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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: 324537

Reported Deaths: 5594
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion44186858
Lake28094462
Allen18660301
Elkhart17663230
St. Joseph17256234
Hamilton13612170
Vanderburgh10028121
Tippecanoe896729
Porter855386
Johnson6718169
Hendricks6412158
Vigo625889
Monroe550450
Clark531078
Madison5239122
Delaware5075103
LaPorte481196
Kosciusko475941
Howard364177
Bartholomew335365
Warrick335372
Floyd329478
Wayne325678
Marshall311846
Cass303931
Grant287150
Hancock272957
Noble264946
Henry256437
Boone255054
Dubois245631
Dearborn228231
Jackson226334
Morgan221243
Gibson194926
Knox193021
Shelby192656
Clinton185421
DeKalb183932
Lawrence183849
Wabash172821
Adams172422
Miami170815
Daviess163145
Fayette153734
Steuben153414
Jasper151713
Montgomery149327
Harrison147624
LaGrange146131
Ripley145815
Whitley142314
Huntington133510
Decatur132543
Putnam131128
White131022
Wells130130
Clay130023
Randolph128121
Posey125816
Jefferson124116
Scott114520
Greene106053
Sullivan102716
Jay101913
Starke95022
Jennings90414
Spencer8908
Fulton87519
Perry85121
Fountain8228
Washington8127
Franklin73427
Carroll71913
Orange70028
Vermillion6607
Owen6468
Tipton60327
Parke6026
Newton57812
Rush5708
Blackford56612
Pike52719
Pulaski41815
Martin3705
Benton3643
Brown3574
Crawford3081
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Switzerland2655
Warren2562
Ohio2387
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