A Guide to Breaking a Lease In Indiana

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Legal protections are available to renters who need to break their lease in Indiana, but only for a few specific reasons, such as when military members get deployed. If you are a renter, you must know the legal grounds to break your lease to avoid potential financial penalties.  
We have all signed a rental or lease agreement at one time or another, but how often did we read the fine print? Unfortunately, most renters don't until they need to break their lease. Relocation due to a job, heading off to school, or getting married all seem like valid reasons to move—and they are. However, they aren't legal reasons to break a lease.
If you need to move during your lease term, it may cost you a pretty penny. This is why Jerry, the super app for saving money on car and renters insurance, is here to help you learn what to do if you need to break your lease and what options are available in Indiana. 
There are five legal ways to break a lease in Indiana, and most of them do not have any fees or penalties associated with them. 
  • Early termination clause: Most leases will include wording specifically regarding when is it ok to terminate a lease, how much notice is needed, and what the fees and penalties are
  • Active duty military: Members of the military have protection from The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in case of deployment. To meet the requirements, the tenant must have signed the lease before entering active duty status and the deployment must be for more than 90 days
  • Unit is uninhabitable: The rental must be up to Indiana's health and safety codes for rental units. If the tenant advises the landlord that repairs are needed, and they aren't made in a timely matter, the tenant can break the lease and move
  • Domestic violence: Per Indiana code 32-31-9-12, there are protections in place for domestic abuse victims that need to break their lease and protection from the landlord forcing them to move
  • Landlord harassment or privacy violation: It is illegal for a landlord to violate a tenant's right to privacy or harass them. This could be actions like changing the locks, not maintaining the property, physical or verbal abuse, and more per Indiana code 32-31-5-6

What are the penalties for breaking a lease in Indiana?

The penalties for breaking a lease in Indiana tend to be financial, from immediate fees to a long-term legal battle that results in bad credit
Here are some examples of the fallout that can result from breaking a lease:
  • Hefty fees: A rental agreement is a legally binding contract. Unless you have a legally protected reason to break the lease, any fees, and past due rent are your legal responsibility
  • Lawsuit: If your landlord knows that you will not be paying the rent or fees promptly, they can sue you for breach of contract. Between time off work and possible lawyer fees, this could cost much more than what was originally stipulated in the lease agreement
  • Decrease in credit score: Landlords can take tenants to small claims court and/or higher a collection agency. Once this happens, it becomes part of your credit history which impacts any future purchases that require a good credit score, such as credit cards, mortgages, and car loans 
  • Less desirable future rental options: Landlords look at your prior rental history when applying for new housing. Past due rent, evictions, and broken lease agreements make you a less desirable tenant which can limit your choices in the future
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How to break a lease without a penalty in Indiana

If your lease is coming to an end at the same time you wish to move, you don't need to notify your landlord. You are free to move once your lease is up without a penalty. However, it would be nice to give them a heads up so they can line up their next tenant. 
Some tenants and landlords have an agreement that once the first year is up on a lease, it automatically converts to a month-to-month tenancy or at-will tenancy. This means there is no end date, it is just terminated when either the landlord or tenant decides it should. 
If this applies to you, Indiana law requires you to notify your landlord via written notice at least three months ahead of time. The notification can be mailed or hand-delivered. 
If you are on a month-to-month lease, you must provide the landlord with written 30 days notice directly or through the mail. 
Aside from the options stated above, breaking a lease mid-term will come with some kind of penalty unless you have a legally protected reason. If you rent from a large corporation, you may be stuck with the fees that are stipulated in your rental agreement. If you rent from a mom-and-pop company (someone that owns only one or two rentals) there may be some wiggle room
Remember, as unpopular as it is to say, landlords are people too. Your rental is their source of income and likely their retirement plan. They want tenants who enjoy living there, pay on time, and care for the property
Your best course of action is to speak to your landlord honestly and show a willingness to work with them. Here are some tips:
  • Sublet: Some lease agreements allow you to find someone to take over the remaining time on your lease. Other agreements expressly forbid this, so check your lease before allowing someone else to move in. This option is more likely with a property management company
  • Offer to help them find someone else: Most small landlords want to control who lives on their property, but if you can find someone to start a new lease, they are more likely to let you out of your lease without having to pay a fee
  • Read your lease carefully: It is possible that you won't have to pay as much as you think! While some landlords require you to pay out the entire time left of your leasing term, some may just fine you a flat amount. A $250 fine is much better than $5,000 in rent for an apartment you aren't living in anymore
  • Negotiate: When all else fails, negotiate. Ask if you can pay what is due over time. Try to point out how they can raise the rent for a new tenant with you gone. State (and follow through on) that you can have the apartment cleaned, painted, and move-in ready for the next tenant, which will save them time and money. Sweat equity is real and has value to smaller landlords. 
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How to save on renters insurance in Indiana

Hopefully, you aren't in this situation, and if you are, we know that every penny you can keep in the bank counts! With the moving truck, the security deposit, and downpayment for your new place, changing homes can be expensive. 
Don't worry—Jerry, the super app, is here to help! Jerry is known for saving folks money with car insurance, but now we can save you even more with renters insurance and our insurance bundles!
After downloading the Jerry app, getting started takes just 45 seconds, and Jerry customers save on average $800+ per year on insurance!
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FAQs

Indiana followed the federal moratorium program, which ended on October 3, 2021. However, no provisions were made for tenants looking to break their lease due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need rental assistance for any reason, visit the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority
For more information on your rights as an Indiana tenant, click here.
Yes, it can. If your landlord chooses to do so, they can have past due rent and fees sent to collections. Once an account is in collections, it will impact your credit score.

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