Renting is a legal contract between a landlord and a tenant for the use of property, such as an apartment unit or single family home. The landlord is usually the person who owns the property and the tenant is the person who rents it. In legal terms, renting is called tenancy.

The Zanesville Municipal Court protects the rights of landlords and tenants, and holds both sides accountable if they fail to meet their obligations to each other.

This section will help you understand the basics of renting a home, and what you can do when rental agreements break down.

This section will examine some important points about rental agreements, as well as the basic rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. For example, landlords have the responsibility to make all repairs necessary to keep the rental premises in a livable condition. Similarly, renters have the responsibility to pay the rent on time and to keep the premises safe and sanitary. This section will also cover withholding rent, evictions, and how to prepare for court if your rental dispute goes to trial.

Free Legal Help for Renters

Our constitution ensures access to no-cost legal counsel when someone is accused of a serious crime and cannot afford an attorney. Yet many do not realize there is no such constitutional right to legal counsel in housing cases — even if the cases lead to homelessness.

Southeastern Ohio Legal Services provides free legal representation for tenants facing eviction. To take advantage of this free service, please contact Southeastern Ohio Legal Services at:

15 West Locust Street
Suite A
Newark, Ohio 43055
Telephone: (740) 345-0850

Withholding Rent

In certain circumstances, tenants are able to withhold rent. The process is called rent depositing. Tenants can pay rental deposits to the court, which are held in escrow (in trust) on behalf of the tenant.

A tenant has the right to withhold rent when:

  • The landlord fails to fulfill any obligation imposed upon them by §5321.04 of the Ohio Revised Code, (except for division (A)(9) of that section)
  • Any obligation described in the rental agreement is not met by the landlord
  • If the conditions of the residential premises are such that the tenant reasonably believes that a landlord has failed to fulfill their obligations
  • If a governmental agency has found that the premises are not in compliance with building, housing, health, or safety codes that could materially affect the health and safety of an occupant

Tenants may NOT withhold rent when:

  • They are behind in rental payments (this could result in being evicted and the rental deposits being paid to the landlord)
  • They received written notice when moving in that the landlord owns three or fewer dwelling units. Landlords who are renting three or fewer units and who provide notice of that fact to the tenant in writing are not subject to rent withholding.

Tenants: How to Withhold Rent

WARNING: If you do not follow proper procedure when withholding rent, you may be evicted.
Step 1: Notify landlord
Step 2: Wait for landlord response
Step 3: Complete court application and make rental deposit to the court clerk
Notify Landlord
The tenant must provide the landlord with a written notice that explains why they intend to withhold rent. The notice must provide the landlord with a “reasonable time” (usually 30 days) in which to respond. The notice must specify the acts, omissions, or code violations that are of concern. The notice should be sent to the person or place where rent is normally paid. The best practice for proving that the tenant gave notice to the landlord is to deliver the notice by United States Post Office certified mail, return receipt requested, or FedEx or similar private service that requires a signature acknowledging receipt.
Landlord Response
The tenant must wait a “reasonable period of time” which depends on the nature of the acts, omissions or code violations, but thirty days is usually an acceptable time to wait for the landlord’s compliance. After thirty days, the tenant can do one of the following:
  • Deposit all rent that is due and thereafter becomes due to the landlord with the Zanesville Municipal Court
  • Apply to the Court for an order directing the landlord to fix the situation. As part of the application, the tenant may:
    • Deposit rent with the Clerk
    • Apply for an order reducing the rent due to the landlord until the landlord remedies the condition
    • Apply for an order to use the rent deposited to remedy the condition
    • Terminate the rental agreement
A tenant can withhold rent only after having waited a full 30 days after providing notice to the landlord of their failure to fulfill their obligations (unless there is an emergency such as lack of heat in winter or lack of water). The notice must be clear and detailed enough that your landlord and the court will be able to understand exactly what is wrong. You must deposit your rent into escrow at the same time you would normally pay your rent.
For example, if your rent is due on the first of the month and you give your landlord written notice of your complaint on the 15th, then you still must pay rent to the landlord—and not the clerk—on the first day of the following month.
If the landlord does not comply even after a reasonable period has passed and the tenant has deposited rent with the court, the tenant can end the rental agreement, leave the premises and request the Court to refund the rental deposits to the tenant. It is a good idea to request a court hearing be set prior to the leaving the premises.
Depositing Rent with the Clerk of Court
The tenant must complete an Application to Deposit Rent and file it with the Clerk along with the first month’s rent by check or in cash. There is no up-front fee to deposit rent, but the Clerk will withhold 1% of the rent once it is returned either to the tenant or landlord after an agreement by the parties or a court order.

Landlords: How to Recover Rent

The landlord may apply to the Clerk of Court for release of the rent because the condition at issue has been corrected. The landlord may also dispute rent withholding and request a full release of the rent on the grounds that:

  • the tenant did not comply with notice requirements
  • the tenant was behind in the rental payments at the time of the initial rent deposits
  • there was no violation of any of the landlord’s obligations

Once the application is made, a hearing is scheduled before the judge.

The landlord may apply to the Clerk of Court for a partial release of rent for payment on a mortgage, insurance premiums, real estate taxes, utilities, repairs and other usual costs of operating the premises

The application for release of partial rent will be heard by the judge. The judge will decide whether or not to grant a partial release of the rent. The judge will consider the amount of rent the landlord receives from other rental units, the cost of operating those units, and the costs which may be required to address the tenant’s complaints.

The tenant may file an Answer to any request by the landlord to have rent released explaining why he or she agrees or disagrees with the landlord.


Evictions occur when a landlord seeks to remove a tenant from a rental property. Landlords can make a claim at the Zanesville Municipal Court to try to obtain a Writ of Restitution, which would allow them to remove the tenant from the property.

Evictions are also known as forcible entry and detainer cases.

Eviction cases are often complex matters which are governed by the law of the State of Ohio. The law sets out procedures that must be strictly followed in order to have a Writ of Restitution granted. The same law also gives both the landlord and tenant certain rights and responsibilities. The court strongly recommends that both the landlord and tenant consult lawyers to protect their rights during eviction cases.

The court encourages landlords and tenants to discuss their problems in an attempt to resolve the dispute prior to trial. If during the court process the parties are able to reach an agreement outside the court, they must notify the court in writing before their next hearing date.

3 Day Notice
A “3 day notice” must contain two things:
  1. The notice must make it clear to the tenant that the landlord will begin an eviction action and provide the reason(s) why the tenant is being asked to leave.
  2. In cases involving all residential premises, the 3 day notice must contain this exact 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.”
There is also a specific procedure that must be followed when delivering the 3 day notice. The notice must be delivered to the tenant by one of these methods:
  • By sending a written copy certified mail, return receipt requested
  • By handing a written copy of the notice to the defendant in person
  • By leaving a written copy at the defendant's usual place of residence
  • By leaving a written copy at the place from which the tenant is to be evicted.
Landlords should keep in mind that they cannot start an eviction case in court until 3 days have expired after service of the 3 day notice on the tenant. If the tenant remained at the premises for the three day period, meaning that they did not voluntarily leave the premises after they received written notice, the landlord can file an eviction case in court

When filing an eviction in the Zanesville Municipal Court, please submit the following documents with the appropriate amount of copies as listed: Complaint in Forcible Entry and Detainer: One copy for the court; a copy for the landlord; two copies for each tenant. Notice to Leave the Premises: One copy for the court and a copy for the landlord.