By: Ben Freeman, Attorney at Law—
Muncie, IN—Whether you are a property owner looking to rent out a home or an individual looking for your next place to live, it is important to understand the basics of the residential eviction process. An eviction is the legal process a landlord must take to remove an uncompliant tenant and regain possession of the property. Evictions are governed generally by the Indiana Code. However, each county has different local rules which govern how evictions are conducted in local courts.
Under almost all circumstances, an eviction cannot take place without proper notice to the tenant. In Indiana, this comes in the form of a 10 day letter. Indiana Code requires a landlord to give a tenant 10 days to remedy the tenant’s breach of the lease. In cases where the tenant has failed to pay rent, the law requires the landlord give the tenant 10 days to pay the entire balance due. If the tenant is able to pay the entire balance within the 10 day period, the eviction process ends and the tenant may remain in possession of the property. However, if the tenant fails to pay the entire balance, the landlord may move forward with the eviction process.
Residential evictions typically take place in small claims court. A landlord will file an eviction proceeding in the county where the rental is located. The landlord must provide the tenant with notice of the proceeding along with the time and place that a hearing will be held. Courts generally cannot evict a tenant without a hearing and a landlord’s failure to provide proper notice of an eviction proceeding is grounds for the proceeding to be canceled or delayed. However, once a tenant has received notice of the proceeding, the court will conduct the eviction hearing regardless of whether or not the tenant appears in court for the hearing.
Most courts in Indiana bifurcate the eviction process into a hearing on possession followed by a hearing to determine the amount of money owed to the landlord. The sole object of the possession hearing is to determine whether the landlord has a right to remove the tenant from the property. If the tenant believes he or she is being wrongly evicted, the tenant will be given an opportunity to provide evidence to the court of wrongdoing. However, if the tenant has no legal defense, the court will award possession to the landlord. The court will order the tenant to vacate the property by a certain day and time. If the tenant fails to vacate the property as ordered, the landlord can request the help of the Sheriff to remove the tenant’s property from the home.
Once a landlord has regained possession of the rental, the landlord can determine whether the property was damaged by the previous tenant. Typically, a landlord is entitled to monetary compensation for physical damages caused by the tenant. However, a landlord may not be compensated for reasonable wear and tear. At a subsequent hearing, the landlord will provide evidence of money owed for rent, late fees, utility charges, property damage, and other damages or costs to the court. Once again, the tenant will have the opportunity to show the court why the tenant should not be liable for all or part of the requested amount. The court will then determine the amount of money to be recovered by the landlord. The court will then award a judgment against the tenant.
The eviction process can be frustrating and confusing from either perspective. It is important to speak with an attorney to understand your rights and obligations during the eviction process. At Beasley & Gilkison LLP, we work closely with our clients to mitigate the costs and frustrations of the eviction process.
About the author: Benjamin J. Freeman is a graduate of Jay County High School, Ohio Northern University, and the University of Dayton School of Law.
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