Legally Brief: Know your rights as a renter


Some landlords have been known to exploit vulnerable tenants. As a renter in Indiana, it is important to know your rights, what actions are legal and what can be done to safeguard your rights. 

Indiana Code 32-31 applies to landlord-tenant obligations for all rental agreements. These statutory landlord obligations cannot be waived by contract or otherwise.

Obligations of the Tenant (Indiana Code 32-31-7-5)

  • Comply with health and housing codes
  • Keep the premises reasonably clean
  • Use electricity, plumbing, sanitary systems, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, appliances, elevators in a reasonable manner
  • Refrain from damaging or removing any part of the premises
  • Comply with reasonable rules and regulations in a rental agreement
  • Ensure smoke detectors in the premises remain functions and notify the landlord if they are not

Obligations of the Landlord

  • Deliver the premises in a safe, clean and habitable condition
  • Comply with all health and housing codes
  • Maintain common areas in proper condition
  • Provide safe and working electricity, plumbing, sanitary systems, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, elevators and appliances (if appliances are “an inducement” to the rental agreement)
  • Require written acknowledgment from tenants that the premises are equipped with a functional smoke detector

Lockouts/Utility Shut-Offs by Landlord:

In Indiana, the statute prohibits these “self-help” evictions, where the landlord attempts to force the tenants out without the benefit of a judicial process. It’s illegal.

Landlords are prohibited from interfering with a tenant’s access to the rental property by changing the locks, removing doors or appliances, or shutting off the utilities, except where the tenant has abandoned the rental property.

REMEDY: When facing a “self-help” eviction a tenant can (a) petition for an Emergency Possessory Order or (b) petition for a Temporary Restraining Order compelling the landlord to restore access to the property or utilities or (c) contact the local health department as a utility shut off may violate local health and housing code regulations.

Unsafe Housing Conditions and Warranty of Habitability

DID YOU KNOW? It is the landlord’s obligation to provide safe housing conditions. Tenants should contact the local health department when the landlord fails to provide a safe housing unit free of conditions such as peeling lead paint, plumbing issues. Recipients of Section 8 Housing Voucher should contact the Indianapolis Housing Agency Section 8 Department.

Indiana courts have recognized implied warranty of habitability requiring landlords to maintain the rental property in compliance with local housing codes. “Implied” means the landlord must keep a rental home safe to live in—even if this is not stated in a lease agreement.






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