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Study outlines lack of protections for tenants

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A study commissioned by IUPUI’s Health and Human Rights Clinic shows Indiana doesn’t have tough enough laws to protect tenants and hold unscrupulous landlords accountable.

“It’s also the rights that renters gain indirectly that are taken away when municipalities are preempted from protecting renters through mechanisms like public nuisance, code enforcement,” said Jacob Purcell, an IUPUI McKinney law student who worked on the study.

The few laws on the books lack the teeth to rein in out-of-state landlords. Many of those landlords let critical maintenance issues lag.

Fran Quigley, Director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic, said, “Every single week we see low income renters who are dealing with really poor housing conditions, we’re talking about mold and water damage and ceilings caved in and rodents.”

Quigley is urging the legislature to pass Senate Bill 202. It would create habitability standards for people living in apartments and establish an escrow account, where renters can withhold rent from landlords until necessary repairs are made to their units.

“Then the landlord and tenant can have that litigated in court to see what amount is actually owed, we don’t allow tenants to do that in Indiana,” Quigley said.

Even if renters can afford a new place, they may lack the time or money needed to move apartments

“Substandard housing subjects renters to many kinds of unexpected bills, whether it’s bills associated with making essential repairs, so they can live safely in their apartment, or property damage, or lost wages because they have to miss work,” Purcell said.

Senate Bill 202 passed the Senate last month, but has yet to receive a hearing in the House.