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Can I refuse my tenant’s request to sub-let?

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2021 | Landlord-tenant law

It might make you nervous if your tenant approaches you requesting your consent to sub-let the premises that they’re renting from you to someone else. Maybe the other person has fewer resources or seems less reliable, and you don’t want to take on the risk. Is it against the law for you to refuse them?

Ohio landlord-tenant law

If there is a dispute between you and your tenant, and it develops into a full-blown lawsuit, the judge will first look to the terms of your lease. If you have a term in your lease agreement that prohibits sub-letting or assignments, then the judge will enforce it unless it goes against public policy to do so.

If your lease agreement doesn’t mention sub-letting or assignments, then your tenants must seek your approval. Generally, you have the right to refuse their request to sub-let. However, this refusal can’t be arbitrary – there must be some intelligible reason why you are refusing the request.

Avoiding a lawsuit for improper refusal

The quickest way to get yourself sued by your tenant is to refuse their sub-letting request for improper or illegal reasons. It’s important to keep current on Ohio state and federal housing laws in order to avoid inadvertently violating them.

Ohio has a version of the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination by landlords against tenants for their race, religion, sex, national origin or familial status. If your tenant can prove that your decision to refuse the sub-lease was based on one of these factors, they’re likely to win a lawsuit against you.

The prohibition against discrimination based on familial status is one that landlords commonly violate unintentionally. You might be worried about families with small children devaluing your property. However, if you refuse to rent to – or approve a sub-lease to – someone simply because they have children, you might be opening yourself up to a lawsuit.

Ohio and federal housing laws are ever-changing. It’s important to be aware of your rights and responsibilities as a landlord, so that you can continue to manage your properties successfully and minimize your chances of a lawsuit.