Cincinnati Council enacts sweeping residential rental regulations

In the past few months, Cincinnati City Council has passed new laws regulating residential landlord/tenant relationships, including requiring all landlords to file extensive rental registration forms with the City and a first of its kind law requiring landlords to accept alternative security deposit payments. These new laws change the dynamic and financial viability of residential rental property within the City limits.

Presented below is a summary of new laws contained in six different enactments by  City Council.

Rental Registration

New Section 874-6 of the Municipal code requires all landlords to register with the city and supply the following information for each rental unit within the city limits:

  1. Name, address, and telephone number of the owners;
  2. If owned by an entity, the name, address, and telephone number of a member or corporate officer;
  3. The name, address, and telephone number for “any and all persons in control of the property” who can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year;
  4. Street address and permanent parcel ID of each rental property;
  5. Monthly rent charged; and
  6. The number and size of each rental unit, including the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and approximate square footage of each unit.

Landlords must update any changes in information on the form, any change in ownership, or any change in use, including if the property is vacant for sixty days or more.

There is a registration fee of up to $1 per unit to be charged every time a unit is registered or updated.

Failure to register is a Class D Civil offense ($750 fine [$1,500 if delinquent]). After receipt of notice of violation, each subsequent day is a separate violation punishable by a fine of $150 per day ($300 per day if delinquent).

The rental registration law goes into effect on May 13, 2020.

Read Chapter 874 here.

Late Fee Regulation

Chapter 871 of the Municipal Code has been amended to regulate late fees charged to residential tenants. Like the registration requirement, this change applies to all residential rental properties within Cincinnati.

Section 871-8 caps late fees at $50 or 5% of the monthly rent, whichever is greater.

Section 871-9 prohibits:

  1. interest on late fees;
  2. late fees on late fees; and
  3. late fees assessed against a tenant where the late rent that is owed is owed by a third party payer (CMHA or other rental assistance organizations).

The late fee regulation went into effect on January 28, 2020.

Security Deposit Regulations

The most sweeping change is the newly enacted security deposit regulation.

Sections 871-9 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code have been amended to require that all landlords provide a receipt to the tenant when the security deposit is paid (unless such payment is by the tenant’s personal check).

871-9 also now requires that landlords “who own and control more than twenty-five rental units” who require security deposits must offer to accept at least one of the following options in lieu of the required security deposit:

  1. Rental security insurance;
  2. Payment of the security deposit over at least six monthly installment payments due on the same day as the rent;
  3. Payment of a reduced security deposit no greater than 50% of the monthly rent charged for that unit.

Additionally, prior to entering into a rental agreement, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written notice of the available security deposit alternatives. The law also prohibits landlords from requiring any additional security should a tenant select an alternative security deposit arrangement.

The security deposit regulations take effect starting on April 14, 2020.

Notably, the security deposit regulations apply only to those landlords who own twenty-five or more units. So long as a distinct LLC or other entity owns less than twenty-five units total, that owner would not have to accept the alternative security deposits.

The municipal code does not provide any specific penalty for landlords who do not comply with the new security deposit provisions, but does provide that a tenant may bring a lawsuit to obtain an injunction to force a landlord to comply with the Cincinnati landlord tenant laws. The city solicitor could also sue for such an injunction.

Read the security deposit ordinance here.


We expect legal challenges to these new laws. If you have questions about how these new laws may affect you, contact us using this link.

If you have specific questions, contact Christopher P. Finney at 513.943.6655.