The Tenant-Landlord relationship can be a contentious one, as is usually the case when money and property are involved. Even when the rules of renting and leasing are generally well laid out through landlord-tenant laws, there is still room for confusion, either due to a lack of knowledge of these laws or a lack of clarity on the part of the landlord. This can exacerbate several potential tenant issues, such as tenants defaulting on their rent or remaining in a property after their lease has ended. In order to effectively address these common problems, landlords must make sure to be well acquainted with landlord-tenant law and know how to best leverage that knowledge to reduce risk and potential sources of conflict.
According to landlord-tenant law, a tenant has defaulted when they fail to pay their rent within the agreed-upon timeframe. Typically a landlord will require new tenants to pay a security deposit in order to prevent defaults in rent payment or other monetary obligations, but this is not a sure solution for the problem. A landlord should always be ready to address the situation if a tenant defaults on their rent, and this includes knowing how to inform them that a problem has arisen. Indiana Code 32-31-1-6 states that in case of nonpayment of rent, there should be a notice to quit or cure within 10-days unless otherwise agreed upon. It is also vital to remove any doubt as to when a tenant has defaulted and when it is appropriate to send your notice to quit or cure. Some tenants might debate that if you offer a late charge, they still have the opportunity to pay the rent late, and others might argue that they are not in default until the next months’ rent is due. If your official policies surrounding defaulting are not spelled out in your lease, there is room for error or interpretation, so aim to be clear, concise, and thorough.
Among the more complicated situations for a landlord to manage is a case involving a holdover tenant, a renter who remains in a property even after the expiration of their lease. The main reason they are often so difficult to deal with is that holdover tenants exist in a bit of a legal gray area, existing in a halfway point between a full rental contract and trespassing. Technically a holdover tenant may continue to stay on the property after the lease expires unless the landlord takes specific action against them, so it is often the landlord’s obligation to determine how to move forward with the situation.
The easiest way to address this potential uncertainty is to know the laws surrounding these situations and plainly state your personal policies regarding holdover tenants ahead of time. In cases where there is a holdover tenant and their lease specifically details the terms involved, then a notice is not officially required. Despite this, you should still provide a 30 to 60-day notice to the tenant that the lease will not be renewed, and the apartment should be vacated by a specific date. This eliminates any confusion about your stance on the matter and makes sure the tenant is fully aware of their lease’s terms before it expires. It is also important that a landlord not accept rent payments from a holdover tenant if they do not want them to remain on the property. Any rent received is recognized as an advance payment, creating a month-to-month tenancy. This is fine if you are willing to work with the tenant on the matter, though if you start accepting monthly rent, you cannot later choose to evict based on their holdover. As such, you should usually aim to immediately file for an eviction, holding any received payments to escrow until the matter is taken care of.
While there are situations where you will want to open certain properties quickly, you rarely want to have a lot of vacancies at the same time. Not only will this result in reduced rent payments, but renters tend to have a negative outlook on units that are mostly empty, which can make filling those vacancies that much more challenging. As such, it is a good idea to have certain policies in place that can limit the number of vacancies on a property. For example, you can begin to require a 60-day notice to quit in your written lease agreements. This provides the opportunity to begin listing the unit or property for rent before tenants move in, allowing you time to find a new tenant to fill the location without letting it lay empty for an extended period. It also gives you the opportunity to conduct a strong screening process, performing credit checks or searching to see if an applicant has previous evictions or collections cases on their record.
Know the Law
As with most customer-facing careers, landlords will always face challenges involving clients who fail to meet the requirements of their contract. Sometimes this is a case of someone actively causing trouble, but most often it is simply a case of not knowing the rules involved. As long as you remain fair, logical, and follow landlord-tenant laws and best practices, you can mitigate these challenges and provide tenants with the time they need to plan their next steps, reducing risk and sources of conflict for both parties.
 US Legal, Inc. (n.d.). Landlord Tenant Default Law and Legal Definition. US Legal. Retrieved from https://definitions.uslegal.com/l/landlord-tenant-default/.
 Indiana Landlord and Tenant Law – Rental Law in IN. (2016, May 13). RentApplication.com. Retrieved from https://www.rentapplication.com/indiana-landlord-tenant-laws/.
 Chen, J. (2019, October 10). Holdover Tenant. Investopedia. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/holdover-tenant.asp.
 Alexis, D. (2019, January 21). Holdover Tenant: What to Do if Your Renter Doesn’t Leave. RentPrep. Retrieved from https://www.rentprep.com/legal/hold-over-tenant-what-if-renter-doesnt-leave/.