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Why self-help evictions are a problem

On Behalf of | Jun 19, 2023 | Landlord-tenant law

Landlords have to deal with a lot of problems on behalf of their tenants – and, sometimes, they just have a tenant who is a problem. If you are a landlord, whether your tenant is aggressive and threatening to their neighbors, refuses to pay their rent or simply tears up your property, you may want them out as fast as possible.

It’s easy to understand why frustration could lead a landlord to a “self-help” eviction, but that’s always a bad plan. If you indulge in this sort of action, you (not your terrible tenant) could be the one that pays the price.

What’s a self-help eviction?

Self-help evictions refer to the practice of landlords taking matters into their own hands to forcibly remove tenants without following the proper legal procedures for a formal eviction. Examples of self-help evictions can include:

  • Changing the locks when the tenant isn’t home and refusing to allow them back in
  • Removing the tenants’ belongings (even if you put them in storage)
  • Shutting off the utilities to make the property uninhabitable
  • Taking off all the doors to the property so that it cannot be secured

All of these are illegal, and here’s why:

  • They are a violation of tenants’ rights: Tenants have the right to due process, including proper notice and an opportunity to respond to eviction proceedings. Self-help evictions deny tenants these fundamental rights.
  • They’re considered an abuse of power: It may sometimes feel like your tenant is the one in control, but that’s not how the law sees the issue. This absence of legal oversight in an eviction can lead to abusive and unfair practices, since some landlords may take advantage of their position to coerce or intimidate their tenants.
  • There is a potential for harassment and intimidation: These actions create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, making tenants feel unsafe and vulnerable. In addition, they may face difficulties finding alternative housing, securing their belongings or maintaining their employment after an abrupt eviction.

In Ohio, a self-help eviction could backfire in a big way. Your tenant can sue you for any damages they suffer (including loss of possessions and lost wages for their time dealing with the situation) – while remaining on the property. If they’re successful, you can end up paying their court costs and legal fees. That’s even more money out of your pocket.

When you have a problem tenant, it’s safer, by far, to obtain legal guidance. The right assistance can help you through the eviction process and free your property from unwanted tenants without any unnecessary and expensive mistakes.