Uninhabitable Tenant Rights in Indiana

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Indiana Code (IC) Section 32-31-8 controls renters' rights in the state and codifies a landlord's obligations to their tenants. According to the legal doctrine known as "implied warranty of habitability," a property owner who rents to tenants must keep their rental units and common areas safe and habitable. If a landlord does not make the appropriate repairs to their rental property to keep it livable for a tenant, the renter has the option of bringing an action against the landlord in court.

Implied Warranty of Habitability

According to the implied warranty of habitability, Indiana renters' rights include the right to a habitable residence, which is a clean and safe place for them to live in accordance with local housing codes. The landlord must comply with state fire and health codes and properly maintain common areas on their property. According to Indiana rental laws, a landlord must keep and maintain certain systems in good and safe working condition, including:

  • Electrical systems.
  • Plumbing systems with a reasonable supply of cold and hot water at all times.
  • Sanitary systems.
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
  • Elevators where applicable.
  • Appliances if included in the lease.

The implied warranty of habitability also covers common areas, which the landlord must maintain by keeping them in clean and proper condition. These include all areas that tenants share, such as parking lots, recreation areas and laundry rooms.

Indiana Landlord Responsibility to Fix Tenant Units

If a landlord fails to keep the systems and common areas listed above in habitable condition, the tenant must provide the landlord with a notice that details the issues and gives them a reasonable time to fix the problems. This notice should be in writing and must include the date. The renter should keep a copy for themselves. The landlord may need to enter a tenant's unit to make repairs, but the tenant has the right to privacy, which means the landlord must give them advance notice before entering their unit, except in the event of an emergency.

An Indiana tenant has the right to access their unit at all times, and a landlord cannot deny a renter access to the residence by changing locks, blocking windows or removing doors. The only way a landlord can refuse a tenant the right to enter their rental premises is through a court order. A landlord also cannot interrupt a tenant's utility services.

Taking Legal Action Against a Landlord

If the landlord does not fix the problems in a tenant's unit within a reasonable time, the tenant has the right to sue for damages, repair orders and lawyers' fees. Tenants can also contact their county board of health or code enforcement agency to report the problems.

Some states allow tenants to withhold rent or deduct the price of the repair from their rent, but Indiana does not have this type of state law – a tenant who does not pay rent may face eviction.

Indiana Housing Laws and Tenant Responsibility

Tenants also have a responsibility to the person or entity they rent from. They must:

  • Comply with local and state housing and health codes that apply to renters.
  • Keep their unit reasonably clean.
  • Not damage, deface, destroy or remove any part of the property.
  • Deliver the unit to the landlord in clean and proper condition when they move out.
  • Use the electrical and plumbing systems, the sanitary systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, elevators (if applicable) and appliances (if supplied) in a reasonable manner.

A tenant must abide by the terms laid out in their lease agreement. If they violate it, the landlord may issue a Notice to Cure or Vacate, and if the renter does not remedy the problem, the landlord can start proceedings to evict them from the unit.

Tenant's Security Deposit

When the tenant moves out, they have a right to the return of their security deposit if they leave their unit in good order. The landlord has 45 days from the day they move out to return the deposit. Tenants must give the landlord their forwarding address in writing.

A landlord cannot use a tenant's security deposit to repair problems in a unit caused by normal wear and tear. However, they may use it in part or in whole to repair damages caused by the tenant. If a landlord wishes to charge a tenant for damages to a unit, they must give that renter an itemized list of the damages incurred with the cost to repair them within 45 days after the renter leaves the unit.

Smoke Detector Laws in Indiana

Indiana law requires landlords to provide smoke detectors in rental units. When a tenant moves in to a unit, they must acknowledge in writing that the residence has a working smoke detector. Landlords must keep smoke detectors in good working condition and ensure that they are not disabled.

Smoke detectors in a tenant's unit can be battery operated or hard-wired. If they have batteries, it is the landlord's responsibility to replace them. If a smoke detector does not work, a tenant must give the landlord written notice to repair or replace it, and the landlord must fix it within seven days of getting that notice. A tenant can report violations of this law and ask for an inspection of their unit by the state fire marshal's office.