Important Information About Housing
Fair Housing: You may not be discriminated against when applying for housing based
on race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, having children, or the race of your
children. If your application to rent an apartment is rejected, you have a right to know
why. If you feel you may have been discriminated against based on the above, you can
call: HUD (Housing and Urban Development) at 800-765-9372, Columbus Urban
League at 614-257-6300, Columbus Legal Aid at 1-877-224-8374, or Ohio Civil Rights
Commission at 1-888-278-7101 or 614-466-5928.
Types of Housing:
Market Rate Housing: Any housing unit available to rent where tenants are responsible
to pay the entire amount of the rent and the agreement is made directly between renter
Subsidized Housing: Housing units where the tenant pays a percentage of their
income, usually 30%, toward rent and utilities. The tenant must meet income guidelines.
***Subsidized housing units are limited and there are often long waiting lists. ***
o Public Housing: Units are owned and managed by Columbus Metropolitan
Housing Authority (CMHA). Rents are subsidized (based on income) for low-
income families, seniors, and disabled adults. Tenants must apply at CMHA and
meet federal requirements for public housing. Some have a $50 minimum rent.
o Tenant-Based Section 8: Section 8 requires an application at CMHA. If
approved, tenants can go to any landlord that accepts Section 8 and use the
voucher to help pay all or part of the rent. Tenant-based vouchers are portable,
meaning households can move and still use the voucher at another unit with a
o Project-Based Section 8 Subsidy: The property owner has a contract with HUD
(Housing and Urban Development) and HUD pays the owner the amount due
after the tenants' portion of the rent. In this type of housing, the subsidy is
attached to the unit rather than to the household.
Supportive Housing: Apartments with subsidized rent (based on income) that are
linked with on-site supportive services such as case management, mental health,
substance addiction, and employment support. All Rebuilding Lives units are supportive
housing units. Some supportive housing units have a $50 minimum rent.
Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC): Tax credits are issued to landlords who
build or rehabilitate buildings for low-income tenants. HUD sets the income limitations
for tenants each year based on the area's median gross income. LIHTC units can be
occupied by households whose income is at or below the maximum allowable income
for their household size. Households using HUD Section 8 Vouchers are also eligible if
the rent is at or below the area's Fair Market Rent.
For listings of LIHTC properties in Ohio see: http://www.ohiohome.org/renters
Before You Look For Housing
Think about how much you can reasonably afford to pay for rent and utilities.
Typically, one month’s housing expenses should be about the same as your weekly
salary or 30-35% of your total monthly income.
Find out if you owe any money to utility companies. If your utilities have ever been
shut off, you may have an outstanding balance. Even if it is with a company in a
different area or state, it may interfere with opening an account or beginning service
to a new apartment. Clients with a past due balance can sometimes negotiate with
the utility companies and begin service by payment of a set deposit amount.
Contact Numbers for Local Utility Companies: (Client use)
Columbia Gas: 1-800-344-4077
American Electric Power: 1-800-672-2231
City of Columbus, Division of Electricity: 645-7360
Columbus Southern Power: 863-2570
In preparation for apartment applications, gather important life documents.
Social Security card for each family or household member
State ID or Driver’s license for each family or household member over 18
Birth certificate for each family or household member
Proof of Income
Landlord references with the name, address, and phone number
Employer references with the name, address, and phone number
Personal reference with the name, address, and phone number
For more information about how to obtain these, see “Obtaining important documents”
Find out where housing is available by getting information from:
o Rental housing booklets. These are usually available at libraries, grocery stores,
near bus stops and many other locations in the community.
o CMHA’s lists of Section 8 and CMHA owned properties (http://www.cmhanet.com)
o Urban League’s Housing Information Services, call (614) 257-6300 or visit
o HUD search (http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm?state=oh&topic=renting)
o Friends and family
When You Go To Apply At an Apartment
Look around the neighborhood and property.
Is the school, grocery store and other shopping, transportation, house of worship, or
other important services near the location? Does the property have a neat
What safety features are offered at the property?
Are there gates into the property, locked external doors, adequate lighting?
Be up front with the prospective landlord.
The landlord will get information about your credit report (and sometimes a criminal
report) from the reporting agency. If you are honest, it builds trust with the landlord
and may give you a chance to explain the circumstances.
*If you need information about how to obtain a copy of your credit report, see
“Obtaining important documents”.
Make a good impression.
Introduce yourself and inform them why you are calling or visiting the property.
Dress nicely when you view an apartment. Be polite and professional and be on time
when you have an appointment. Bring all your paperwork along so you are prepared
to ask and answer questions.
Be respectful of the property as you walk through it.
Fill out the application completely and accurately.
Incomplete information may result in the application being rejected and false or
inadequate information could give the landlord grounds for eviction after you have
Read your lease and any building rules in advance.
Ask the landlord for a copy of the lease before you decide to rent the apartment. Go
over it and get help with terms you don’t understand.
Ask the landlord questions -- lots of questions.
See “Questions to Ask the Landlord”.
Questions To Ask the Landlord
Do you currently have any vacancies?
On what date would you have a unit ready?
What do I need to do to apply for one of your units?
Is there a fee?
How much is the rent? To whom do I pay the rent?
When is the rent due? Is there a grace period?
Is there a late fee? If so, How much is it?
Are there any other fees besides rent? If so, how much
is it and when does it begin?
How much is the deposit?
Do I get the deposit back if I decide not to rent?
What is the total amount to be paid at move in?
Do you require Renter’s Insurance?
What is the unit like? How big? How many rooms?
Does the rent include utilities, which utilities?
Does the unit use gas or electricity for appliances and
How much does the average resident spend per month
on utilities not included in the rent?
What type of lease do you require? 6 month? 12?
If I renew the lease, under what terms is this done?
Is there anything in the lease that will cause the rent to
go up during the term of the lease?
How often is rent normally increased?
Is there a grocery store nearby? Is it close to a bus line?
What alterations can be made to the apartment?
Do I need written permission?
Under what conditions is the deposit refunded?
How long will it take to get the deposit back?
If I move before the lease ends, what is the penalty?
What’s the history of the building? Are their known
toxins in the building such as asbestos or radon?
Who is responsible for maintenance? Indoor & outdoor
Is there periodic pest control?
Are pets allowed? Is there a pet deposit?
Will the deposit be refunded with my security deposit?
If furniture comes with the apartment, who decides
when it should be re-placed?
What to Do Once You Find an Apartment
Many landlords will ask you to pay some up-front fees. Before you turn over any
money, know what you're paying for and whether or not you can get the money back
if you decide not to rent there or if your application is not approved.
Always get a copy immediately of any document you sign.
Always get a receipt, especially if you paid with cash, for any payment.
Before you sign a lease or pay a security deposit, you should look at the unit you
would be living in, not just a model or a similar vacant unit.
Conduct a walk-through before you've paid any money or signed a lease, ask the
landlord for a written commitment to correct any problems you notice. Always get all
promises to clean or make repairs in writing before you sign a lease. If repairs are
not done at the time you sign the lease, incorporate the promises to correct
problems into the lease. Otherwise those promises may be lost.
When you move in, write down any existing damage or dirt on a move-in checklist.
Sign it and have the landlord sign it. When you move out, your landlord won’t
accuse you of causing damage that was there when you moved in.
Take photographs of any existing damage when you move in.
A lease is considered a legal document, so pay close attention to its content. It
should clearly state your rights and responsibilities. In order to be a binding contract
between you and a landlord, a lease should contain the following items:
o The address of the premises, with a brief description of the number of rooms
o The names of the lessor and lessee
o The length of time of the lease, or term of occupancy
o The amount of the monthly rent, when it is due, and to whom it is paid
o Signatures of landlord and tenant
Keep a copy of the lease in a safe place and refer to it if questions arise in the future.
Some landlords require proof that utilities have been turned on prior to move-in.
Contact the gas, electric, water, telephone companies. Write down account
numbers, who you spoke with, and when service will begin.
Many landlords require Renters' Insurance. Your landlord's insurance policy may not
cover your losses. Renters' Insurance typically covers loss due to theft or damage
caused by other people or natural disasters.
Move-in and Keeping Your Housing
Both you and your landlord have responsibilities for keeping the unit in good shape. Some
things that go into being a good tenant are:
Pay your rent on time. Check with the landlord to see if you have a grace period, but
not all landlords have one. The lease should show if a grace period exists by stating
when the rent is due and when late fees begin.
Always get a receipt, especially if you paid with cash, when you make a payment. A
money order is not proof unless your copy is signed and dated by the person to
whom the rent is paid.
Learn how to communicate with your landlord or manager. When things break down,
whom do you call? Do you have to fill out a report and leave it in your manager’s
mailbox? Or do you call someone who lives across town?
Don’t withhold rent when the owner fails to do repairs. However, if the landlord
does not make repairs or fails to meet other obligations, contact the Columbus
Urban League at 614-257-6300, the Columbus Legal Aid at 1-877-224-8374, or
Community Mediation at 614- 228-7191.
Ask before using nails or screws in walls. Your landlord may suggest a better way to
hang pictures in your apartment that won’t damage the wall.
Don’t make any alterations (like paint, wallpaper, or replace or remove carpet) to the
apartment without asking your landlord first. You may need written permission.
Be a responsible tenant. Be considerate of your neighbors. Don’t make excessive
noise, especially at night. Keep your apartment clean so you don’t invite pests to the
building. If you have a pet, learn how to care for it in an apartment environment.
Use and operate all electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.
Dispose of all garbage and other waste in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner.
Maintain in good working order and condition any range, refrigerator, washer, dryer,
dishwasher, or other appliances supplied by the landlord that is required to be
maintained by the tenant.
Don’t use, manufacture, sell or allow anyone who lives in or visits your home to use,
manufacture, or sell illegal drugs or other controlled substances.
Clean your apartment thoroughly before you leave. Find out what your landlord is
looking for to refund your deposit. Have an open discussion with your landlord about
any damage to the apartment. Offer to fix the damage if you are capable. Otherwise,
ask your landlord how much it will cost of fix it.
The Landlord Has Responsibilities Too
Most of the landlord's responsibilities are set by local laws. But, in general, they have to
do the following things.
Landlords are required to offer livable premises including adequate weatherproofing;
heat, water and electricity; and clean, sanitary and structurally safe premises.
Your landlord has to give you notice if s/he is going to change your rent.
Your landlord has to give you notice if s/he is going to stop renting to you.
You have a right to privacy. Your landlord cannot come into your apartment or house
without prior permission unless there is an emergency like a fire or a flood in the
bathroom. The landlord must give 24 hours notice before coming into an apartment
for other reasons, like making repairs or showing the unit to a potential tenant.
A landlord can request a security deposit of any size. If the landlord keeps the
deposit for at least six months, the tenant must be paid interest on any part of the
deposit which exceeds one month's rent. Interest on the amount greater than the
monthly rent must accrue at five percent per year and be paid annually by the
landlord to the tenant. The deposit may be kept by the landlord for any unpaid rent
or for damages done to the apartment.
Landlords can evict tenants for the following reasons:
1. Tenants’ failure to pay rent when due.
2. Tenants’ false complaints to a governmental agency about housing violations
which were really caused by the tenants or guests.
3. The landlord’s compliance with housing laws would require alteration or
demolition of the building and would deprive the tenant of use of the premises.
4. The lease has expired.
5. Tenants’ violations of the lease such as having pets when not allowed,
unapproved occupants, disturbing others, etc.
6. Tenants’ failure to comply with proper notice to correct situations which materially
affect health or safety.
7. Tenants’ refusal to permit landlords reasonable access to the unit, unless the
landlord hasn’t given prior 24 hour notice.
The landlord must give you a three-day written notice to move before suing to evict you.
For more information on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, contact the
Columbus Urban League at 614-257-6300 or Columbus Legal Aid at 1-877-224-8374.
Obtaining Important Documents
To apply at most apartments, you will need a copy of your birth certificate, driver’s
license or state ID, and social security card. Unfortunately, these are documents that
many lose or misplace along the way. Landlords usually check your credit report. You
have a right to know, and you should know, the information on your credit report. If you
need to obtain these documents, here is some helpful information.
Obtaining a birth certificate, unfortunately, is not free. The cost is generally around
$20.00 but fees may vary from place to place. Be sure to ask when you call to get a
copy for yourself.
If born in Franklin County, contact Columbus Health Department, Vital Statistics
Office, 240 Parsons Avenue Columbus, Ohio 43215-5331
(614) 645-7333 or (614) 645-7331
For births in other Ohio counties, contact the Department of Health, Bureau of Vital
Statistics, 225 Neilston Street Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-2531 or (614) 466-2532.
For births in other States, contact the State or local vital statistics office where the
birth occurred. The National Center for Health Statistics provides State and territory
contact information at www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm or
Driver’s license or State ID:
Ohio requires two forms of identification when applying for an ID or driver’s license.
Examples of acceptable identification are: a birth certificate, valid military ID, passport,
social security card, health insurance card, etc. The fee for a duplicate/replacement
driver’s license is $19.50. The fee for New/Renewal Ohio ID card is $8.50,
duplicate/replacement Ohio ID card is $7.50. Below is a list of some Ohio BMV Deputy
Registrar locations to apply for a license or State ID.
Customer Service Center West Customer Service Center East
1970 West Broad Street 1583 Alum Creek Drive
Columbus, OH 43223 Columbus, OH 43209
(614) 752-7500, 752-7600, and 752-7700 (614) 752-7500, 752-7600, and 752-7700
1472 Morse Road, The Patio Shops 5133 East Main Street
Columbus, OH 43229 Columbus, OH 43213
(614) 781-0060 (614) 759-7788
267 South Third Street 1979 Cleveland Avenue
Columbus, OH 43215 Columbus, OH 43211
(614) 463-1710 (614) 297-8211
Social Security Card:
When applying for a new social security card, you need to show evidence of your
identity in the name you want shown on the card and complete an application. The
identity document must be of recent issuance, preferably a photo ID. Examples of
acceptable identification are: driver's license, marriage or divorce record, military
records, life insurance policy, passport, health insurance card (not a Medicare card), or
a school ID card.
Below are Social Security Administration offices near Columbus.
Room 225 Fed Building 1060 Georgesville Road
200 North High Street Columbus, OH 43228
Columbus, OH 43215 1-800-772-1213 or (614) 274-9628
1-800-772-1213 or (614) 469-6855
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers can request and
obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide
consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
To request your Credit Report online, go to AnnualCreditReport.com.
To request your Credit Report by phone, call 1-877-322-8228. There is a
simple verification process then your reports will be mailed to you.
To request your Credit Report by mail, fill out the request form available online at
AnnualCreditReport.com and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
The request will be processed within 15 days and mailed to you.