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CALL 6: Do you know your rights as a renter?

Posted at 10:20 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 00:03:29-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- In a first of its kind Tenant Training, renters received answers to their questions Tuesday night at the India Palace Restaurant on the west side.

Law firm Cox and Koons organized the event after a previous Call 6 Investigate report on renters’ rights.

CALL 6 | What are your rights as a renter? | Renters rights': How to get repairs taken care of

Tenant James Dowdell came with his father, Edward Dowdell, who happens to be a landlord.

“I wanted to find out my rights, because I’m sometimes discriminated against,” said James Dowdell.

Tenant Leslie Sea said she learned to document everything and to be civil with her landlord.

"I've been very angry about some situations I've been having,” said Sea.  “Since I'm informed, I'm not going to be angry.”

Some rights discussed at the training:

RENTER RIGHT #1 - You have the right to a clean, safe and habitable property

Landlords are typically required to maintain plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, and appliances.

RENTER RIGHT #2 - You have the right to repairs within a reasonable time frame

If you notify your landlord in writing, you have the right to get repairs made in a reasonable time frame.

Indiana code does not designate a particular time frame for maintenance issues, however, it often depends on whether it’s an emergency or not.

RENTER RIGHT #3 - You have the right to a full accounting of your security deposit

If you do move out, give the landlord your new address.

You have a right to know, after vacating a property, what your landlord has done with your security deposit.  They’re required to provide you an itemized statement within 45 days.

RENTER RIGHT #4- You have the right to fight back in court

You have the right to file a lawsuit against your landlord. Most landlord tenant disputes end up in small claims courts because of the lower dollar amounts involved.

RENTER RIGHT #5- You don’t have the right to withhold rent

If you fail to pay your rent, the apartment complex may call you into court for back rent, damages to the apartment and eviction.

The Marion County Public Health Department says if a tenant stops paying rent, that can severely limit what the agency can do to help.

RENTER RIGHT #6- You have a right to call the health department

“A landlord can’t evict you for calling the health department,” said Brian Dunkel of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. “A landlord can’t change the locks or shut off utilities simply because they don’t like you, or even if you haven’t paid your rent.”

RENTER RIGHT #7- You have the right to move

If the repairs are not being done, and it’s not a habitable property, you can vacate the property. If you do move out, you are effectively terminating that lease.

However, it’s still a good idea to check the terms of your lease, including how much notice you must give your landlord before moving out.

In 2015, the Marion County Public Health Department received more than 7,000 complaints related to housing and trash, and the inspectors issued more than 4,000 housing orders.

Mold, bed bugs and water problems rank among the top complaints to Call 6 Investigates.

Organizers of the training say they'll hold more sessions throughout Marion County if they have a good turnout.