8 Ohio landlord and tenant rights violated in Barenaked Ladies’ song “The Old Apartment”

Sept. 21, 2015
By Dan Beckley

For over 20 years, the quirky, Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies has produced a wide range of hit songs (many from the '90s), including “The Old Apartment,” penned by Steven Page and Ed Robertson. The song follows a disillusioned ex-boyfriend trying to recover from a bitter breakup. Unfortunately, the depressed dude decides to visit “The Old Apartment” that he and his lover used to share and describes numerous Ohio landlord and tenant rights, obligations and missteps. So, put your lawyer-thinking hat on, and let’s review some lyrics containing some possible miscues (according to the Ohio State Bar Association's Tenant/Landlord Rights and Obligations).

1. “Broke into the old apartment. This is where we used to live.”
If the ex-boyfriend’s name is on the lease, he has the right of exclusive possession of the property until the lease expires. If not, he’s breaking and entering (and, based on his temper, possibly ignoring a restraining order).

2. “Why did you clean the floor?”
As a tenant, you are obligated to keep the premises safe and sanitary and dispose of all garbage in a safe and sanitary manner. I’m guessing the boyfriend probably violated this one more than a few times.

3. “Why did you plaster over the hole I punched in the door?”

Tenants must not intentionally or negligently destroy, deface, damage or remove any fixture, appliance or other part of the premises, or allow your guests to do so.

4. “Why did you keep the mousetrap?”
This one may be the landlord’s fault. As a landlord, you must comply with the standards of all building, housing, health and safety codes that significantly affect health and safety. Plus, mice are just gross.

5. “Crooked landlord…”
Ohio law prohibits a landlord from shifting certain responsibilities or liabilities to a tenant. Such clauses in a lease cannot be enforced against the tenant. If you just don’t like the landlord, sorry, that doesn’t count.

6. “Why did they change the locks? Why did I have to break it? I only came here to talk.”
A landlord can’t attempt to evict a tenant without a court order by changing the locks, terminating utility service or removing the tenant’s belongings, but I’m thinking the ex is just trying to keep a certain someone out.

7. “How is the neighbor downstairs? How is her temper this year? I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun.” Even though it may be loads of fun, tenants can’t disturb, or allow guests to disturb, their neighbors.

8. “Tore the phone out of the wall.”
C’mon, man. What did landlines ever do to you? In general, unless otherwise agreed, “fixtures” belong to the landlord. Fixtures include parts of the building such as sinks, furnaces, water heaters and equipment that is either built-in or fastened to the property. Anything a tenant brings onto the premises that does not become a fixture belongs to the tenant and may be removed by the tenant when the lease is terminated.

Who knew a great '90s song could be so educational? For more information on Ohio Tenant/Landlord Rights and Obligations, check out this great resource from the Ohio State Bar AssociationThe information contained in this article is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting an attorney. 

Dan Beckley is website and digital content strategist for the Ohio State Bar Association. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn​.




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