'For Rent': These are your rights as a renter in Indianapolis
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The rights of Indianapolis renters have been a major topic of discussion among politicians, tenants and landlords alike over the last year. From proposed legislation to governor vetoes to an override of said veto, there’s a lot to catch up on regarding Indiana tenant laws.
And as the eviction moratorium expires on June 30, Hoosiers could see a spike in evictions in Central Indiana. It’s important to know your rights as a tenant to ensure that you are being treated fairly.
These are the rights of Indianapolis tenants, under state and federal laws:
What are my rights as a renter in Indiana?
Tenants in Indianapolis are entitled to a safe, habitable and secure place to live under the law. Any rental unit, be it a house or an apartment, must be in accordance with all local housing codes, as well as state and local health and fire codes. The unit must be clean, with working locks on all doors leading to common spaces.
Landlords also must tell their tenants about potential hazards within their rental unit, like if the apartment has lead-based paint.
Landlords are financially responsible for making repairs on their tenant’s rental property. Additionally, the landlord cannot enter a tenant’s unit without notice or lock them out without a court order.
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When do I get my security deposit back?
Your landlord must return your security deposit in full within 45 days of the lease ending, unless there is extensive damage to the property.
The 45 days begin once the tenant provides a forwarding address to their new place of residence.
Brandon Beeler, housing center director at Indiana Legal Services, said tenants should provide the forwarding address in writing.
“We certainly advise they (provide the address) via email or text message or something we can prove, or the tenant can prove that they actually did provide the notice,” Beeler said. “And then after 45 days, and the landlord does not respond, the landlord has waived any response and the landlord is legally liable to return the entire deposit to the tenant.”
Tenants are allowed to dispute these charges in court if they do not receive their security deposit back in full.
Reasons you can be evicted
Indiana law allows landlords to evict tenants for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent;
- Violation of the lease agreement;
- Damaging or vandalizing the rental property;
- Committing a crime on the property that endangers the health and safety of others.
How much notice does a landlord have to give in Indiana?
To end the rental agreement, meaning you cannot renew your lease for another term, your landlord must give at least 30 days of verbal or written notice for a month-to-month lease and three months for a yearlong lease.
However, your landlord cannot end the lease early without a reason, such as nonpayment of rent or a violation of the lease.
Your landlord needs to give you, their tenant, at least 10 days notice to move or pay rent before they can file for eviction.
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For eviction to go through, a landlord must file a court order, rather than simply ordering their tenant to exit the property without notice.
“In Indiana, it’s pretty clear cut that a landlord cannot remove a tenant without a court order,” Beeler said. “So it is a requirement that the landlord … file a case and actually go to court in order to obtain possession back of the rental property.”
Can a landlord withhold utilities or access to my unit to evict me?
It is illegal for landlords to withhold access to a rental unit, change the locks or shut off utilities such as power or water to evict a tenant or to get them to pay rent.
Can a landlord raise rent without notice?
A landlord cannot increase rent as long as that price is specified as being the fixed amount for the entire term of the lease. For example, if you sign a lease for $1,000 per month for 12 months, the landlord cannot charge more than $1,000 per month until after those 12 months.
It is slightly different for tenants who are involved in month-to-month leases, many of which are verbal rather than written agreements. If the landlord is planning to raise rent, they must provide appropriate notice, even for verbal leases.
In terms of how much a landlord can raise rent, Beeler said raising rent beyond market rate, depending on the unit’s size and location, could be legally “unconscionable,” or unenforceable.
Market rate is the usual or comparable rent for a similar unit in the same area. If your rent is significantly more than your neighbor’s and your units are almost the same, you should seek legal action.
If your landlord increases rent without notice, you are entitled to seek legal action.
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Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, advised renters who are having trouble with their landlord to seek legal advice and representation. Those who are elderly, disabled or fall under a certain income should be able to hire an attorney for free.
“There’s been a growing number of studies showing that tenants who are represented in court are much more successful than those who are not, either through the fact that the housing provider may not be following laws like they should or because that attorney is able to negotiate something that is of benefit to the tenant,” Nelson said.
Is it legal to withhold rent in Indiana?
No. Unlike some other states, Indiana does not allow tenants to withhold rent or deduct the cost of repairs from their rent.
In almost all cases, if you do not pay rent, you can be evicted.
What are my rights if I am a survivor of domestic abuse, sexual violence or stalking?
If you are a survivor of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or stalking, you have additional renter rights to protect you.
Landlords cannot evict you because of your status as a member of a protected class: a survivor of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or stalking.
Your landlord cannot let the perpetrator onto the property or give them access to the property unless you specifically allow it, even if they used to live there.
Additionally, your landlord must change your locks within 24 hours if the perpetrator is a former resident of that unit. If the perpetrator lived in a different unit, the landlord must change your locks within 48 hours.
If you were a victim of abuse or stalking, Indiana law allows you to break your lease early with no penalty. Protected tenants who want to break their lease early because they feel unsafe may need to obtain an accreditation from a domestic or sexual abuse program. These are available at most domestic violence shelters, police stations, courts and legal aid services. For a full list of resources, visit http://www.icadvinc.org/.
Indianapolis renter help
Indy Rent offers rent assistance to eligible Hoosiers experiencing difficulties paying rent: https://indyrent.org/
Indianapolis city government offers resources on how to find out more about your rights as a tenant and updated legislation regarding evictions and tenant rights. Visit https://www.indy.gov/activity/covid-19-utilities-support.
The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana may be able to provide help for those experiencing housing discrimination in Indiana. Visit https://www.fhcci.org/ or call 317-644-02141.
Indiana Legal Services, Inc offers free legal aid to low-income Hoosiers experiencing legal issues in regards to rent or housing. For more information, visit indianalegalservices.org. To request services, call 844-243-8570 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also fill out an online intake form at ilsintake.net.
The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic can sometimes offer help with landlord-tenant issues or legal assistance. Visit nclegalclinic.org/ or call 317-429-4131.
The Indiana Legal Aid Society may be able to offer legal advice or assistance with a landlord-tenant dispute. Visit indylas.org or call 317-635-9538 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The IndyStar Call for Action team might help mediate a landlord-tenant dispute, but cannot offer legal services or advice. Submit an online request here.
The Indiana Office of Housing and Urban Development offers resources and information about tenant rights in Indiana. Vist in.gov/ihcda/homeowners-and-renters/renters-rights/.
Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Claire Rafford at email@example.com or on Twitter @clairerafford.
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Published at Thu, 17 Jun 2021 23:45:46 +0000