INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State lawmakers are a step closer to taking control of landlord-tenant issues from cities and towns.
It’s an idea with bipartisan opposition that pits Gov. Eric Holcomb against members of his own Republican Party.
The state Senate voted to override the veto the governor made in March 2020, a month after the Indianapolis City-County Council and the mayor approved a law forcing landlords to give each of a tenants’ bill of rights.
Grant Anderson, owner of The Good Life Properties, said while he’d prefer state control, he doesn’t think this bill is that big of a deal either way.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” said Anderson regarding Senate Bill 148. “People need a place to live.”
Anderson is more focused on other issues that affect his bottom line, including the eviction moratorium, which he believes one of his tenants is abusing. The city’s program denied that person rental assistance and deemed the person hadn’t been financially impacted by the pandemic.
For those who cannot buy a home or just don’t want to, that’s where a landlord steps in. Anderson owns about 20 rental homes in Indianapolis and Hendricks County.
“There are some bad landlords, but it’s painted with a broad brush that all landlords are bad,” he said.
Anderson added that it can be confusing to own property in different places with different sets of rules, which is why he’d prefer nonlocal control.
“It should be the state doing it and saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do as a state,'” he said.
It’s what state lawmakers tried to do last year, until Holcomb stopped the pending legislation with a veto.
Now, the General Assembly is trying to override the 2020 veto of Senate Bill 148. The Senate succeeded in Step One on Monday afternoon. It’s now up to the Indiana House to either override the veto or let it stand. They have until the end of the 2021 session to decide.
Amy Nelson and other housing advocates fear the consequences. Nelson, executive director of the nonprofit Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, fears the vague language of the bill could have far-reaching consequences and keep cities from taking basic actions.
“There is no friendly-tenant provisions within the bill at all,” Nelson said. “Could it enforce landlords sexually harassing a female tenant under its human rights ordinance? All of that is up in the air.”
Dozens showed up at the Statehouse with little notice Monday to protest the discussion going on inside. Organizers of the rally said they’re upset that, after years of inaction on the state level, lawmakers are only now looking at the issue when cities have started acting on their own.
“If the state won’t act and they’re going to prevent cities from acting, who is going to help tenants?” said Michael Chapuran, the executive director of Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis, a homeless shelter for families.
Chapuran said turns away about 10 families a day around Indiana due to a lack of space.
Meanwhile, landlord Anderson said it’s rarely in his best interest to evict. He said most of his rentals net him from $200-$400 a month; that’s about $3,500 in profit a year once his bills are paid.
He said evicting can cost anywhere from $3,000-$6,000 with fees, lost rent and other costs such repainting or other maintenance.
“If they’re not paying and I have to make my payment, I have to do something,” Anderson said.