Landlord must provide copy of lease to tenants

Mr. and Mrs. Proctor brought suit against their landlord, Dwight Frame. Frame showed tenants an apartment on November 6, 1996. Tenants were apparently satisfied with the apartment as they paid Frame a security deposit of $260 on the same day and also gave him a welfare voucher of $400 to be applied towards rent. No utilities worked in the apartment; however, the Proctors moved in their belongings. Mrs. Proctor contacted the electric company in order to obtain electricity. The electric company would not turn on her electricity until she provided it with a copy of her lease. Frame had not provided her with a copy of the lease. Mrs. Proctor contacted Frame on numerous occasions but to no avail. Frame had originally promised to provide a copy of the lease on November 7.

Frame finally met with the Proctors on November 30. Up to this point, the Proctors had not been able to move in their children because of the cold and had only spent a couple of nights there. When Frame met with the Proctors, he demanded December’s rent before he would provide a copy of the lease. On December 2, Frame posted a three day notice of eviction. One day later, he changed the locks so the Proctors could not enter the apartment. Within a few days, some of the Proctors’ items were seen on the curb. The Proctors brought suit seeking damages for constructive eviction and for intentional disposal of their personal property.

The Akron municipal court found that the landlord had a duty to provide the tenants with a copy of the lease under Ohio law, that his failure to do so prevented the Proctors from living in the apartment, and that this constituted a constructive eviction. The court also found that Frame acted willful and maliciously when he changed the locks on the tenants before the three day notice of eviction had expired. The court awarded the tenants $460 in compensatory damages and $5000 in punitive damages against Dwight Frame.

Proctor v. Frame, 90 Ohio Misc.2d 11 (1998).