There are far too many cases in Indiana and across the country in which tenants find themselves in compromising situations due to unclear lease agreements whether oral or written; leaving tenants wrongfully evicted or pushed out of their home by utilizing illegal methods.
Unfortunately, many tenants don’t know their rights and obligations according to state and federal law.
According to a 2000 Census, Marion County has 133,901 rental units – all of which must meet the minimum standards set by the Marion County housing code that comply with Indiana’s landlord-tenant law. These requirements are meant to uphold and ensure the health and safety of residents.
Landlords must comply with all health and housing codes that relate to the rental premises. However, there are landlords who fail to follow Indiana’s code, and their actions are clear threats to the health and well being of renters.
This, like so many others, was presumably the case for a family that occupies a rental property on 32nd Street and Sutherland Avenue.
Ambrosia Sutton, 27, and Latisha Brewer, 29, entered into a lease agreement with Dion Newton, owner of Pynkerton Chiropractic Group, P.C., and landlord of the rental property.
“We paid the rent for July and the deposit, so he agreed to work with us,“ Sutton said.
The women said they picked up the keys July 18 and gave Newton an additional two weeks to fix the repairs in the home as he agreed to do before their initial move in date. Both Sutton and Brewer say there were no smoke detectors or running water throughout the home, which is against the law.
“We moved in and on the first night there was no running water in the house at all, and when he came out the next day he only fixed the water in the bathroom,” Brewer said. “We went without water in the kitchen for about two to three days.”
According to Indiana’s requirements for landlords and tenants, landlords must maintain a premises that is in good and safe working condition, including plumbing and electricity.
Both women said Newton finally fixed the water throughout the home and inquired about the rest of the deposit on Aug. 11.
“We told him we didn’t feel comfortable giving him any more money until the rest of the repairs were made in the house,” Sutton said. “He told us it sounded like we were not going to give him the rest of the money so he was going to evict us.”
Before entering into a lease, according to Indiana Universities legal services Web site, you must be cautious. Read the fine print and be aware of clauses. This lets you know who is or will be held liable for what, and if the landlord was responsible per the law to create a safe environment it is his responsibility. However, if a clause states otherwise and you signed the lease then they are under no obligation in most cases.
“We hadn’t heard anything from Dion until we came home this past Friday evening and there were no doors on our home,” Brewer said.
Both Brewer and Sutton say they initially thought someone broke in the house so they called police.
“At first it looked like the doors were wide open, but then once we realized they had been removed we called the police back and told them our landlord had removed them,” Sutton said. “We knew it was him.”
Brewer says not only were the doors gone, but also the house had been ransacked with garbage on the floor and clothes thrown throughout the house.
“Right now that is the only place we had to stay,” Brewer said. “So we had to block the doorways that night, and we took the kids upstairs and we slept downstairs so we could protect them as much as we could.”
According to Regina Marsh, executive director of the Forest Manor Multi Service Center, Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams received a distressed call during a Concerned Clergy meeting. After the meeting Saturday morning adjourned, the members went to the 32nd and Sutherland address to assess the situation.
“I was actually the first member there,” Marsh said. “They explained to me what the owner of the property did to the home.”
According to an Indiana legal Web site, under no circumstances should landlords take matters into their own hands. They must follow the proper procedure to evict a tenant regardless of a tenant’s conduct or failure to uphold their agreement of the lease. The landlord must get a court order to evict. Otherwise, turning off utilities, removal of property or other intimidating methods are illegal and leave room for lawsuits.
The Recorder attempted to contact Dion Newton and he said he knew nothing of the incident. However, Greg Taylor, a member of the Concerned Clergy and Newton‘s relative, says Newton is willing to try and work something out with the women if they are willing. Also, with Taylor’s assistance, he notified Newton of the Concerned Clergy’s presence at the house last Saturday and got the doors replaced.
“We don’t know from day to day what might happen next and the important thing is my children’s safety and that they have somewhere to come home to,” Brewer said.
According to Marsh, she has been asked to participate in conversations with Newton, the owner of the property, to try and reach a compromise. But she first says she needs to speak with the women and see what they wish to do at this point.
“He has been very difficult in this situation,” Marsh said. “I hope this shines a light. These situations come up often and landlords take advantage of clients that don’t have the means or even know that there are means available to help them.”