July 31, 2023

What should I know before signing a housing lease in Indiana?

Article origination IPB News
Throughout the country, and in Indiana, there is a housing shortage and renters have struggled to find affordable housing.  - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Throughout the country, and in Indiana, there is a housing shortage and renters have struggled to find affordable housing.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

By Brittani Howell and Robin Rockel 

Finding a home or apartment for rent in Indiana can be difficult. Throughout the country, and in Indiana, there is a housing shortage and renters have struggled to find affordable housing. Along with these challenges, unexpected and confusing fees show up. What resources are available for new and long-standing renters in Indiana? And what protections exist for tenants?

Here is some helpful information to have on hand before you sign a new lease and what to know about your rights as a tenant in Indiana.

Once you have done your research and found a possible rental unit or units, find the owner and research possible complaints and investigations. We created a guide to help you get started on that.

Fees

When you are ready to get an application in, be prepared to start paying fees. Make a habit of getting a receipt each time you hand over money. The receipt should include the date, how much you paid and for what, and who is taking the payment.

An application fee is standard and can be burdensome for a budget. This is a fee for processing your application, including a possible credit check and background check. Landlords set the amount for this fee and it is non-refundable in Indiana. The landlord could ask you to pay for a background check separately. If the landlord will be holding the home for you, you may be charged a holding fee.

Make sure to ask for other charges you’ll need to pay after approval, when you move in and any that are ongoing. These can include:

 

  • administrative and processing fees,
  • move-in fees, 
  • HOA fees for homes or condos, 
  • parking fees, 
  • portal fees, 
  • pet fees, 
  • utility fees, 
  • notice fees, 
  • maintenance fees, 
  • pest control fees,
  • trash fees

 

A recent report from the National Consumer Law Center analyzes the impact of “junk fees” and said corporate and larger landlords are known to push more fees onto renters.

There are no tenant fee regulations in Indiana for landlords, except that all fees should be listed in the lease or told to you if you have a verbal lease. Pay special attention to small print and any separate pages you sign that make changes or add information to the original lease agreement, these are called addendums. Month to month leases offer less protection, especially when verbal, as charges can change with notice. If you are dealing with surprise or fraudulent fees, you can seek legal advice, as you may have legal defense under consumer protection laws.

READ MORE: ‘There is no landlord accountability.’ Tenants call on lawmakers for better protections

 

 

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

Before agreeing on a lease and at move-in

When the landlord shows you the home, check the faucets to make sure there is hot and cold water, and watch for leaks. Turn on appliances and verify they will be the same ones when you move in. For windows and doors, check the locks and also for any moisture. Open cabinets to inspect for insects. Identify any items that have been left in the unit by the landlord or a previous tenant.

Leases can be verbal or written and once you agree, you and the landlord are bound to the terms. So, it is important you understand it well before agreeing. Make sure to know the length of the lease, how much you pay in rent, information on late fees and what happens when the lease ends. Your landlord probably has other rules about pets, subtenants, noise, behavior, etc. you should be aware of. Verbal leases can offer more flexibility, but could cause problems if you and your landlord later remember the agreement differently.

If you’ll have a written lease, ask to see it a few days before you sign, so you understand the terms. If you have questions, write them down and get them answered. Make sure any roommates you may have are also listed. If you and your landlord agree to any changes in the lease, note the changes and have the landlord initial and date those changes before signing.

READ MORE: How do I research my property owner before I rent in Indiana?

Request to do an inspection with your landlord the day you are moving in. Note anything that needs repaired, is missing, damaged, etc. on an inspection sheet that you and your landlord both have a copy of. If you agree to a repair, make sure it is noted on the lease who will do it and when it will be done. If it’s after you move in, make sure the lease includes what happens if they aren’t done by the date or correctly.

It’s a good idea to document the condition of the home when you move in through videos or pictures that are dated and save them somewhere secure.

Where to find more on protections

You do have rights as a renter in Indiana. You can find more information at these websites.

 

 

If you’ve had an eviction filed in the past, some eviction actions and cases can be taken off your record. Find more information and forms at indianalegalhelp.org.

If you are interested in knowing more about fair housing laws on topics like disability, gender, people with a criminal history and similar topics, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana has information in the education section on its website.

If you are dealing with domestic violence, stalking or been a victim of a sex offense and have obtained a protection order or no contact order you have additional protections. Contact your local domestic violence shelter or Indiana Legal Services to get information and help.

Reach out to us!

Housing is a huge issue for people throughout Indiana, and our reporters are keeping an eye on situations throughout the state. If you have a question you’d like to ask or a situation you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it. Reach out to WFYI’s Brittani Howell (bhowell@wfyi.org) or Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Robin Rockel (rrockel@wfyi.org). You can also join the conversation through Indiana Public Broadcasting’s text group, the Indiana Two-Way. Just text “Indiana” to 73224, and you’ll receive weekly statewide news updates and questions requesting your feedback.

This guide was produced following community feedback gathered by Side Effects engagement specialist Brittani Howell and Indiana Public Broadcasting community engagement manager Robin Rockel. We were inspired by a similar guide produced by KCUR in Kansas City. We would like to thank Aimee Patras and Andrew Thomas at Indiana Legal Services for their help. 

Copyright 2023 IPB News. To see more, visit IPB News.

 

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