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Indiana Supreme Court rules West Lafayette rental inspection fees unconstitutional

The city of West Lafayette is looking for new ways to fund its rental inspection unit

Posted: Mar. 18, 2019 10:46 PM
Updated: Mar. 19, 2019 6:41 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The city of West Lafayette has to find a new way to fund its rental inspection unit.

The program has been a staple in the community for years, now Indiana Supreme Court leaders say it's unconstitutional.

12 years ago, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis created a comprehensive rental inspection unit to protect the cities most frequent renters.

“Parents of kids that were going to Purdue University, they would go online, they would look to rent a property for their kid to reside in when they went to school and all the pictures online were great,” said Dennis. “They would get here and they would come to the structure and it was horrible.”

The rental inspection unit required property owners to have the city inspect their units and pay for it.

Indiana Supreme Court leaders ruled how the city charges these rental inspection fees unconstitutional.

“We were charging rates for the inspections of these properties and there was a fairly fluctuating scale, it was fairly subjective,” said Dennis.

The city based inspection cost on the size of the property and number of tenants. Indiana law requires inspection fees to cap no higher than $5 per unit despite those factors.

But in a college town with a higher number of renters, Mayor Dennis said $5 is not enough to sustain a much-needed inspection team.

“If you look at a college community, you look at the flexibility of our population the fact that we get new people in every year,” said Dennis. “There's an entire population change with our student population about every four years. There's a significant market for rental properties.”

Mayor Dennis said the current inspection team isn't going anywhere. The city will just have to find new ways to fund the program.

He said funding this program should not affect taxpayers. City leaders are planning a meeting to figure out what's next.

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