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Indiana lawmakers force through ban on local rental rules

Indiana cities will be largely blocked from regulating rental properties after state lawmakers voted Wednesday to override the governor’s veto of the prohibition.

Posted: Feb 18, 2021 9:33 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana cities will be largely blocked from regulating rental properties after state lawmakers voted Wednesday to override the governor’s veto of the prohibition.

The Republican-dominated Indiana House voted 67-32 largely along party lines to override the veto that Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb issued in March following the end of the 2020 legislative session. The Senate also voted down the veto last week, putting the prohibition into law.

Republican backers of the bill pushed by the Indiana Apartment Association argued that it established uniform statewide regulations for landlord-tenant issues, rather than forcing landlords to face a “hodgepodge” of local regulations.

Opponents maintained that it takes away the ability of local officials to protect tenants from abusive landlords and that the prohibition was only sought in the closing days of last year’s legislative session after Democratic city officials in Indianapolis approved regulations allowing fines for landlords who retaliate against renters over living condition complaints.

The bill would prohibit local regulations on matters such the screening process for renters, leasing terms, fees charged by landlords or requiring notification of tenants’ rights.

Tenant advocates, however, have maintained the proposal would be unfair to the estimated 30%, or some 2 million, of Indiana residents living in rental housing and tilt state law heavily in favor of landlords.

Republicans pointed to bills advancing this session that would delete a clause banning local rules on any “aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship,” which Holcomb cited in his veto message.

Leaders of local government organizations and tenants-rights groups haven’t been satisfied with that step.

Democratic Rep. Robin Shackleford of Indianapolis called the rental regulations ban “unconscionable” in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic while many renters are facing possible evictions.

“Republicans seem relentless in their drive to strip local governments — particularly that of the city of Indianapolis — of their authority in these matters,” said Shackleford, chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. “The General Assembly is not and cannot be the end-all, be-all power in Indiana. We have 92 individual counties across our great state that experience unique issues.”

Opponents also 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.

The Indianapolis regulations were adopted following an Indianapolis Star investigation into renters living in deplorable conditions while landlords escaped government scrutiny.

Republican Rep. Jerry Torr of Carmel said the city’s regulations could result in landlords having “less money available to make repairs and then it would lead to less availability of affordable housing.”

Brandon Beeler, director of Indiana Legal Services’ Housing Law Center, was the ban on local regulations will put many renters at further jeopardy when facing lawyers representing out-of-state property owners.

“We’re very concerned about the tenants who already have a lack of parity are just going to have further encumbered their due process rights,” Beeler said.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 660071

Reported Deaths: 12531
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion904161633
Lake48298874
Allen35720633
Hamilton31970396
St. Joseph29796510
Elkhart25331412
Vanderburgh21192377
Tippecanoe19927199
Johnson16312356
Porter15917269
Hendricks15785300
Clark11913180
Madison11717315
Vigo11562229
Monroe10300159
Delaware9824179
LaPorte9739196
Howard9038195
Kosciusko8539108
Bartholomew7424147
Hancock7399130
Warrick7399150
Floyd7180167
Wayne6622191
Grant6413157
Boone606888
Morgan6066124
Dubois5890111
Dearborn544466
Cass542899
Marshall5414104
Henry541392
Noble508476
Jackson464165
Shelby459890
Lawrence4174111
Gibson400981
Harrison397863
Clinton394453
Montgomery385083
DeKalb384378
Knox356285
Miami356163
Whitley348435
Huntington341876
Steuben337455
Wabash330576
Putnam328259
Ripley326461
Adams322149
Jasper314843
White297152
Jefferson293773
Daviess285096
Fayette271156
Decatur270188
Greene260780
Posey260431
Wells257174
Scott250050
LaGrange240770
Clay240344
Randolph225376
Spencer216930
Jennings214344
Washington209927
Sullivan202939
Fountain201042
Starke187250
Owen181953
Fulton177937
Jay177528
Carroll176218
Perry173335
Orange170950
Rush164322
Vermillion160141
Franklin159135
Tipton145941
Parke138615
Pike127432
Blackford120527
Pulaski106544
Newton96531
Brown94839
Benton91713
Crawford90313
Martin80114
Warren75312
Switzerland7527
Union66910
Ohio52911
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