The relationship between a landlord and the tenants is a balancing act between the rights and duties of the other. Generally, landlords in Indiana have several duties regarding the leased property, the rights of tenants, and compliance regulations, as well as, any other common law duties. First a landlord must deliver the leased property in compliance with the lease agreement to the tenant, with the property being in a safe, clean and habitable condition. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-5(1). Further, the landlord must comply with any health and housing code regulations, along with keeping the common area in a clean and proper condition. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-5(2)-(3). A unique right of the landlord releases him of any liability for loss or damage for the tenant’s abandoned personal property. Ind. Code § 32-31-4-2(a).
Most important to a tenant might be the landlord’s requirement with maintaining certain utilities such as electric, plumbing, heating, and other appliances in good and safe working condition. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-5(4)(A)-(F). Another important duty the landlord owes to the tenant is that upon termination of the rental agreement, the landlord needs to return the security deposit to the tenant minus any amount for the payment of accrued rent, damages suffered or will reasonably suffer, and if any, unpaid obligations related to utility charges. Ind. Code § 32-31-3-12(a)(1)-(3).
A tenant has certain remedies if a landlord fails to meet its duties. For a tenant to bring an action in court, the tenant must give notice to the landlord of the noncompliance, give the landlord reasonable amount of time and access to fix the noncompliance, and the landlord failed or refused to repair the noncompliance condition. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-6(b)(1)-(3). If the tenant prevails on an action, then the tenant may recover actual and consequential damages, as well attorney’s fees and court costs. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-6(d)(1)(A)-(B). The tenant may also recover, if appropriate, an injunctive relief or any other appropriate remedy. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-6(d)(2)-(3).
The liability for the landlord begins to run at the earliest of either the landlord having notice or actual knowledge or the noncompliance, or the landlord refusing to remedy the noncompliance. Ind. Code § 32-31-8-6(e)(1)-(2).
However, the tenant also has certain duties to the landlord during the occupancy and upon termination of the occupancy. The tenant must comply with any health and housing regulations, including regulations regarding smoke detectors, and keep the area reasonably clean, as well as, using the utilities and appliances of the leased property in a reasonable manner. Ind. Code § 32-31-7-5(1)-(3). The tenant also has the expressed duty of refraining from “defacing, damaging, destroying, impairing, or removing any part of the rental premises.” Ind. Code § 32-31-7-5(4). Upon termination of the rental agreement, the tenant needs to deliver the leased property back to the landlord in a clean and proper condition. Ind. Code § 32-31-7-6. These tenant obligations are balanced against the landlord’s duty not to take possession/remove from/deny access to/ or dispose of any of tenant’s personal property in order to enforce a tenant obligation. Ind. Code § 32-31-5-5(a)(1)-(4).
If a tenant does fail to meet an obligation, the landlord has certain rights against the tenant. Similarly to the tenant’s ability to bring action, a landlord may not bring an action in court unless the landlord has given the tenant notice of the noncompliance and the tenant has a reasonable amount of time to remedy the noncompliance. Ind. Code § 32-31-7-7(b)(1)-(2). In the same way, if the landlord is the prevailing party, he too is entitled to actual damages, attorney’s fees, court costs, and if applicable injunctive relief, or any other appropriate remedy. Ind. Code § 32-31-7-7(f)(1)-(3).
As either a landlord or a tenant, it is important to know the applicable statutory rights and duties that follow after entering into a rental agreement, primarily because a violation of one of these duties can have significant financial consequences for the breaching party.
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