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Eviction 101 for Commercial Tenants

Posted September 8, 2023
12:10 pm

By Maya Kapur, 2023 Summer Associate with Legal Aid's Community Engagement Practice Group

A commercial lease agreement is the contract between a landlord and tenant for use of space for the tenant’s business. Commercial leases are not covered by Ohio landlord tenant law, and tenants generally have fewer protections in commercial leases than in residential leases. In a commercial lease, a landlord can evict a tenant by going to court or by using self-help, if a self-help clause is included in their lease. In either case, a landlord can only legally evict a tenant if the tenant breached their lease, by not paying rent, for example.

In Ohio, landlords usually aren’t allowed to change the locks or get rid of a tenant’s belongings whenever they want. However, if a commercial lease includes a clause that allows a landlord to use self-help, then self-help is legally allowed. If a lease includes a self-help clause, it will usually describe exactly what actions the landlord is allowed to take to evict the tenant. Tenants must read and understand their lease, and look for a self-help clause, before signing it.

If the lease does not include a self-help clause, landlords must file an eviction in court, called Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED action), to evict a commercial tenant. A FED action is a quick legal process landlords can use to take back control of property from someone who won’t give up possession. A landlord must complete three steps before the court will grant the eviction and order a tenant to leave:

  1. The landlord must officially end the tenancy. Most commercial leases include a “notice and cure” clause. This means that the tenant hasn’t breached the lease until the landlord tells them about a problem (like late rent) and gives them some time to fix it.
  2. The landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to leave.
  3. The landlord must file a complaint for a FED action after the three-day notice period. But, if a landlord accepts rent after giving a tenant a three-day notice, the landlord may have a harder time getting the court to evict the tenant.

Tenants may also have the option of ending the lease early. A “termination or term of lease” clause will say how the tenant can end the lease early. A tenant may want to end the lease early if they have problems with the landlord, like poor maintenance.

No matter what the problem between a landlord and commercial tenant is, the tenant should not stop or reduce rent payments without an agreement with the landlord.

If you are a tenant with questions about your commercial lease, visit a Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic. Find clinic dates and locations online:

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 39, Issue 2, in September 2023. See full issue at this link: “The Alert”- Volume 39, Issue 2 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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