This is my home, no matter whether I rent or own
Strengthening rental households, a primer

Stable rental households are fundamental to future success of household members. Frequent moves, loss of basic utility services, and persistent exposure to unsafe, and unhealthy conditions  can rob families, and especially children of the building blocks for success. Matthew Desmond says: "Without a home, everything else falls apart."

Changing the systems that promotes instability is an important advocacy goal, but in the meantime, arming low income households with coping skills is equally important. Here's some basics that can help low income families stabilize their households.

Section 2: Know your rental rights

1. Read, understand, and keep a copy of your lease. A lot of your rental rights come from your lease, not the law. Clauses to watch for include:

  • Termination requirements. Your lease may automatically renew or end on a fixed date without a termination notice. Your lease may require a 45 or 90 day notice.

  • Fees & charges: Fees for guests and pets are common. Understand what you are committing to before signing.

  • Illegal provisions. Ohio Landlord Tenant Law says a landlord may not transfer a landlord duty to a tenant, but that doesn't mean they won't try. Watch for illegal lease provisions.

  • Utility charges. if the property uses a utility reselling company, tenants could get stuck with exorbitant rates, fees, and charges. Families may be unable to qualify for government utility assistance like PIPP and HWAP.

2. Understand tenants rights and duties. There's many places to find out more about rental rights in Ohio. Find guidance from a reliable source.

3. Eviction doesn't necessarily mean "get out." In Ohio "eviction" is a three step process that results in a judicial order. Landlord cannot simply show up and put a tenant's belongings on the sidewalk. Contact an attorney to see if there's a defense to an eviction.

4. Denied for housing? Appeal the denial. Landlords are required by Federal Law to give information about "denials of credit" and that includes being denied a rental. Use ingenuity to repair a bad rental record.

Section 3: Keep a healthy home

Household members spend more time at home than anywhere else. Take steps to keep your home free of health risks. Ohio landlord Tenant Law requires a landlord to: "Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition..."

1. Mold comes from places in your home where there is standing water. This could be as simple as using vent fans, but may require repairs to leaking pipes, walls and roofs. When a tenant sees mold, then look for the water source and have the problem corrected.

2. Roaches, Asthma, Pesticides. Roaches are another problem that tenants can help to control. Preventing roaches can eliminate asthma attacks, but using harmful pesticides can make allergies worse. Make sure the exterminator coming to your home is licensed by the State of Ohio.

4. Bed bugs. Ohio Department of Health says bed bugs don't spread disease, but bed bugs can be annoying. Learning good prevention steps to keep bed bugs out and reporting an infestation, immediately are key. It's much easier to remove if reported early. Over the counter sprays are not effective. A licensed exterminator can use more effective chemicals or heat treatment and can help the household prepare for a treatment. Throwing away belongings (furniture, bed clothes) just spreads the problem. Instead have them treated by the exterminator.

5. Lead poisoning. In rental homes built before 1978, the landlord is required to give prospective tenants a statement of any known lead hazards and a booklet describing lead safe practices. Tenants should get this info before giving money or signing a lease. Households with children under the age of 6 should ask a health provider to give the children a lead test. Ohio requires testing in certain census tracts, but many doctors ignore this duty. Even if you are not in a target census tract, getting tests is important to pick up problems from water or soil or places where children visit.

posted January 22, 2017
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