I've spent some quality phone time with my brother in-law, Toledo
attorney James Brazeau, who has been practicing law in Ohio for 22
...to try to get things straightened out for you. I'm afraid the
outlook for you recovering damages doesn't look promising.
James cautions that while he can help determine which laws apply, this
area of the law is not his specialty, and both James and the Google
Answers Terms of Service caution that this is not to be considered
more than general information. It is offered to help you make a
decision about how to pursue this matter, and should not substitute
for the services of a legal professional.
With that in mind...
Under any rental agreement, certain procedures must be followed before
the property owner may enter the unit or remove property contained
Upon determining that the contents of the garage are "abandoned", the
property owner is obligated to notify the the lessee *by certified
mail*, sent to the address on the rental contract, that the
possessions are considered abandoned and subject to removal, as well
as *why* they have been designated as abandoned. The letter is to
include a reasonable time frame for the lessee to respond and recover
his/her property. (Usually ten days, similar to the procedure noted in
O.R.C. § 5322.03 ) The property owner, since you are renting a
residence from the same company, cannot claim that s/he didn't know
where to send notice.
Since the property owner did not provide sufficient or proper notice,
and entered your storage unit with neither your knowledge nor
permission and proceeded to throw out your belongings, what you have
is technically a matter of trespass and unlawful destruction of
Your situation is called a "common law cause of action", and would
fall under civil torts. (See O.R.C § 2305.10 Bodily injury or injury
to personal property).
Torts, James tells me, can get messy, because it's no longer a matter
of finding one or two specific statutes that apply.
Though some articles suggest that an attorney might be able to
convincingly argue (since the garage is located on the same property
as your residence) that you could legally terminate your lease early,
without penalty (See O.R.C § 5321.04(B).), James thinks this
unlikely. Since the unit is not your residence, residential property
laws and eviction statutes are not applicable.
In any case, he says the property owner *was* negligent in not
providing notice, and by destroying your personal property. It
doesn't matter that it was precipitated by "clerical error" - the
error would have been discovered had the property manager sent proper
(He also says he's baffled by the property owner's recalcitrance - he
is surprised that you weren't offered a free month's rental on the
storage unit as a gesture of apology and good will.)
Here's where it gets sticky:
Ordinarily, you would be entitled to certain damages - namely, actual
costs associated with replacing the property which had been destroyed
(fair market value of the items).
The problem here is that you can't identify exactly what, if anything,
is missing. In order to recover damages in a tort case, you need to
be able to prove both "foul" (unlawful act) and "harm" (damages
suffered from the commission of the unlawful act).
You have the "foul" free and clear - the property administrator
unlawfully entered the storage unit you were renting and disposed of
your property. What you *don't* have is the "harm" - you say you
don't know what was taken. In other words, without a full and
specific accounting of what was taken, you have no legal basis for
Some Municipal courts offer "Landlord/Tenant Mediation", through which
you MIGHT be able to have your situation resolved - James doesn't
think this likely, since the property in question is not your
residence and you don't have a full inventory of what was destroyed,
but advises that you contact your local courts to check.
In Union County, the courts are:
Marysville Municipal Court
125 E Sixth
P O Box 322
Marysville, OH 43040
Clerk's #: 937-644-9102
Union County Common Pleas Court
215 West Fifth Street
Marysville, Ohio 43040
Phone - 937-645-3015
Fax - 937-645-3149
Be warned, there are usually fees associated with such mediation
If you are able to come up with a complete inventory of what is
missing, you may be able to recover some of your losses by either
filing a claim on your renter's insurance (but only if the policy
includes a clause covering items in storage - consult your agent for
the specifics of your policy) or by filing a complaint in Small Claims
Court. If your Small Claims complaint is successful, you can also
recover filing and court costs.
Colleague and friend expertlaw-ga provides some additional input:
"Some helpful Ohio law: "The acceptance of advance rent payments is
inconsistent with the notice to vacate. See Graham v. Pavarini (1983),
9 Ohio App. 3d 89, 92, 458 N.E.2d 421. Because of this, a landlord who
has issued its three-day notice may not accept and retain advance rent
payments without waiving its notice to vacate, as a matter of law. See
id." (From Four Star Service, Inc., v Akron, 1999 Ohio App. LEXIS 5004
(1999) - available through LexisOne.com). In this case, although the
landlord is pretending that the premises were abandoned pursuant to a
notice it tacked to the door, it accepted rent for the period at
issue. Although the notice is to some extent different from a notice
to vacate (a notice terminating a tenant), the circumstance is very
This *might* help you negotiate a resolution with the property owner,
but again, the fact that you cannot account for what is missing makes
I'm sorry I couldn't provide more positive news for you - I would have
liked nothing better than to be able to tell you "Yep, you can sue
their butts off for being so inept!". Unfortunately, Ohio law does
not provide for this unless you can prove actual damages.
I certainly sympathize with you - I've had my fair share of nasty and
inconsiderate landlords and property managers, and completely
understand how angry and upset you must be. (Mad enough to chew
Though it won't get your possessions back or get a month's free
storage for you, perhaps this will at least make you feel a little
better (and get a little even for the company's terrible rudeness):
I wish you the best of luck. If I can be of further assistance to
you, please just ask. I'll be glad to help.
Source: Ohio attorney noted above.