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Statehouse proposal would limit Indy's ability to regulate landlord-tenant relations

Posted at 1:34 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 23:38:08-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill making its way through the Indiana Statehouse may severely limit Indianapolis’ ability to regulate landlord-tenant relations.

The Indianapolis City-County Council is expected to vote on two proposals related to predatory landlords at Monday night’s full council meeting. One would require landlords to give tenants a notice of their rights and responsibilities and the other would appropriate $250,000 to help give tenants legal aid. In the proposal, a landlord who fails to disclose the tenant’s rights could face a $500 fine.

But a state proposal that passed an Indiana House committee Monday morning would make it illegal for cities to force landlords to disclose tenants’ rights. That specific language was added Monday in an amendment to Senate Bill 340. The amendment states:

“A unit may not regulate, through an ordinance or otherwise, any of the following aspects of a landlord-tenant relationship with respect to privately owned real property located in the unit unless the regulation is authorized by an act of the general assembly:

  • 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
  • Any other aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship”

The amendment would also prohibit landlords from retaliating against tenants who make complaints or testify against them.

In a statement, Mayor Joe Hogsett said he was “deeply disheartened” by the amendment.

“The vast majority of states have enacted real retaliation protections for tenants, and on the night in which our city is poised to adopt its own regulations at the City-County Council, a watered-down version of real change is being slipped into a bill at the last minute,” Hogsett said. “Stunningly, this amendment goes so far as to ban cities and towns from notifying tenants of their existing rights under the law.”

In January, Hogsett announced the push to help protect Indianapolis tenants. Recent studies show Indianapolis in the top 5 in both evictions and eviction rate.

"The villains here are not the many responsible landlord and property owners, rather those of you who have failed to hold up their end of the bargain," Hogsett said last month.

The Indiana Apartment Association supported the amendment and bill.

“The Indiana Apartment Association supports enacting protections for tenants on a state-level that keeps Hoosiers in their homes and provides relief directly to tenants who have been wronged," the organization said, via a statement. "This bill will mitigate inconsistent regulations that would vary from city to city. The potential patchwork of policies will not only create confusion among landlords and tenants, but will ultimately increase the cost of housing."

A representative from the city who testified against the amendment said the vote will still be held Monday night. Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, spoke out against the amendment in committee.

“I just really don’t want to be prejudging what the city council will do in overturning their decision before they made it,” Delaney said. “I think this is very bad procedure. It also ignores the unique nature of our largest city.”

The amendment passed, 8-3. The amended bill passed, 9-2. Senate Bill 340 will now head to the full House for a vote.

At Monday night's council meeting, Rep. Robin Shackleford, Indianapolis, said she would introduce an amendment to remove the new amendment, giving Indianapolis the ability to create local ordinances.

The council passed the ordinance, 18-5.