One of the main benefits of renting a property instead of owning it is that you are not in charge of repairs. If the heater goes out and the furnace has to be replaced, that is on the owner of the property, not you. If there is a leak in a pipe and a plumber has to be called, that is for the owner to do and for the owner to pay for, not you. But what happens when the landlord refuses to fix a problem? What options does an Indiana renter have to rectify the situation?
Every landlord has certain obligations to a tenant or renter. The landlord must provide a safe and habitable place to live. This is known as the implied warranty of habitability. This includes such requirements as protection from the elements, heat, running water and electricity. As a matter of law, Indiana explicitly requires landlords must always guarantee access to these necessities, including heat year-round, not just in the colder months. The implied warranty of habitability can also include protections from infestations of bugs, mold and other harmful chemicals and substances.
Landlords must also make sure they do not violate the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the rental premises. No, this does not mean the landlord must make sure it is not too noisy, although too much noise can violate a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. Simply put, this right means the landlord must guarantee the tenant is able to possess the premises in peace, undisturbed by hostile claimants. Who are these hostile claimants and what sort of disturbances are they causing? It depends on the situation. It could be anyone from a landlord who demands constant access to the rental premises, the previous renter who is refusing to move out after their lease has ended or a neighbor who parks in the parking space provided in your lease.
What happens when your landlord refuses to fix a leaky pipe though, or when the landlord refuses to stop barging into your home every single day after you tell them to stop? Under Indiana law, depending on the circumstances, your options are limited.
Regardless of what is wrong or how your landlord is violating the lease agreement or the law, you will want to immediately notify your landlord, in writing, of what the problem is and request that they either fix it or prevent it from happening again. You will want to ensure there is a paper trail and evidence you notified them. If the landlord refuses or ignores the request, make a second written request shortly afterwards. Do not wait to have a problem fixed or delay in notifying your landlord. It can only hurt your future case to do so.
Unfortunately for Indiana renters, the law does not provide many statutory options. While there are many informal ways to encourage your landlord to fix the problem, such as notifying your local building commissioner of structural, health, or heating and water problems, or threatening your landlord with legal action, Indiana law only provides renters with one way to deal with violations of these warranties and rights: claim constructive eviction by the landlord and find a new place to live.
Constructive eviction occurs when a landlord refuses to uphold the lease agreement and violates these implied warranties and rights of the tenant. When the violation is so severe it deprives the tenant of their quiet enjoyment or the landlord does not provide a safe place to live, the tenant is considered for all intents and purposes evicted by the landlord. This means the tenant can consider the lease agreement terminated and should find a new place to live.
Other methods available in other states, such as paying for repairs yourself and deducting the cost from the rent paid each month or withholding rent to encourage the landlord to fix the problem are not provided for under Indiana law. These options may be available in certain circumstances, such as when a lease agreement provides for it or the landlord has explicitly allowed for the tenant to pay for their own repairs and deduct from the rent, but they are not provided for under Indiana law.
Claiming constructive eviction is not a surefire or one hundred percent way to get out of a lease agreement. A landlord may still seek to hold the tenant to the lease agreement or consider the tenant to be the one violating the lease agreement. Only a court can decide for sure. In cases like these it is vitally important to be represented by counsel. Contact Steciuch Law at (219) 476-3870 or via email at email@example.com for legal representation and to schedule a consultation. Don’t try and face your landlord alone.