The word "roommates" conjures up images of friendly people living together and enjoying each other's company. But no relationship remains blissful forever, and some are harder to end than others. When roommates have issues, it may be that eviction is considered. But neither the landlord nor another roommate has the authority to simply order a roommate out.
Rules and procedures for eviction vary from state to state. In the state of Indiana, eviction is never a self-help situation. The landlord must serve the party with proper notice, then go through a legal procedure to oust the tenant. Anyone involved in a roommate situation should get an overview of the Indiana eviction laws that apply before threatening eviction.
Who Is the Landlord?
Every roommate in an apartment has a rental contract with someone, and that person is the only one who can evict them. The eviction process is pretty much the same, but the person filing it will be different.
Bringing in a roommate in Indiana usually involves one of two scenarios. In one, a landlord rents out one bedroom of a unit to one tenant, then rents another bedroom to another tenant. They are roommates but each one has a separate rental contract with the landlord. Formalities are not necessary, and the contract can be oral or written.
If one roommate doesn't pay the rent or fails to abide by the terms of the rental contract, it is the landlord who will evict. Note that the fact that two roommates do not get along might not be enough to cause the landlord to evict one of them.
Tenant Renting Out a Room
In the second scenario, a tenant rents an apartment with room for more than one person. They sign the lease with the landlord, then rent the extra room to a roommate. The roommate pays the rent to the primary tenant who pays the landlord the agreed upon rent. If the roommate is not added to the rental agreement and doesn't pay rent to the landlord directly, they are renting from the primary tenant.
That tenant is essentially the subtenant's landlord and, in Indiana, they have the power to evict. The term "landlord" is used in this article to refer to both a property owner or a master tenant.
Formal Indiana Eviction Process Required
Some roommates come into the apartment as guests or relatives who were just going to stay for a week or so. Others answer an advertisement for a place to rent. It doesn't matter how casually the person came to be living in the property or whether they have a written rental contract – once they are established as living there, they cannot simply be dumped on the street. If they are to be ousted, it must be through a legal eviction suit.
One tenant can, of course, request that the other leave, and they might do so voluntarily. However, if they refuse, neither the landlord nor the co-tenant can throw out the roommate or change the locks. Rather, in Indiana, either the landlord or the primary tenant in contract with the roommate must take appropriate legal steps to end the tenancy.
Terminating the Tenancy
A tenancy in Indiana can either be a lease term or a periodic tenancy. A lease term is when someone contracts to rent a premises for a set term, like a year. They are then obligated to pay rent for a year, and the landlord is obligated to rent to them for that period. However, at the end of the lease term, the tenancy is terminated.
If someone lives in rental property without a lease agreement for a set period of time, or stays beyond the lease term, the tenancy is considered a general tenancy under Indiana law, defined in the state code as a month-to-month tenant. Either party is permitted to terminate the tenancy with 30 days' notice. That means that an Indiana landlord can advise a month-to-month tenant on January 30 that the tenancy will end as of March 1.
This option is useful when people simply aren't getting along. A landlord doesn't like a tenant? A master tenant quarrels with a subtenant roommate? The tenancy can be terminated with a 30-day notice for any reason or no reason in Indiana. The notice must be in writing and delivered to the tenant. If they do not leave on the date specified, the next step is a notice to vacate.
Indiana 10-Day Notice to Vacate
A notice to vacate is used to get a tenant out of a rental unit when they refuse to leave after a termination of tenancy letter. But in Indiana, notices to vacate can also be used to get rid of a tenant who doesn't pay rent, breaches some term of the rental agreement, or is doing unlawful things on the property. The amount of time provided to a roommate in a notice to vacate depends on the reason for the eviction.
The most common reason people are evicted in Indiana is for non-payment of rent. Under Indiana law, rent is considered late the day after it’s due. If the landlord is serving a notice to vacate because the tenant has not paid the rent, Indiana mandates that they be given 10 days to pay the rent or get out. The landlord serves the behind-in-rent tenant with a 10-day notice to quit.
Serving the Eviction Notice
An Indiana landlord can personally hand the notice to the tenant or have another adult do so. Alternatively, the notice can be posted on the door to the premises and/or mailed to the tenant. The period to vacate begins when the notice to vacate is delivered, not when it is mailed.
At this point, the roommate will be able to avoid the eviction by coming up with the back rent and paying it within 10 days. Failing this, the landlord can proceed to eviction. In Indiana, the next step is for the landlord to file an eviction case in the township court in the county where the property is located.
Notice to Quit for Agreement Violation
A tenant can also be evicted in Indiana if they break any of the important terms of a rental agreement. Typical examples include:
- Smoking in a no-smoking building.
- Keeping a pet in a no-pet building.
- Subletting without permission.
- Damaging the property.
Illegal activity such as selling drugs on the property, is not included here.
Indiana law requires landlords to provide tenants with written notice giving them a “reasonable” period of time to fix the problem before they file an eviction action in court. Each court has different rules about how to calculate this period, so landlords should check with their local court. When the tenant fails to correct the issue by the date given and doesn't move out, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Unconditional Notice to Quit
In Indiana, the landlord is not required to give every tenant the chance to straighten up and fly right. For other violations of the rental agreement, Indiana law allows landlords to file unconditional quit notices immediately. For example, if the tenant is holding over on an expired lease or is damaging the property, the landlord can file an unconditional notice to quit, followed by an eviction lawsuit.
Eviction Lawsuits in Indiana
If a roommate moves out when served with a notice to quit, the problem is solved. If not, the landlord has to file an eviction lawsuit. The landlord has options as to which court they choose to file the eviction in. They can go to the township court in the county where the property is located or file the action in small claims court. Each court has different forms, time frames and costs.
The landlord fills out a complaint form to begin the eviction case. There is a fee for filing the documents in court. Once the proper paperwork is completed, the clerk of court schedules a court hearing and prepares a summons that sets out the date and place of the hearing. The exact documents required and the filing fee vary from county to county. A copy of these documents must be served on the roommate. This can be done by a sheriff or constable.
The Eviction Hearing
Some eviction hearings are scheduled faster than others in Indiana. The reason for the eviction and the court in which the papers are filed determine how quickly the eviction hearing will be held:
- For small claims evictions, the hearing must be held at least five days after the tenant is served.
- For drug-related evictions, the hearing must be held within 20 days of the date the complaint was filed.
- For evictions due to waste, an emergency hearing must be held within three days of the date the complaint was filed.
Indiana state law doesn’t specify how quickly eviction hearings must be held for other eviction types. These will largely depend on the trial court’s hearing schedule, and some hearings are "fast-tracked."
The parties must show up on the date of the hearing to argue their cases. If the tenant fails to show up, the court grants judgment for the landlord; if the tenant shows up, the judge hears the parties' arguments and makes a ruling. If the ruling is in favor of the landlord, they can proceed with the eviction.
Writ of Possession
The landlord who wins an eviction case must wait for the final judgment to be issued. Once this occurs, they can request a writ of possession issued by the court. This document orders the tenant to leave the premises, giving them a maximum of 24 hours to vacate. In most cases, this is sufficient to get a roommate/tenant to leave.
However, some tenants stay until the very last possible moment. If they still refuse to leave, the landlord takes the final step and requests a writ of restitution from the court. This writ is given to a sheriff or constable. With a writ of restitution, law enforcement has the right to enter the property to remove the roommate and all of the roommate's property. Generally, the landlord arranges for a locksmith to be there at the same time to change the locks on the unit.
- Landlords should maintain thorough records to include all documentation, contracts, letters, contract addendum(s), bills, receipts and check copies. This documentation should be provided to the court during each hearing upon request. If a tenant is evicted, the landlord must return all of the security deposit to the renter except for any money due for accrued rent, damages, unpaid utilities or attorney fees as directed by the court.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.