Landlords and Tenants Beware of Dangers When a Lease Ends
Security Deposits are a Source of Many Lawsuits
Upon the termination of a lease agreement for residential real estate, a tenant is required to return the rental property to the landlord “in a clean and proper condition, excepting ordinary wear and tear expected in the normal course of habitation of a dwelling unit” Ind. Code§ 32-31-7-6. This means that a landlord can recover from a former tenant for any damages to the rental property that exceed ordinary wear and tear. Whether you are a landlord or tenant, it is important that you document the condition of the rental property at the beginning and at the end of the lease agreement. The parties should conduct a joint walk through at move in and move out, with the parties notating the condition of each room in the rental property in signed document. It is also a good idea for the landlord and tenant to take photographs of the rental property both at move in and move out.
Landlords, as defined by Indiana Code § 32-31-3-3, are also required to:
return to the tenant the security deposit minus any amount applied to:
(1) the payment of accrued rent;
(2) the amount of damages the landlord has suffered or will reasonably suffer by reason of the tenant’s noncompliance with law or the rental agreement; and
(3) unpaid utility or sewer charges that the tenant is obligated to pay under the rental agreement;
all as itemized by the landlord with the amount due in a written notice that is delivered to the tenant not more than forty-five (45) days after termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession.
I.C.§ 32-31-3-12. However, the landlord’s obligation to itemize the damages does not begin to run until the “tenant supplies the landlord in writing with a mailing address to which to deliver the notice…” Id. (emphasis added). Indiana Code 32-31-3-14, provides that a “landlord shall mail to a tenant an itemized list of damages claimed for which the security deposit may be used…The list must set fort: (1) the estimated cost of repair for each damaged item; and (2) the amounts and lease on which the landlord intends to assess the tenant” I.C. § 32-31-3-14. A landlord’s failure to provide the itemized list of damages within the statutory time period will give the tenant the ability to “recover all of the security deposit due the tenant and reasonable attorney’s fees,” and constitute an “agreement by the landlord that no damages are due and the landlord must remit to the tenant immediately the full security deposit.” I.C.§§ 32-31-3-12(b) and 32-31-3-15. Landlords and tenants should make sure that the landlord is given the tenant’s mailing address, in writing, to ensure the prompt return of any unused security deposit along with the receipt of the itemized list of damages the landlord claims the tenant is responsible for.
Prepared by Todd Small, Richard A. Mann, P.C. , www.rmannlawoffice.com
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