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Controversial landlord-tenant preemption passes legislature; would nullify Indy's ordinance

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Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 18:56:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would take away Indianapolis’ ability to better regulate the relationship between a landlord and a tenant passed the Indiana legislature Wednesday evening.

The bill would nullify two recently passed Indianapolis ordinances that requires landlords to give tenants a notice of their rights and responsibilities and appropriates $250,000 to help give tenants legal aid. In the ordinance, a landlord who fails to disclose the tenant’s rights could face a $500 fine.

But Senate Bill 148 would prohibit local units of government from regulating any of the following aspects of a landlord-tenant relationship:

  • The screening process used by a landlord in approving tenants to lease privately owned real property
  • Security deposits
  • Lease applications
  • Leasing terms and conditions
  • Disclosures concerning the: property; lease; or rights and responsibilities of the parties; involved in a landlord-tenant relationship
  • The rights of the parties to a lease
  • Any fees charged by a landlord

SB 148 passed the Senate 29-19, with nine Republicans joining all 10 Democrats in opposition. It passed the House 64-32, with one Republican voting against it - Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen. Gov. Eric Holcomb has not said whether he will sign it.

The bill was supported by the Indiana Apartment Association and the Indiana Builders Association but opposed by more than 300 Indiana organizations.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett released the following statement on its passage:

Today’s action by the Indiana General Assembly is incredibly disappointing and represents a major setback for renters in Indianapolis and across the state.
Our city is home to many good landlords, but it is unassailable that too many of our residents are still being victimized at the hands of bad actors. It is also clear that the problems facing cities and towns across Indiana are unique to each jurisdiction and the solutions must be as well. Instead of allowing local governments to address these challenges head on, Senate Bill 148 would take that power away and place the burden on our most vulnerable residents to navigate the legal system -- without the benefit of being educated on their rights.
If Senate Bill 148 is ultimately signed into law, we will not waver in our commitment to continue helping Indianapolis tenants in need.

The bill would also provide protections against tenants from retaliation from landlords. The city’s ordinance does that as well, with city officials saying their version has stronger protections against retaliation.

Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver, said the bill was properly vetted. He said there are federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws in place to also protect tenants.
The Indiana Apartment Association released the following statement:

“The Indiana Apartment Association stands by our commitment to providing safe and affordable housing. The legislation as passed provides a new statewide protection for tenants that has not been previously available. This statewide protection will give actual relief to a tenant who has been wrongfully evicted unlike the Indianapolis ordinance that directed the money back to the city. Cities across the state are still able to expand legal services and resources to residents in need much like Indianapolis is doing.
The demand for rental housing has grown significantly over the last few years. Studies show Indiana must build 4,000 apartment units every year to keep up with the current demand for safe, affordable housing. Senate Bill 148 has created statewide predictability and certainty on landlord tenant laws that will attract new development to meet state needs.”