Did you know that there are actually laws in most states that establish tenant rights? These laws create standards for what a landlord must provide to create habitability and a safe environment. I have met a few landlords who believe tenants have no rights. They honestly believe that they can provide whatever environment they choose, and the tenant needs to adapt. When disregard for tenant rights becomes apparent we have to terminate our management contract because not only do we follow the law, but these standards make good sense.
Indiana Law Provides Landlord Obligations To Fulfill Tenant Rights
Indiana actually has a law that was implemented July 1, 2002 that creates standards for both landlords AND tenants! The law considers that a landlord has an obligation, and a tenant has the rights provided by a warranty of habitability.
The landlord’s obligations:
- Give the rental premises to the tenant as stated in the lease and in a safe, clean, and habitable condition.
- Comply with all health and housing codes that apply to rental housing.
- Make all reasonable efforts to keep common areas of a rental premises in a clean and proper condition.
- Provide and maintain the following items in good and safe working condition (if they were provided on the premises when the lease began):
- Electrical systems must work
- Plumbing systems that include sufficient hot and cold water supplies at all times
- Sanitary systems that work
- HVAC to include adequate heat supplies (and while not stated, you better provide air conditioning when required if you said the property was air-conditioned.)
- Elevators, if provided
- Appliances in working order that were originally a part of the property and encouraged tenant to enter a lease.
Tenants rights also includes the responsibility to give the landlord notice of a problem and a reasonable time to repair. The tenant also must provide access to the property so that repairs can occur. If a landlord fails to meet these standards a tenant may sue. The good news for landlords is that the right to evict a tenant, if they are in violation of their lease in any way, continues despite the habitability warranty.
It is important to note that, in Indiana, tenants rights do NOT include approval for a tenant to withhold rent or make repairs to be deducted from rent unless approved by the landlord.
As a property manager, we have no choice but to terminate contracts when an owner does not plan to provide approval (and funding) to meet these standards. In court, the landlord and owner can be ordered to fix the problem, the tenant can be awarded damages, attorney fees, and court costs and the Judge can make any other remedy they feel is needed.
It Is Cheaper to Respect Tenant Rights Than Fight
There are leases that some landlords utilize that place all of the maintenance responsibility on the tenant. The landlord may incorrectly assume this places the burden on the tenant to maintain the habitability warranty. The law is specific to this issue and states the landlord may not waive their obligations by creating such clauses in the lease.
As an owner, don’t make the mistake that a tenant will not seek out remedies in these situations. Low cost legal services are available to the tenant through organizations like Indiana Legal Services . Most of the information for this post came from one of their brochures available to tenants. In court, a tenant may receive damages and attorney fees while a landlord will be ordered to repair the items in violation of the warranty.
We will inform you when we think you are on the wrong side of the law. It is cheaper and much less of a headache to make the repairs and maintain the habitability standards.