What rights do renters have when management companies change hands?
What rights do renters have when management companies change hands? One listener from La Porte was curious.
Jodi Velasco is a senior attorney at Indiana Legal Services who practices housing law.
She said for residents who still remain in the lease from the old rental company, the provisions in this lease still apply.
Velasco said the renter's rights in this situation should also remain the same.
“The rights and responsibilities of the tenants remain the same,” she said. “And the landlord's obligations to provide a clean, safe, habitable environment as well as not lock the tenant out, things like that, that all remains the same.”
She said the landlord’s obligations to provide a habitable environment include keeping apartments safe and clean, as well as ensuring necessary services are in working order.
“They must keep the appliances and the systems, the A/C, the heating, the sewage, plumbing, electrical systems and any appliances that they provide for the apartments, they have to keep those in good working order,” she said.
Velasco said if an apartment’s management changes during a resident’s active lease, things like the rent charge should not change. However, she said things like how to pay rent or where to direct maintenance requests may change.
“If they remain in that lease, then the property management company should send the notice of how to and when to pay their bill,” she said. “If the rent changes, if the utilities or anything like that changes, those shouldn't change. It should be pursuant to the current lease.”
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Velasco said she has seen various leases try to waive this statute of habitability – and that this is illegal. For this and other reasons, she said it is important for renters to compare the old and new lease if they renew with a new management company to see if there are any changes.
“It’s very hard to know to read leases because they’re usually long and full of legalese, but it's important to read that and compare because things like when the rent is due, the date might change,” Velasco said.
She said landlords must also provide reasonable notice before entering an apartment. She said some leases provide specifics on what “reasonable notice” may be, but it is typically 24 to 48 hours notice.
Additionally, she said landlords must not engage in “self-help,” or turning off certain services such as air conditioning and heating, or locking residents out.
“Tenants have that right to privacy and what's called quiet enjoyment of their property without disturbance, unless there's an emergency,” Velasco said. “And tenants have a right to sue if the landlord breaks those.”
Tenants must also keep their space clean, maintain utilities and follow other requirements under state law.
Velasco said tenants are unable to withhold rent if landlords do not follow the habitability statutes. However, they are able to sue landlords.
She said legal aid services are available to those with questions about their rights as a renter or potential violations from landlords. Velasco said there are also various tenant assistance programs available in courts in certain counties through Indiana that offer the opportunity to have conversations with attorneys about tenant rights and questions about landlord obligations.