The date a tenant provides her forwarding address to her landlord triggers the 45-day period the landlord has to deliver the itemized damages to the tenant, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
A small claims judge ordered landlords Lindsay and Kristopher Washmuth to return Johnny and Amy Wiles’ $1,500 security deposit, $800 in attorney fees and other costs after determining the Washmuths’ itemized statement of damages regarding the security deposit was not timely.
The Wileses rented a residence in Lapel from the Washmuths and moved out April 1, 2013, one day after their lease expired. The Wileses refused to provide a new address initially, directing their landlords on April 29, 2013, to send the itemized list to their attorney’s address.
The Wileses sued for return of their deposit. After receiving the Wileses’ new address on the small claims filing, the Washmuths mailed the damages list to them May 28, 2013, seeking more than $1,900 in damages and to keep the security deposit as well as money for unpaid utilities.
The small claims court found that the Wileses had provided the landlords with a permanent address – a P.O. Box in Lapel as well as the address of their attorney. As such, the judge ruled the itemized statement was not timely.
In Lindsay Washmuth and Kristopher Washmuth v. Johnny Wiles and Amy Wiles, 48A04-1310-SC-515, the Court of Appeals reversed, noting that the tenants didn’t provide a mailing address until April 29, which triggered the 45-days under statute the Washmuths had to deliver the itemized damages notice. The notices sent May 28 and June 8 were therefore timely.
“[W]e conclude that, if a tenant immediately provides a forwarding address upon termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession, a landlord has forty-five days to deliver the itemized damages to the tenant. However, if the tenant fails to provide the forwarding address upon termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession, … the landlord ‘is not liable . . . until supplied by the tenant with a mailing address to which to deliver the notice.’ The landlord’s obligation cannot begin to run until after the tenant has supplied a forwarding address. The landlord’s obligation to send the notice is tolled until it receives the forwarding address,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.