COVID-19 Off-Campus Lease FAQ’s and Tips

Who Can Help Me With Questions And Concerns Related To My Off-Campus Lease?

IU Student Legal Services (IUSLS) offers free and confidential representation to eligible IUB students.

IUSLS is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Go here to complete an intake form, and schedule an appointment to talk to one of IUSLS’ attorneys via phone or video conference.

Should I sign a lease now for the 20-21 school year?

If you know you are going to rent a place in Bloomington for the 20-21 school year, regardless of the status of classes and the state of emergency, you should probably go ahead with signing a lease.

If it depends on whether classes are in session, and you don’t want to live in Bloomington if you can’t go to class and go out with your friends, it’s probably best to wait before you sign.

What happens if i sign a lease now, and because of COVID-19, I am unable to live in the unit?

Some landlords in Bloomington are agreeing to lease termination addendums on leases signed during the pandemic. If you don’t want to wait to see what happens with classes and the pandemic before signing a lease, ask whether the landlord you’re dealing with is willing to sign an addendum to the lease that would let you out of the lease if classes are still being held on-line in the fall, or for other COVID-related reasons.

Before you sign a lease or any related document, let your IUSLS attorneys review it for you, and answer your questions.

Can I terminate my lease agreement for the remainder of the current lease term since I returned home because of COVID-19? Is the presence of COVID-19 enough to get me out of my lease?

On March 19, 2020, Governor Holcomb placed a moratorium on eviction and other court filings pertaining to rental properties during the state of emergency in Indiana. Gov. Holcomb also made clear in this order that leases remain enforceable. Most leases will remain in effect, and landlords will be able to take action to enforce the leases when things open back up.

Keep in  mind that the answer to any legal question will depend upon the circumstances particular to your case. Talk to an IUSLS attorney to learn more about the law, and whether you are taking advantage of all potential legal remedies available to you.

What should I do if I decide to move out and terminate my lease before the lease term expires?

Check out these tips on IUSLS’ website on how to handle an early move-out.

Schedule an appointment to talk to an IUSLS attorney about your situation.

Why should I pay my rent when I'm not living in my rental unit?

Paying your rent is a legal obligation under the lease contract you signed. Unless some legal action is taken to override this obligation, the landlord can take legal action against you for failure to meet your legal obligations under the lease.

Legal actions may include filing of a lawsuit and/or turning the account over to a collection agency. Both actions could have a negative impact of your credit score. Talk to an IUSLS attorney to learn more.

What should I do if my landlord is threatening to evict me?

First, you should know your landlord can’t evict you without a court order, and they are not allowed to file to evict you during the state of emergency in Indiana.

However, if you stop paying rent, the landlord will be able to file to evict you when the courts open back up, and the state of emergency is lifted.  

If you are living in the rental unit and being threatened with eviction because you are behind in rent, try to work out an alternate payment plan with your landlord to bring rent current. If that doesn’t work, schedule an appointment to talk to an SLS attorney.

Can my landlord evict me if i’m not actually living in the rental unit?

The short answer is yes, you can be evicted, even if you’re not living in your rental unit. If you have property in the rental unit and haven’t yet turned in the keys, the landlord can still file to have you evicted.

If you plan to move your stuff out, and stop paying rent, you need to turn in your keys and notify your landlord in writing.  Check out IUSLS’ website for more tips on vacating your rental unit.

How can I avoid an eviction if my landlord won’t compromise?

If you find another place to move to before the eviction hearing, you can move out before the court orders you to be evicted. When the judge learns that you have moved out, and removed all of your belongings from the rental unit, there will be no need to order an eviction.

IUSLS is here to help you maneuver through this and other complicated situations. Schedule an appointment to talk to an IUSLS attorney about your options.

What to do if you have to leave your rental unit early because of the COVID-19 virus:

Ten Tips from IU Student Legal Services on managing your off-campus lease: 

  1. Read your lease. Is there anything in it about early lease termination? Talk to your landlord if you aren’t sure.
  2. What does the lease say about subletting?
    Can you find a subtenant to take over the lease in May, and pay rent yourself until then? Talk to your landlord.
  3. Will your landlord agree to a buyout of the lease, meaning will they agree to terminate the lease for some extra lump sum payment of rent?
    Talk to your landlord.
  4. If you decide to move out early (before your lease term expires), notify your landlord in writing. This will keep the lines of communication open with the landlord, and potentially puts you in a stronger position legally. Email or certified mail are good ways to provide written notice that you have vacated the rental unit.
  5. The following steps may help minimize the amount you have to pay if you move out without making an agreement with the landlord to terminate the lease:
    1. Remove ALL of your belongings from the unit when you leave.
    2. Thoroughly clean the unit, even if it was dirty when you moved in.
    3. After you have removed your belongings and cleaned, take clear pictures and video of the unit and keep them someplace safe.
    4. Make sure any utilities in your name are transferred back to the landlord’s name.
    5. Notify the landlord in writing as described in item 4 above.
    6. Arrange to turn in your keys to the landlord.
  6. If your landlord agrees to a lease termination,
    be sure to get it in writing.
  7. Unfortunately, even if you do all of the above, you may still have to pay rent for the rest of the lease term. But the above steps will minimize any additional damages the landlord may try to claim as a result of your early lease termination.
  8. Under Governor Holcomb’s Executive
    Order 20-06, tenants cannot be evicted during the state of emergency in Indiana, but leases remain in effect, and rent will still be due. Unfortunately, the City of Bloomington and Indiana University have no authority to cancel a lease agreement between a tenant and a landlord.
  9. Landlords are not permitted to lock tenants out of a rental unit, or to have utilities shut off, even if rent and/or utilities haven’t been paid.
  10. If this information doesn’t answer all your questions you can schedule an appointment with Student Legal Services to discuss your situation in more detail.