Tensions Are High Over Renters’ Rights
Renters’ rights in Indianapolis have been a hot topic of discussion in the Hoosier capital as well as the Indiana General Assembly. There’s a lot to unpack with this topic, and so far, there’s been plenty of back and forth. Between new ordinances, new legislation, vetoes, and heated discussions, renter’s rights are creating a firestorm in the Crossroads of America.
How Did We Get Here?
In 2020, Mayor Joe Hogsett implemented a new ordinance that would help renters in Indianapolis have greater protections from retaliatory landlords. Not long after, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 148 (SEA 148), which stopped Indianapolis from regulating landlords. The legislation was then vetoed by Governor Holcomb who expressed concerns that it would lead to more evictions during the pandemic.
This decision to veto was overridden by the Indiana Senate and House, which has created a battle between Indiana’s largest city and the state itself.
What’s the Current Issue Between Landlords and Tenants?
Retaliatory landlords are landlords who could tell renters to leave because they reported issues with the property. While it seems absurd for someone to evict a tenant on that basis, it happens often enough for cities like Indianapolis to create laws protecting renters. This issue has seen significant back-and-forth from legislators at all levels of government, which we’ve broken down below:
- In January of 2020, Hogsett sought legislation to protect renters from retaliatory practices by landlords. The goal was to prevent renters from losing their homes for seeking help from attorneys, code enforcement officials, or health inspectors.
- In February of 2020, the Indiana Senate wanted to enact a new piece of legislation, SEA 148, which would prevent all local governments from regulating landlord-tenant relations.
- In March of 2020, this measure was approved. Not long after, Governor Holcomb killed the bill as the pandemic gripped the Hoosier State.
"I believe this is not the right time for such language to become law," Holcomb said.
Currently, eight states including Indiana are without an anti-retaliation law, yet Indianapolis' number of evictions was second only to New York City. New data from Eviction Lab shows 4,456 evictions have been filed in Indiana since mid-February of 2020.
Know Your Rights
Despite the fact that ~30% of Hoosiers are renters, the Indiana Senate voted to override Holcomb’s veto and strip their citizens of protections against retaliatory landlords on February 8th, 2021. This move officially denied Holcomb’s veto and pushed SEA 148 into law. For your clients who rent, it’s important that they know their rights. Tenants have the right to put rent money towards repairs in the event a landlord hasn't made repairs within a reasonable time. Tenants also have the right to terminate a lease agreement when premises become uninhabitable due to neglect or non-routine maintenance.
If you or your clients believe that your rights have been violated or there has been landlord retaliation, call the Tenant Information Hotline at 317.327.2228 from 8 AM - 5PM on weekdays to make a report.