Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Indiana Landlord Tenant Law News

I would like to keep the purely political off of this blog. However, Matt Tully wrote a column in the February 7 Indianapolis Star where politics and landlord-tenant law meet. The occasion was a bill requiring landlord's to give notice before they enter the premises.

Indiana's landlord-tenant law starts with statutes. Thus, why the legislators had a hearing on this bill.

The bill reads as follows:

(e) A tenant may not unreasonably withhold consent to the tenant's landlord to enter the tenant's dwelling unit in order to:
(1) inspect the dwelling unit;
(2) make necessary or agreed to:
(A) repairs;
(B) decorations;
(C) alterations; or
(D) improvements;
(3) supply necessary or agreed to services; or
(4) exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual:
(A) purchasers;
(B) mortgagees;
(C) tenants;
(D) workers; or
(E) contractors.
(f) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit:
(1) without notice to the tenant in the case of an emergency that threatens the safety of the occupants or the landlord's property; and
(2) without the consent of the tenant:
(A) under a court order;
(B) if the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the dwelling unit; or
(C) for the reasons listed in subsection (e).
(g) A landlord:
(1) shall not abuse the right of entry or use a right of entry to harass a tenant;
(2) shall give a tenant reasonable written or oral notice of the landlord's intent to enter the dwelling unit; and
(3) may enter a tenant's dwelling unit only at reasonable times.

I cannot see anything in this bill which any of my landlord or tenant clients would find objectionable.

I find more interesting what is not in the bill - any penalty for violating the statute. I think that the landlord's remedy would simply be eviction.

I think tenants would generally have only constructive eviction as a remedy. This bill does not include commercial tenants but only residential ones. I think the idea is a bit on the noble side but without a penalty provision not terribly useful for tenant. If this bill does pass into law, I think it would do well to examine closely any allegations of harassment. Therein might lie the way to enough damages to make a case profitable.

I suggest in the meantime that all parties - landlords and tenants - pay close attention to their leases. I have seen landlords who bought their leases at office supply stores find out that their lease was very good - for the tenant! The leases I draft allow for reasonable access. So any lease that does not allow reasonable access is not worth the purchase price for the landlord and not worth the trouble of signing for the tenant.