Advocates say Indiana regulation limits threaten renters

Opponents are warning that a Republican push to block Indiana cities from regulating rental properties threatens existing local protections for tenants and would tilt state law heavily in favor of landlords.

Posted: Mar 11, 2020 12:00 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Opponents are warning that a Republican push to block Indiana cities from regulating rental properties threatens existing local protections for tenants and would tilt state law heavily in favor of landlords.

The proposal remained under negotiations Tuesday by House and Senate members ahead of Wednesday’s expected adjournment of this year’s legislative session.

The possible restrictions emerged two weeks ago as Republicans took up the limits backed by the Indiana Apartment Association as the Democratic-controlled Indianapolis City-County Council approved an ordinance that included allowing fines for landlords who retaliate against renters over living condition complaints. It also required landlords to give tenants information on their legal rights and responsibilities.

GOP leaders and the apartment association argued that tenant-landlord regulations should be uniform statewide, but tenant advocates maintain the proposal would be unfair to the some 2 million Indiana residents living in rental housing.

“It is a form of second-class citizenship that shouldn’t be acceptable,” said Mark Russell, director of education and family services for the Indianapolis Urban League. “This retaliation hurts citizens who are the most vulnerable. It occurs regularly, and it occurs without regulation.”

The proposal, approved mostly along party lines in the House last week, would prohibit local regulations on any “aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship,” including the screening process for renters or requiring notification of tenants’ rights. That version also would limit tenants to receiving one month’s rent if a court finds that person was a victim of landlord retaliation, while landlords could be awarded attorney fees and damages if they win in court.

Republican negotiators said they were working on revisions to better equalize how renters could be treated in court.

“We felt like the balance was swung too far the wrong direction in the actions here in Marion County,” said GOP House Speaker Todd Huston, who assumed the top House position on Monday. “We want to find the right balance for statewide action. At the end of the day, we want people to make investments that have quality housing available.”

Opponents say they’re worried the proposal would negate current local regulations, such as those on apartments in college towns, including Bloomington and West Lafayette. They also raise concerns about whether the proposal’s impact on local anti-discrimination ordinances in cities such as Indianapolis, Columbus and South Bend that go further than state law and include protections based on sexual orientation.

Jessica Love, executive director of community advocacy group Prosperity Indiana, said the group and others believe cities and counties should have the authority to regulate rental properties based on the needs of their communities.

Democratic Rep. Robin Shackleford of Indianapolis said Republicans haven’t been able to say how many local ordinances would be voided if the proposal prohibiting such regulation is approved.

“The phrasing says ‘all other,’” Shackleford said. "'All other’ includes basically everything. The language is too broad and will have a detrimental effect on everything the cities have pre-existing.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1112735

Reported Deaths: 17652
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1450832237
Lake721711247
Allen66684881
Hamilton50838487
St. Joseph49493645
Elkhart40079546
Vanderburgh34553496
Tippecanoe30654274
Johnson27559465
Hendricks26181383
Porter25556386
Madison21002452
Clark20146278
Vigo18966309
LaPorte17115261
Delaware16666300
Howard16666313
Monroe16556220
Kosciusko14216167
Hancock13061185
Bartholomew12894190
Warrick12152190
Wayne12036268
Floyd11968226
Grant11901242
Morgan10360192
Boone9815122
Noble9234122
Henry9142167
Marshall9062147
Dearborn8923100
Dubois8815139
Shelby8210129
Cass8134127
Lawrence8018185
DeKalb7761108
Jackson764093
Huntington7601113
Gibson7074118
Montgomery7052123
Harrison6923100
Knox6896115
Steuben665889
Miami6563111
Whitley655360
Putnam641584
Clinton624579
Wabash6182111
Jasper610892
Jefferson5796104
Ripley555893
Adams540581
Daviess5062117
Scott488280
Wells4814104
White475669
Greene4680100
Clay462862
Decatur4597110
Jennings448867
Fayette448396
LaGrange425990
Posey407544
Randolph3908107
Washington389856
Fountain373464
Fulton362474
Spencer360747
Starke353574
Owen351277
Sullivan347554
Orange329172
Jay328850
Rush306832
Carroll294239
Franklin290844
Perry288553
Vermillion282758
Tipton250066
Parke249630
Pike247244
Blackford221244
Pulaski208559
Newton181752
Brown176150
Crawford168829
Benton166517
Martin151820
Switzerland147212
Warren135316
Union121016
Ohio92113
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