Indiana lawmakers back banning local rental regulations

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed blocking Indiana cities from regulating rental properties, a move that opponents argue threatens existing local protections for tenants and would tilt state law heavily in favor of landlords.

Posted: Mar 12, 2020 9:32 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed blocking Indiana cities from regulating rental properties, a move that opponents argue threatens existing local protections for tenants and would tilt state law heavily in favor of landlords.

The state Senate voted 29-19 in favor of a House-Senate agreement on the bill, with the House later endorsing it in a 64-32 vote as lawmakers reached the final adjournment this year’s legislative session early Thursday.

Republican negotiators failed to reach agreement on a proposal that could've forced the state attorney general from office if his law license is suspended over allegations that he drunkenly groped four women. They approved toughening the penalties stores could face for selling smoking or vaping products to anyone younger than 21 years old.

The possible rental rule 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. The city’s ordinance also required landlords to give tenants information on their legal rights and responsibilities.

Republican legislators and the apartment association argued that tenant-landlord regulations should be uniform statewide.

“All of these are designed to have a predictable, stable, knowing housing market in Indiana so that everybody knows the rules throughout the state,” said Sen. Aaron Freeman, an Indianapolis Republican.

Tenant advocates maintain the proposal would be unfair to the estimated 30%, or some 2 million, of Indiana residents living in rental housing. They say they’re worried the new state law would negate local regulations, such as those on apartments in college towns, including Bloomington and West Lafayette, and threaten 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.

Rep. Robin Shackleford, an Indianapolis Democrat, said during House debate that the apartment and builder associations were the only groups visibly supporting the legislation, then read off the names of several dozen organizations around the state opposing it.

Supporters argued that the proposal would not impact local ordinances on rental inspections and registries, as those are authorized already under state law. Rep. Ethan Manning, a Republican from Denver, said federal civil rights and fair housing laws also protected renters.

Sen. J.D. Ford, an Indianapolis Democrat, said the Legislature is “bending over backwards for the unscrupulous landlords” and leaving renters defenseless if they complain about troubles such as the lack of functioning plumbing or furnaces not working.

“Dare you speak up, because once you do then you have a target on your back and then they will find a reason to evict you,” Ford said.

Democratic Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett called the Legislature’s action “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,” Hogsett said in a statement. “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.”

Lawmakers gave approval to doubling the fines stores could face for selling smoking or vaping products to anyone younger than 21 years old. The penalties, which were last increased a decade ago, will grow until a third violation within a year would carry a maximum $2,000 fine.

The additional penalties are part of a bill increasing Indiana’s minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with a new federal law. Holcomb has endorsed the tougher store penalties.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1001697

Reported Deaths: 16370
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1349142114
Lake660941157
Allen57517796
Hamilton46157464
St. Joseph44155608
Elkhart35752508
Vanderburgh32119478
Tippecanoe27824258
Johnson24961444
Hendricks23767355
Porter22833364
Madison18662406
Clark18449252
Vigo17379302
Monroe15205198
LaPorte15077250
Delaware15006260
Howard14647288
Kosciusko12235147
Hancock11639175
Bartholomew11517179
Warrick11264189
Floyd11040214
Wayne10918252
Grant10000218
Morgan9427176
Boone8874116
Dubois8240131
Dearborn818193
Henry8154152
Noble7985106
Marshall7854134
Cass7510120
Lawrence7414170
Shelby7160117
Jackson694688
Gibson6534113
Harrison645891
Huntington635399
Knox6299106
DeKalb627699
Montgomery6214109
Miami590598
Putnam576278
Clinton571371
Whitley561555
Steuben557075
Wabash5289103
Jasper526677
Jefferson507596
Ripley496886
Adams476875
Daviess4632113
Scott436672
Greene422496
Wells421788
Clay420660
White416964
Decatur4139101
Fayette404987
Jennings385260
Posey375343
LaGrange354978
Washington354049
Randolph342599
Spencer337642
Fountain332658
Sullivan327452
Starke314069
Owen312770
Fulton307767
Orange292063
Jay282245
Perry264752
Franklin264542
Carroll259832
Rush259532
Vermillion256454
Parke230026
Pike228143
Tipton227059
Blackford191141
Pulaski182056
Crawford158823
Newton156648
Benton150217
Brown145247
Martin137419
Switzerland134311
Warren120616
Union106916
Ohio84212
Unassigned0538

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