A landlord can evict a tenant in Indiana for failing to pay rent when it is due. In fact, this is one of the most common reasons to evict a tenant. This article will explain the steps a landlord must take when evicting a tenant for failing to pay rent.
Unless otherwise stated in the lease, rent is almost always due on the first day of every month, and the landlord is not required to give any kind of grace period before charging a late fee or taking steps toward eviction. Rent is due even if the first of the month is a weekend or holiday.
A landlord and a tenant may agree to different terms regarding the rent due dates, but those terms must be written and memorialized in the lease. For example, the landlord could agree not to charge any late fees for a specified number of days after rent is due. Or the landlord could agree that if the first of the month is a holiday, then rent will be due the following business day. These terms are only valid, though, if they are written in the lease. Then the landlord and the tenant are both required to follow the terms of the lease.
If a tenant fails to pay rent and the landlord wants to start the eviction process in Indiana, the landlord must first give the tenant a ten-day notice to quit. The notice must state that the tenant has ten days to either pay rent or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant pays rent during the ten-day period, the landlord cannot proceed further with the eviction. However, if the tenant does not pay rent or move out, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court (see Ind. Code Ann. § 32-31-1-6).
The ten-day notice must be written, and it should include the following statement:
"To (insert name of tenant here):
You are notified to vacate the following property not more than ten (10) days after you receive this notice unless you pay the rent due on the property within ten (10) days: (insert description of property here)."
The following information should also be included in the notice:
The best way to serve a ten-day notice is to give it directly to the tenant. The person serving the notice, either the landlord or the landlord's agent, needs to explain what the notice is and why the tenant is receiving it. If the tenant cannot be found, then the landlord can post a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place at the rental unit, such as taped to the front door (see Ind. Code Ann. § 32-31-1-9).
The tenant can respond to a ten-day notice in several different ways.
To start an eviction lawsuit in Indiana, a landlord must file a summons and complaint with the trial court of the county in which the rental unit is located. The trial court will set a date for a hearing, and the tenant will receive a copy of the filed paperwork. At the hearing, a judge will listen to both the landlord and the tenant and decide whether the eviction should occur. A separate hearing may be assigned to determine whether the tenant owes the landlord any money. If the landlord is successful and wins the eviction lawsuit, the court will set a date by which the tenant must be moved out of the rental unit. The court will also give the landlord a court order allowing a sheriff to be present at the eviction and ensure the tenant moves out of the rental unit.
It is important to note that a landlord cannot evict a tenant without a court order and without a sheriff present. If the landlord attempts to remove the tenant through any other way, such as changing the locks at the rental unit or shutting off the utilities, the tenant can sue the landlord for damages. This type of action is referred to as a self-help eviction, and Indiana law makes it illegal for a landlord to do (see Ind. Code Ann. § 32-31-5-6). For more information on self-help evictions, see the Nolo article Illegal Eviction Procedures in Indiana.
Legal aid organizations, such as Indiana Legal Services, can provide legal assistance to those who qualify. Indiana Legal Services also has an extensive online library with resources related to evictions and other housing issues.
Nolo also has other articles on landlord-tenant relations in Indiana, including tenant defenses to evictions in Indiana. The Indiana charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo website also have useful information. For more eviction articles, see Nolo's section on Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease.