Can a landlord change the terms of a lease in the middle of the lease term without tenant approval?

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Can a landlord change the terms of a lease in the middle of the lease term without tenant approval?

We signed a year lease for an apartment in Indianapolis, Indiana. A lease paragraph says we are to pay all utilities, but an addendum to the lease says we only pay electricity. When questioned about this, the managment verbally reiterated we only pay electricity. We received notice that we will begin paying the gas bills within the next month. Management has contacted the gas company and put the bill in our name without our knowledge. Which part of this lease is correct? What can be done? This complex has over 200 units and we are all in the same situation.

Asked on August 5, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Generally speaking, an addendum will modify the terms in the main body of the lease, since the addendum is generally added to a more-or-less "boilerplate" lease to make it fit the particular circumstances. That said, there is no way to be sure without having an attorney review the lease with you, since the way the lease is written, the specific language used, etc. all affects its interpretation. If many tenants are affected, perhaps several of you should jointly retain an attorney to review your leases and, if approriate, take legal action. What are held or determined to be the controlling terms of the lease may not be modified by one party (e.g. the landlord) without the consent of the other party (e.g. tenants). Therefore, if it does look like the addendum controls, the landlord should not be able to do this.


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