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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: 708067

Reported Deaths: 13224
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion964881721
Lake51704945
Allen39185672
Hamilton34497405
St. Joseph34075540
Elkhart27306432
Vanderburgh22077394
Tippecanoe21818212
Porter17940299
Johnson17526374
Hendricks16803310
Clark12688190
Madison12350337
Vigo12211244
Monroe11462166
LaPorte11140204
Delaware10356184
Howard9662211
Kosciusko9127114
Hancock7979139
Bartholomew7888155
Warrick7684155
Floyd7560176
Wayne6899198
Grant6842171
Boone6552100
Morgan6395138
Dubois6084117
Marshall5783108
Dearborn570076
Cass5684102
Henry5577100
Noble542483
Jackson493269
Shelby479095
Lawrence4342118
Gibson428789
Harrison428170
Clinton419053
Montgomery417986
DeKalb410984
Whitley379639
Huntington379480
Miami372565
Knox366389
Steuben365257
Putnam352660
Jasper350546
Wabash347778
Adams337952
Ripley334668
Jefferson313180
White308354
Daviess289299
Wells286381
Decatur278992
Fayette277162
Greene270685
Posey268833
Scott261153
Clay253444
LaGrange253070
Randolph235680
Washington230931
Spencer227931
Jennings224747
Fountain208745
Sullivan207842
Starke204352
Owen192256
Fulton191739
Jay186129
Carroll185820
Perry180336
Orange177853
Rush170724
Vermillion166043
Franklin165635
Tipton160943
Parke144616
Blackford133831
Pike130334
Pulaski113645
Newton103934
Brown100140
Crawford97614
Benton97113
Martin82815
Warren79615
Switzerland7698
Union69910
Ohio55811
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