Don't Make Defaulting Tenant Guess on Months of Nonpayment
Don’t send tenants a default notice for nonpayment of rent that doesn’t specifically identify the months. Failing to list the months of nonpayment in the notice may cost you your right to evict the tenant or terminate the lease.
An Ohio landlord learned this lesson the hard way. It sent a defaulting tenant notice of nonpayment but didn’t identify the default months. The tenant then tendered three months of unpaid rent, contending that they covered January, February, and March. “Okay, we’re all caught up now,” the tenant claimed. But the landlord said the default wasn’t cured because the tenant still owed rent from December the year before and asked the court to declare that the lease was no longer in effect.
The Ohio court ruled that the landlord couldn’t terminate the lease based on the default notice it sent the tenant. The lease gave the tenant the right to cure a default within 15 days of receiving a default notice from the landlord. Since the default notice didn’t list the months of default, the tenant didn’t have “the specific information necessary” to know that rent was actually due for four months. The right to cure a default becomes a “meaningless guessing game,” if a tenant doesn’t know what it has to do to cure, the court concluded [Gallagher v. Borden, Inc., No. 92AP-287 (Regular Calendar), 1992 Ohio App. LEXIS 6736].