First Appellate District upholds ban on Attorney’s fees in evictions
In the case KGM Capital, LLC v. Jackson, the First Appellate District of Ohio (covering Hamilton County) found that the trial court made a reversible error by awarding the landlord attorney fees even though the lease agreement had a provision that allowed for the taxing of attorney’s fees in the event of a tenant breach.
In this matter the landlord had a lease agreement that stated the tenant would reimburse the landlord for “all reasonable expenses incurred due to [her] violation of any term or provision of the lease, including but not limited to $25.00 for each Notice to Pay, Notice to Quit, or other notice mailed or delivered by [KGM] to [Jackson] due to [Jackson’s] non-payment of rent/all court costs and attorney fees and all other costs of and or litigation.” However, R.C. 5321.13(C) provides that no agreement to pay the landlord’s or tenant’s attorney fees shall be recognized in any rental agreement for residential premises or in any other agreement between a landlord and tenant.
The Court in their analysis found that when a lease provision contradicts with chapter 5321 the provisions of chapter 5321 will win out. Therefore, if your lease currently has a provision for the payment of attorney fees for a tenant’s failure to pay rent, that section is likely void.
Does this shut the door on a landlord ever receiving attorney fees in an eviction? No. A landlord may still recover attorney fees from a tenant in very specific situations where the tenant violates a “tenant obligation” as defined by 5321.05. However, these are specific situations that must be pled precisely to ensure the landlord is protected while still obtaining an eviction as quick as possible.