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Toledo, Ohio personal injury attorney Dale Emch answers general legal questions in his Toledo Blade “Legal Briefs” column. Attorney Emch answers questions on all topics, including those on car accidents, dog bites, and wrongful death.

Dear Dale: My sister has been living with a guy for about three years. She has recently been trying to get him to leave because he has become verbally abusive and sometimes destructive, but he refuses. I would think that being abusive, which her neighbors
Answer: My initial take on this situation is that your sister probably can throw the guy out as long as some provision is made for him to retrieve his belongings.

But your question doesn’t address a few key details, so I’ll try to deal with the “what-ifs” in hopes they’ll be helpful to you or other readers. My main concern about booting the guy out and changing the locks would be if he can be construed to be a tenant who is renting from your sister. If he’s the type of guy who would push the matter on a legal front, it could be a hassle for her to get him out.

In Ohio, a tenant is someone entitled by a rental agreement to use and occupy a residence. A rental agreement can be written or oral. A tenant can be evicted in certain situations, but those evictions have to follow rules spelled out under the law.

For instance, a tenant can be evicted for such things as not paying rent or for holding over past the term of the lease agreement. In that event, the landlord must give the tenant proper notice that he’s being asked to leave and that his eviction could be sought. A complaint would then have to be filed in court and a hearing would be held.

Rental agreements also can be terminated without evictions. For instance, a landlord renting to a tenant on a month-to-month basis without a lease can end the agreement by giving the tenant a month’s notice that he has to move.

So, what does that mean for your sister? It really depends on what their agreement was when he moved in. If they formally agreed that he would pay a set amount of money each month to live there, he’d have an argument that he was a tenant. In that case, to be safe legally, she could give him a 30-day written notice that he must leave.

I’m guessing, though, that they didn’t have a formal agreement. If that’s the case, I don’t think he’d be a tenant under Ohio law, and therefore wouldn’t be entitled to the protections available under the law. He’d be no different than a guest, and his refusal to leave would be a trespass. If that’s the situation, my view is that she can kick the guy out today, change the locks, and make his belongings available to him somehow.

The problem is that in these situations there’s always a rub between the legal and the practical. It’s simply bizarre that your sister has told the guy to get out, but he won’t. He may be the type of guy who is going to make things ugly or messy before she can finally get him out the door, regardless of whether the law is on her side. If he has no rental agreement with her, she should ask him to leave again in front of witnesses, and if he doesn’t, she should call the police.

If he is paying rent and he won’t leave after getting written notice, have your sister contact a lawyer who deals with property-law issues so the process can be done in a legally proper way.


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