Landlord & Tenant

landlord tenant


Landlord and Tenant Relations


The information provided here and in the Landlord-Tenant Relations Booklet are provided as a courtesy of the Elkhart Human Relations Commission and it is provided for information purposes only. Please contact an attorney for legal advice.


What are my Responsabilities?

As a landlord you should:

  • Deliver the rental premises to a tenant in compliance with the lease agreement, and in safe, clean and habitable condition.
  • Comply with all health and housing codes applicable to the rental premises.
  • Make all reasonable efforts to keep common areas of a rental premises clean and proper condition.
  • Provide and maintain appliances, elevators, electrical, plumbing, heating/venting/air conditioning and sanitary systems in a rental premises in good and safe working condition, if provided on premises at time of lease agreement.


As a tenant you should:

  • Comply with all obligations imposed on a tenant by applicable provisions of health and housing codes.
  • Keep the areas of the rental premises occupied or used by the tenant reasonably clean.
  • Use appliances, elevators, electrical, plumbing, heating/venting/air conditioning and sanitary systems in a reasonable manner.
  • Refrain from defacing, damaging, destroying, impairing, or removing any part of the rental premises.
  • Comply with all reasonable rules and regulations in lease agreement. If lease agreement is amended, tenant shall also comply to those rules and regulations.
  • Ensure that each smoke detector installed in the rental premises remains functional.


What is a Lease Agreement?

A lease agreement are the rules you agree to live by while renting a dwelling. It can be a written or an oral agreement. A lease is a legally binding document, which contains rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant.


A lease should contain the following:

  • Address of dwelling unit
  • Names and signatures of the landlord and the tenant(s)
  • The starting and ending dates of lease
  • The amount of rent
  • Pet deposit/pet rent
  • When rent is due and late fees
  • Who pays the utilities
  • The amount of any deposit and the conditions for return of the deposit
  • The name of the person who is responsible for repairs and damages to the property
  • A description of the condition of the property at the time the tenant moves in and when the tenant moves out
  • A list of all persons that will be living in the dwelling
  • Repair and maintenance responsibilities

A good lease will contain all of these things but does not have to contain all of them to belegally binding by the parties. Be sure you understand the lease before you sign it.


How much Deposit can a landlord charge?

There are no rules in the State of Indiana governing how much deposit landlords can charge. Normally landlords charge one (1) month’s rent or first and last month’s rent.


Can a landlord charge a Pet Rent and Pet Deposit?

Yes. There is no law prohibiting a landlord from charging an extra fee as a pet deposit or prohibiting a landlord from charging an extra fee each month for a pet. This additional fee may be considered pet rent. There are no rules that state how much landlords can charge and the pet deposit and/or the monthly pet rent may also be NON-REFUNDABLE. Be sure you understand the terms of lease before you sign it or verbally commit to it.


The pet rent/deposit may be:

  • non-refundable
  • in addition to your security deposit
  • unrealistic
  • permitted by state law
  • MAY NOT be charged if you have a service animal (certified for your disability). Exemptions exist.
  • any amount agreed to by you and your landlord  
  • non-discriminatory
  • based on size of pet
  • based on number of pets
  • based on type of pet


What is a Service or Support Animal?

Service animals are animals that have been trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Service animals may also be referred to as assistance animals, assist animals, support animals, or helper animals. Service or support animals are not pets.


Move-In and Move-Out Checklist

Before you move into a rented Home or Apartment, be sure to do a walk through with the owner or property manager. Why? Because when you move out, the landlord may attempt to charge you for "damages" to the unit. What defines damages is often contested and the tenant, unless they have a move-in-checklist and pictures, may lose out in court.

When you move out a general rule of thumb to remember- are you leaving the unit in the same condition as when you moved in? Again take pictures and have the landlord or property manager agree to the condition. Same when you leave.

A landlord can only withhold for damages in amounts that are deemed reasonable for the damage claimed. If a defect existed before you moved in, you should not be charged for that particular problem. The importance of pictures and a move-in checklist cannot be stressed enough. Normal wear and tear is vague term and means different things to different people. As a landlord or tenant you should protect yourself.


Do I need to save my receipts?

Yes, a receipt is your protection should the landlord claim that you are behind in your rent and takes you to Small Claims Court to evict you. You should always pay your rent by check or money order. If you pay in cash, be sure to have the landlord give you a signed and dated receipt.


Can my landlord enter my dwelling at any time?

No, unless the landlord has a court order or if the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the property. The landlord may enter the property without notice in case of an emergency that threatens the safety of the occupants or the property. The landlord does have the right to have a key to your dwelling and to inspect for damages you may have caused. The landlord shall NOT abuse the right of entry or use the right of entry to harass a tenant. The landlord shall give a tenant reasonable written or oral notice of the landlord’s intent to enter the property and may enter only at reasonable times.


Does a landlord have to provide a functional smoke detector?

Yes. The landlord shall require the tenant to admit in writing that the rental unit is equipped with a functional smoke detector when the tenant moves in. This agreement cannot be waived in the rental agreement or a separate writing.


Do I need renters’ insurance?

No, but it is a good idea. Renters’ insurance is available for covering your personal property at reasonable rates. The landlord is not responsible for your personal belongings in case of fire, theft, etc. Contact an insurance agent for information.


Can my landlord raise my rent, change or end the lease?

Unless otherwise provided for in a written lease, a landlord is required to give a tenant at least thirty (30) days’ written notice before modifying the rental agreement, including any changes in the amount of rent.


If my rent is late, can I be charged a late fee?            

Yes, if it is stated in your lease. If you have paid rent late in the past and the landlord has accepted it without charging a late fee, the landlord must notify you in writing when the lease is renewed that late payments will result in a late fee being charged and the amount to be paid as a late fee.


Can I be evicted if I can only pay part of my rent?

Yes, you agreed to pay all of your rent on time. If you fail to do so, you are breaking the lease and can be evicted.


If my landlord refuses to fix things, can I withhold part of my rent?

No, with very few exceptions. You should seek legal advice. All of the following must happen:

  • You must notify the landlord preferably in writing of the repairs necessary, keep a copy of the letter, and turn a copy of the letter over to Code Enforcement Officials at 229 S. Second Street (City Municipal Building) if the property is located within the city limits.


The landlord must make necessary repairs if:

  • Stated in the lease.
  • By saying, he/she will make the repairs (have a witness to prove this).
  • By sending someone to make the repairs.
  • By being told by Code Enforcement Officials to make the repairs.


You should give the landlord time to make the necessary repairs and keep your rent current.


Can my landlord take my personal property out of my home or prevent me from getting my property if I do not pay my rent?

No, under the law, your landlord generally cannot take or dispose of your personal property for any reason, even if you have not paid your rent or have violated your lease in some way. There are exceptions to this rule. Your landlord may be able to take or dispose of your personal property if: Your landlord has a court order that allows him/her to take or dispose of your property; or you sign an agreement with your landlord separate from your lease that your landlord may hold your property freely offered in exchange for the landlord not evicting you; or there is a mobile home park lien on your property; or if the rented property has been abandoned by the tenant.


If your landlord keeps your belongings, you should immediately demand their return. You should go get them quickly if the landlord offers to return them. If they are not returned, you might be able to sue your landlord to have them returned. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible to determine your legal rights if your landlord is holding your personal property.


Can my landlord lock me out of my home?

No, your landlord cannot change the locks, install a dead bolt, or do anything to prevent you from entering your home, UNLESS your landlord has a court order allowing them to do so. One exception to this rule is if you have not paid or offered to pay your rent AND your home has been abandoned. You have abandoned your home if the circumstances reasonably show that you have given up possession.    


What are the reasons my landlord can evict me?

Even if your rent is current, the landlord may evict you for the following reasons:

  • If you willfully and severely damage the property.
  • Break the terms of the lease.
  • If you do not have a written lease, the landlord may end the lease with only one (1) rent period’s warning: If you pay weekly, one (1) week’s notice; if you pay monthly, one (1) month’s notice, etc.


How can my landlord evict me?

The landlord must take you to court. Also, you must receive notice of any legal action taken by your landlord against you.

The landlord need only show that you are behind in your rent. If the landlord goes through Small Claims Court, you will receive notice by certified mail or delivery by the sheriff. There will be a date for you to appear in court; if you do not show up; the landlord automatically wins. You will be allowed to present evidence in court (This is why you save your receipts). If you cannot be in court at the time you are ordered to appear, contact the court before the date and request a new court date.


Can my landlord shut off my utilities if I have not paid the rent?

No, not unless your landlord has a court order allowing him/her to shut off your utilities, or you have abandoned your home. However, your landlord can shut off your electricity, gas, water, or other essential services if there is an emergency, to make repairs, or for necessary construction. The landlord also cannot remove the doors, windows, fixtures, or appliances from your home.


Can my landlord terminate my lease as a victim of certain crimes?

No. A landlord may not terminate, refuse to renew, refuse to enter into a lease or retaliate against a tenant solely because a tenant, applicant, or a member of the tenant’s or applicant’s household is a protected individual.


What is a protected individual?

A protected individual is one who is a victim or alleged victim of a crime involving domestic or family violence, a sex offense or a stalking offense and has received a civil order for protection or a restraining order issued by the court.


Does my landlord have to change my locks if a court issues a protection/restraining order?

Yes. You must provide the landlord a written request and the copy of the court order. The landlord has no later than forty-eight (48) hours to change the locks if the individual restrained from contact with the tenant does not reside at the same property. The landlord has no later than twenty-four (24), if individual restrain does reside in the same property.

The tenant shall be responsible for reimbursing the landlord for the actual expense incurred for changing the locks. If the landlord fails to change the locks and the tenant changes the locks, the landlord shall reimburse the tenant for the actual expense incurred in changing the locks.  


What can I do if my landlord has wrongfully locked me out of my home or shut off my utilities?

You can ask your local Small Claims Court for an emergency order telling your landlord to let you back in your home or restore your utility service. You must file a sworn written statement that tells the court exactly what your landlord has done, or threatened to do, and what damages, inconveniences, and costs you have suffered because of your landlord’s actions. When you ask for an emergency order, the court must set an emergency hearing within three (3) business days.


What will happen at the emergency hearing?

At the hearing, you can get an emergency order returning your home to you and preventing your landlord from committing further violations. If the court finds probable cause that your landlord has threatened to or has locked you out, removed doors, windows, fixtures, or appliances, or shut off your utilities, AND you will suffer immediate and serious damage, you can be granted an emergency hearing.


The court also can make other orders, depending on your situation, and set another hearing to award damages or to order the return of any of your property that your landlord has taken.


Can my landlord get an emergency order too?

Yes, your landlord can get an emergency order if he/she proves that there is probable cause to believe you have committed or threatened to commit waste to your home and they have suffered immediate and serious damage due to your actions. Waste does not include failing to pay your rent. Your landlord can get an emergency order that tells you to move from your home or stop committing waste to your home.


My landlord got an emergency order evicting me, but I did not know about the hearing. Is there anything that I can do?

When a landlord asks for a hearing and order, the court clerk must give you notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing. If you do not get notice of the hearing, you can ask the court to set aside the emergency order and give you a new hearing. If you are in this situation, you should contact a private attorney or your local legal services office.


Under what circumstances can my landlord keep my deposit?

  • You have not paid all of your rent up to the time you move.
  • You have caused damage beyond normal wear and tear.
  • The dwelling is very dirty when you move out.
  • You have not paid all utilities due that are your obligation to pay.


The landlord has forty-five (45) days after you move out to return either your full deposit or an itemized list of damages and the amount of damages claimed. You must give the landlord a written notice of your forwarding address.


Your deposit may be used to pay for the damages claimed by the landlord. If there is a refund remaining after any damages are assessed to you, then the landlord must pay that to you within that forty-five (45) day period. This list must be sent to you with payment for the amount of your deposit that was not withheld for damages.


If I move before my lease has ended, do I still have to pay rent?

If you agreed to rent a dwelling until a certain date and you move out prior to that date, the landlord may charge you rent if the dwelling remains empty. The landlord must make a reasonable effort to rent the dwelling.


Does my landlord have to renew my lease if my rent is current and I want to stay?

No, the landlord is not obligated to rent to you beyond the date agreed. If there is no written lease, the landlord must give you one (1) rent period’s notice prior to ending the lease. If you have a year-to-year lease with no ending date, the landlord must give you three (3) months’ notice to end the lease.


What should I do if my rental property does not meet minimum housing standards?

If the property is within the City of Elkhart, contact Code Enforcement at (574) 294-5471 between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. weekdays. If you have requested that repairs be made for your safety and the landlord refused to make needed repairs, contact Code Enforcement Officials. Do not wait until you are being evicted to report violations.


Who should I contact about any lease noncompliance disputes?

For any disputes regarding non compliance with Indiana Landlord-Tenant Relations IC 32-31 such as evictions or noncompliance with the lease terms and conditions. A landlord or tenant must go through their Small claims court. For all residents living in Elkhart County contact the Elkhart County Small Claims court, 315 S. 2nd Street, Elkhart, IN 46516 at (574) 523-2305.



For additional information on the State of Indiana’s IC 32-31 landlord-tenant relations go to:



The information provided in this page may also be obtained by downloading and printing the Landlord-Tenant Relations Booklet, courtesy of the Elkhart Human Relations Commission. Click on icons below to view and print booklet.


Landlord & Tenant Relations Booklet                               Landlord & Tenant Relations Booklet (Spanish)       

Landlord/Tenant Booklet- English                          Landlord/Tenant Booklet- Spanish