Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1923 provides a method of judicially acquiring possession of property back from a residential tenant. This is commonly referred to as an eviction. Under the Revised Code it is referenced as an action in “forcible entry and detainer.”
But that Chapter does not apply to commercial tenants. Thus, the question:
May an Ohio landlord for non-residential property lock out a tenant who is in default of his lease obligations (after any contractual notice and right to cure) without a judicial proceeding?
The short answer: Yes.
Ohio law provides that a commercial landlord may lock out a tenant under the following circumstances:
- The Tenant clearly is in default (for the landlord would not want to risk damages arising from a lockout if his claim is marginal).
- The written lease itself allows for such a remedy.
- All notice and right to cure provisions for the default have been provided and expired.
- The landlord can accomplish the lock out without “disturbing the peace.”
- Finally, the landlord by the lock out, may not seize control or ownership of the tenant’s contents — his personal property or trade fixtures. Thus, he should make accommodations with the tenant to retrieve his contents.
Finally, we advise commercial landlords that despite the fully developed law on this topic, tenants seem to have a proclivity to litigate the occupancy question.
This is a powerful tool for landlords in Ohio, but one that should be used reservedly.