlivable.
- Any defects in the hallway and/or stairway that could pose a danger to you or your guests; Such as: unsafe gas or electric heaters and appliances.
- Any electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, or other landlord supplied systems that are not working properly and pose a danger to you or your guests; Such as: unsafe gas or electric heaters and appliances.
- Plumbing or heating systems that are not working properly, leaving you without running water, hot water, or adequate heat for any period of time.
- Broken and unusable garbage cans that are shared by four or more apartments in the same building.
If you ask your landlord to fix any problems or defects and he does not fix them, tenants may follow this 4-Step Process to deposit their rent into escrow with the Akron Municipal Court.
Rules: Step One
Give a written notice to the landlord. The notice should:
- Give your landlord written notice, in detail, each problem you wish to have repaired (the list should be specific, so the landlord can use the list to repair each problem).
- Ask the landlord to make minor repairs within thirty (30) days and major problems (emergencies such as lack of heat in winter) within five (5) days.
- Tell the landlord what you will do if problems are not repaired within thirty (30) days.
- Typically what tenants explain they will do if repairs are not made is deposit rent with the court AND ask the court to order your landlord to make repairs and/or lower the rent you owe because you are living with the inconvenience of this problem. Or ask the court to return part of the rent money deposited to you, so that you may make the repairs yourself.
- Sign, date and make a copy of the notice so that you may give a copy to the court at a later date.
- Deliver the notice to your landlord in person or by certified mail to the place where rent is normally paid. If you deliver the notice in person, take someone with you to witness the delivery. If you deliver the notice by certified mail, save the receipts.
Rules: Step Two
In addition to providing notice to your landlord: If you think the problem violates your local building, housing or health and safety code, call the Housing Inspector of the Health Department for your city or county. They will inspect your property at no charge to you.
Akron City Housing Code Enforcement Agency
Rules: Step Three
Wait until thirty (30) days after you have delivered or mailed the notice. If your landlord still has not made any repairs, you can go to the court for help. For most defects you must wait until the thirty (30) day period has ended before you can go to court.
If the problem is serious (lack of heat in the winter, no running water, no hot water or electricity), you only have to wait a reasonable time, which is normally five (5) days before you can go to court.
Caution: Any rent that comes due within thirty (30) days after delivery of the notice MUST be paid to your landlord! If not, you may lose your claim in court and you could be evicted for failure to pay rent.
Rules: Step Four
After thirty (30) days have ended; on or before the day your next rent payment is due, go to Akron Municipal Court, Civil Clerk’s Office located at 217 S. High Street, Akron, Ohio, with the full amount of next month’s rent only (may NOT include utilities or pet fees), a copy of the notice you gave your landlord along with copies of the mail receipts, to place your rent in escrow with the court.
You will be given an Application to Deposit Rent. Signing the application verifies that you have notified the landlord of the problem and that you are current on your rent payments. Be sure to obtain a copy of your application and receipt for your records.
Please note: There is NO filing fee to place your rent in escrow, however, the court will retain one percent (1%) of the monthly rent you deposit with the court.
What happens after rent is deposited with the court?
The Akron Municipal Court will send a copy of your application to the landlord and your case will be set for a hearing. You will be notified in writing by mail of the date, time and place of your hearing. If you do not hear from the Court within ten (10) business days, call 330.375.2920 to see if a date has been scheduled yet.
What to do when your next rent payment is due?
Pay your rent to the Clerk of Court. Every time your rent is due, you MUST pay it to the Clerk of Court and get a receipt. Save your receipts. If you do not pay your rent to the court on or before the date it is due, you risk losing your case. Continue to pay your rent into escrow, on time, with the court each and every single month until your case is heard by the court.
What to do when repairs are completed?
Come to the Clerk of Courts, Rent Escrow office with your ID to sign a release form that authorizes the Escrowed funds to be released to your landlord. Your rent is to be paid to your landlord from this point forward.
Court hearing information:
What to bring with you to the hearing:
- A copy of any notices you sent to your landlord and any mail receipts, if the complaint was done in writing and delivered through the US Postal Service.
- Any witnesses that went with you when you delivered your complaint to the landlord and have seen the defects or problems that need repaired.
- A copy of the receipts showing that you deposited rent with the court.
- Any photographs or documentation you made of the defects or problems that need repaired. Make copies of photos to leave with the Court. Magistrates will not look at your phone to view photos, videos, audio recordings, or text messages. You must put your evidence into a form that can be left with the court because a record if kept of all proceedings, including evidence presented: Print out photos, text messages, documents, and notices, and copy video and audio files to a portable drive to leave with the Court as evidence.
- Any reports or notices from a building or health department inspector.
What happens at the hearing:
At the hearing, both the landlord and tenant are given an opportunity to give an explanation of their problems or concerns. Only evidence presented at the hearing is considered in the decision made. Evidence is not accepted outside of court, so bring all of your evidence and witnesses to the hearing if you want them considered in the decision.