MUNCIE, Ind. — Indiana’s attorney general announced an agreement from a Muncie real estate company to refund consumers up to $35,000 and to cease reportedly “unfair and deceptive practices.”
The settlement announced on Monday was from a property management group that offered apartment rentals to college students in the Ball State University area.
“Week after week, we devote significant time and energy to protecting Hoosiers who rent their homes,” Attorney General Rokita said. “People living in apartments and other rental properties deserve fair treatment and peace of mind. That’s why we work so hard to hold landlords accountable for following the law.”
An investigation by Rokita and the Homeowner Protection Unit determined Middletown Property Management LLC and Middletown Property Group LLC had been using the unregistered trade name “BSU Rentals” which could confuse consumers by suggesting an association with Ball State University.
Previous reports detailed several students renting properties from the company in 2022, which they stated were dirty and in disrepair, despite paying a fee to have the home cleaned prior to move-in.
One student who wished to remain anonymous stated she and her roommate who moved in last year, paid a total of $500 as a cleaning fee to “BSU Rentals.” That student added she knew the company had a reputation and called ahead of time to make sure her home would be clean. The company assured her the unit would be cleaned.
“I walked in and went straight to the living room because I was going to look at the carpet,” the student said in a 2022 interview. “I ran the vacuum literally just one line across the living room and I had to dump it already because of the amount of hair in there.”
Rokita’s office stated tenants also complained of other alleged violations including:
- invasions of their privacy without proper notice;
- use of a deceptive redecoration fee in place of a security deposit; and
- repeated failures to deliver units to tenants in a safe, clean and livable condition in compliance with Indiana law.
The property company agreed to several things in the settlement with the ag’s office; issuing credits and refunds to consumers totaling $35,000 as well as payment to reimburse the HPU for $10,000 in investigative costs; to cease use of “BSU Rentals” unregistered trade name on all forms of marketing; make changes to all current and future leases requiring reasonable notice prior to entry of units by “companies or their agents”; remove as-is language from all the companies leases and abide by landlord obligations found in state law; and to participate in compliance monitoring requiring companies to issue quarterly reports to the HPU for a period of two years beginning on Sept. 1, 2023 until June 1, 2025.
The HPU uncovered several issues that needed to be addressed but Attorney General Rokita said that the companies expressed a commitment to resolve tenants’ concerns going forward.
“I would like to thank these respondents and their counsel, Brent Embry, for their cooperation and professionalism in resolving this dispute,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Our office is going to continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the rental marketplace is free from unfair and deceptive trade practices. At the same time, when businesses commit to do things better, we will always give them the opportunity to make things right.”