Tenants in Indiana have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord about the issue in question, and allow a reasonable time for the repairs to be made.
Indiana Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
Landlords in Indiana are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Hot and cold water
Anything impacting health, safety, or habitability
If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Indiana?
Tenants in Indiana are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the property which affects health and safety.
Requesting Repairs in Indiana
Indiana tenants have many potential ways to request repairs. All the law requires is for the tenant toeffectively communicate the needed repairsto the landlord, giving a reasonable time to perform repairs before taking further action. As a general rule, written notice is always preferable for reasons of evidence.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Indiana?
Indiana landlords have a“reasonable time”to complete repairs after notice. What’s reasonable is determined case by case; for example, courts have held that two weeks to repair a water heater, and one week for a burst pipe, were unreasonable waits.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Indiana?
Indiana landlordscannot refuse to make repairsthat are their responsibility. However, refusal to repair is not an excuse for the renter failing to keep his end of the rental agreement. For example, a landlord who fails to repair may still be able to evict for a default on rent.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Indiana?
Indiana landlords arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Indiana
Indiana tenants cansue for damagesorget an injunctionwhen the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs, recovering court costs and attorney fees either way. For severe issues that substantially prevent the intended use of the property, the tenant canclaim constructive eviction,end the lease, and move out.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Indiana?
Indiana tenants arenot allowed to withhold rent.As long as the tenant is occupying the rental property, rent abatement is strictly an issue for the courts to decide.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Indiana?
Indiana tenants arenot allowed to arrange for repairs and deductfrom the rent.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Indiana?
Indiana tenants aregenerally not allowed to break the lease.The only exception is whenclaiming constructive evictionafter an issue so severe that it substantially prevents the intended use of the premises and the tenant moves out.
Can the Tenant Sue in Indiana?
Indiana tenantscan sue to force repairs or recover monetary damageswhen the landlord fails to repair within a reasonable time. Tenants can recover court costs and attorney fees in either case.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Indiana?
Indiana tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could sue to collect damages or force repairs.
It’s illegal for Indiana landlords to retaliate withraised rent,reduced services,orthreatened evictionor other dispossession outside the rental agreement, against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions:
Complaints to the landlord about the landlord’s responsibilities.
Complaints to the government about health and safety.
Suing or testifying against the landlord.
Participation in a tenant organization.
The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.
“(d) If the tenant is the prevailing party in an action under this section, the tenant may obtain any of the following, if appropriate under the circumstances: (1) Recovery of the following: (A) Actual damages and consequential damages. (B) Attorney’s fees and court costs. (2) Injunctive relief. (3) Any other remedy appropriate under the circumstances.
“(e) A landlord’s liability for damages under subsection (d) begins when: (1) the landlord has notice or actual knowledge of noncompliance; and (2) the landlord has: (A) refused to remedy the noncompliance; or (B) failed to remedy the noncompliance within a reasonable amount of time following the notice or actual knowledge; whichever occurs first.”
“Under Indiana law, rental units must be habitable. This includes, among other things heat, hot and cold running water, a leak-free roof, adequate electrical wiring, locks, toilet and bathing facilities, and appliances that work.”
“A landlord shall… (1) Deliver the rental premises to a tenant in compliance with the rental agreement, and in a safe, clean, and habitable condition. (2) Comply with all health and housing codes applicable to the rental premises. (3) Make all reasonable efforts to keep common areas of a rental premises in a clean and proper condition. (4) Provide and maintain the following items in a rental premises in good and safe working condition, if provided on the premises at the time the rental agreement is entered into: (A) Electrical systems. (B) Plumbing systems sufficient to accommodate a reasonable supply of hot and cold running water at all times. (C) Sanitary systems. (D) Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems. A heating system must be sufficient to adequately supply heat at all times. (E) Elevators, if provided. (F) Appliances supplied as an inducement to the rental agreement.”
“A tenant shall… (1) Comply with all obligations imposed primarily on a tenant by applicable provisions of health and housing codes. (2) Keep the areas of the rental premises occupied or used by the tenant reasonably clean. (3) Use the following in a reasonable manner: (A) Electrical systems. (B) Plumbing. (C) Sanitary systems. (D) Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems. (E) Elevators, if provided. (F) Facilities and appliances of the rental premises. (4) Refrain from defacing, damaging, destroying, impairing, or removing any part of the rental premises. (5) Comply with all reasonable rules and regulations… (6) Ensure that each smoke detector installed in the tenant’s rental unit remains functional and is not disabled. If the smoke detector is battery operated, the tenant shall replace batteries…”
Regarding what constitutes a reasonable time within which to conduct repairs, see generallyHusainy v. Granite Mgmt., 132 N.E.3d 486, 496-97 (Ind. App. 2019) which held that 16 days to fix a broken water heater was unreasonable, as well as one week to repair a burst pipe which flooded a common area. Note that the court focuses only on completion of repairs and disregards discussion of good-faith effort to begin remedying issues.
Indiana law does not provide a failure to repair as an exception for liability on rent payments. “If a tenant refuses or neglects to pay rent when due, a landlord may terminate the lease with not less than ten (10) days notice to the tenant unless: (1) the parties otherwise agreed; or (2) the tenant pays the rent in full before the notice period expires.”
“If an act or omission by the lessor materially deprives the lessee of the beneficial use or enjoyment of the leased property, the lessee may elect to abandon the property and avoid further obligations under the lease. If the lessee so elects, the abandonment of the property must occur within a reasonable time after the act or omission.”
“As used in this chapter, ‘protected activity’ means any of the following actions taken by a tenant: (1) Complaining to a governmental entity responsible for enforcing an applicable building or housing code about a violation with respect to the rental premises that materially affects health or safety. (2) Complaining to a landlord in writing concerning the landlord’s violation of IC 32-31-5-6 [landlord duties re: possession, access, and essential services] or IC 32-31-8-5 [other landlord obligations]. (3) Bringing an action against the landlord under IC 32-31-6 [emergency possession action] or IC 32-31-8 [landlord obligations]. (4) Organizing or becoming a member of a tenant’s organization. (5) Testifying in a court proceeding or an administrative hearing against the landlord.”
“As used in this chapter, ‘retaliatory act’ means any of the following actions taken by a landlord in response to a tenant’s engaging in a protected activity: (1) Increasing the amount of the tenant’s rent. (2) Decreasing, terminating, or interfering with services provided to the rental premises. (3) Bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession of the rental premises. (4) Bringing or threatening to bring an action to: (A) evict the tenant from the rental premises; or (B) otherwise terminate the tenant’s rental agreement before the expiration of the term of the rental agreement.”
The law permits a landlord to take what would otherwise be a retaliatory action if there’s a legitimate, good-faith reason as defined in the law. The statute is detailed, but includes things like eviction for nonpayment of rent; repossession of the premises for the landlord’s personal use as a residence; a decrease to services that’s executed impartially to all tenants; etc. SeeInd. Code § 32-31-8.5-5 (2022)