Defend Yourself at the Money Claims Trial
For tenants in Hamilton County, Ohio

Respond to a ‘2nd Cause’ lawsuit about money your landlord says that you owe

When landlords file an eviction lawsuit against a tenant, they can also sue the tenant for money they say the tenant owes. If they sue for money related to eviction, this is called a “2nd Cause”. This is handled completely separate from the "First Cause" (whether you can be evicted from your home).

If you do not think you owe the landlord money or disagree with the amount, you MUST file an Answer with the Clerk of Courts within 28 days after you receive the plaintiff’s complaint.

If you do not file an Answer, your landlord could get a Default Judgment against you. This means that the court will give them a judgment allowing them to collect whatever money they say you owe.

"2nd Cause" Money Trial: 4 key things to know

1. The money claims are a second, optional part of the eviction lawsuit the landlord may file against you.

2. You have 28 days to respond after you get served with the lawsuit.

3. If you don’t respond, the court may give the landlord a judgment that allows them to collect any money they say you owe.

4. You can tell the court why you don’t owe the money, and what money you believe the landlord owes you.

How can a tenant respond to a landlord’s money claims?

  1. Learn more about the case. Review your landlord’s complaint. If you don’t have a copy, you can look it up here.
  2. Who owes money — and how much? Determine how much money you think you owe the landlord, or if you think the landlord owes you money. This will help you respond to the landlord’s lawsuit.
  3. Choose how you will respond. Decide if you want to file an Answer or an Answer & Counterclaim. You would use an Answer & Counterclaim together if you think the landlord owes you money.
  4. Fill in the forms.  Find a blank Answer and Counterclaim form here. Fill in the blanks and mark the boxes next to defenses/claims that match your situation.
  5. Prepare for filing: sign, date, copy. Sign and date on the right-hand side of the last page and make 2 copies.
  6. File with the court. File the completed forms and copies at the Clerk of Courts, room 115 of the Hamilton County Courthouse. Have you moved? You will need to fill out a change of address form when you file.
  7. Go to the Money Trial. The court will set a date for the trial. Be sure you have your story and evidence prepared for the trial. Check in with the court to make sure you are on time and prepared.

What evidence can you bring to the Money Trial?

You can support your case about how much money you owe to the landlord, by preparing evidence and testimony, including the following:

  • Your own testimony about what happened
  • Rent receipts (printed) to show you paid the rent
  • Receipts (printed) for things you had to replace because of the landlord’s bad actions
  • Photos (printed) to show how you left the home
  • Photos (printed) to show things the landlord did not repair
  • Testimony of people who personally saw you pay the rent or saw the leaky roof
  • Other evidence to prove your claims

Does the landlord owe you money?

You can file a counterclaim.

If you believe the landlord owes you money, you can also add a Counterclaim to your Answer. This will tell the court what you think the landlord owes you.

A Counterclaim must list each of your “claims” or reasons you believe the landlord legally owes you money. Your claims must be proven in court.

Here are some typical eviction counterclaims that the tenant can request money for:

  • Leaky roof, no heat, or other bad conditions that made the home worth less than your rent;
  • Security deposit was not refunded;
  • Money you spent to replace stuff that the landlord threw away before he had a writ;
  • Damage to your furniture or other personal property that was caused by the landlord's negligence.

Find Legal Help

Get legal information or speak with a free lawyer at the court’s Help Center 

Visit or call the Help Center at 513-946-5650 to get legal information or to make a free 40 minute appointment with a lawyer. They cannot represent you in court. For more information, visit room 113 of the Hamilton County Courthouse or visit

Find a Lawyer to Represent You in Court 

Call Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati at 513-241-9400, or go to You may qualify for a free lawyer. If eligible, Legal Aid could represent you in court.

Hire a private lawyer

Visit or call 513-381-8359 for a referral. You can ask them about the Modest Means Program. This may let you get a private lawyer for a more affordable price.

Get accommodation at your court hearing

Request a translator or disability accommodation at your court hearing. 

Call the Hamilton County Municipal Court at 513-946-5200 to make your request.

© 2019 Hamilton County Municipal Help Center