Protecting rights of tenants at center of Wednesday signing ceremony in Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Mayor Joe Hogsett and City-County Council President Vop Osili will join other community organizations in an ordinance signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

"If we seriously want to address the root causes of violent crime, we must address issues like housing instability and evictions,” said Council President Vop Osili.

Representatives from Indiana Legal Services, the Indianapolis Bar Association and Marion County Bar Association will be among those in attendance.

"These evictions are life altering, often they fuel the cycle of poverty which in turn contributes to crime, incarceration, recidivism,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett, "New pending state legislation has the potential to dramatically impact the effectiveness of these changes."

Proposals 40 and 41 are aimed at protecting tenants and providing them with resources when dealing with housing challenges including eviction, substandard housing conditions and retaliatory actions.

This follows the controversial vote to pass an amendment during the Indiana House Judiciary Committee meeting on Monday for Senate Bill 340. Senate Bill 340 initially addressed condemned property laws, but city leaders claim the amendment would eliminate the current efforts being pursued by the city.

“On top of it being bad policy, it’s bad procedure,” said Ryan Mann, the chief policy officer for the Department of Metropolitan Development and Department of Business and Neighborhood Services for the City of Indianapolis.

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When we spoke with him on Monday he stated, “Predatory actions taken against tenants, predatory schemes that pull a bait and switch that sort of window-dress larger problems, complete structural problems with homes, and the minute a tenant tries to report it or even try to get out of their lease, retaliatory actions are taken, and it only furthers the cycle."

Senate Bill 340 would add anti-retaliation efforts in law, but it handles the issue in a different way than what the city has already proposed through the 'Tenant Legal Assistance Project' and other efforts.

The Indiana Apartment Association spoke out in favor of the amendment during Monday's meeting. 

“What the first portion of this amendment does is that it simply says that these regulations must occur at the state level, rather than creating catch work regulations resulting in different landlord tenant laws in every community. We believe comprehensive state-wide rules are necessary, just like the laws we have for buying, selling mortgaging or foreclosing property," said Brian Spaulding of the Indiana Apartment Association.

The Indiana Builders Association also stands in favor of the amendment to Senate Bill 340.

"The Indiana Builders Association advocates for safe and affordable housing for all Hoosiers. This legislation establishes a transparent and streamlined leasing process for tenants while ensuring the increasing demand for rental housing in Indiana can be met."

Indiana Builders Association

“SB 340 is one of the most harmful housing bills I have seen in my over 20 year housing career. Not only does SB 340 modify current law to take away any fines for those landlords who retaliate against tenants with just cause, but it even goes so far as to say that a City cannot even demand that tenants be informed of their most basic housing rights under law, amongst other changes.”

Amy Nelson, Executive Director of the FHCCI

Mayor Joe Hogsett suggested it’s critical to do what’s best for the renter and that’s by starting a dialogue.

"Rather than jump to adopt broad restrictions that can preempt local action I urge the Indiana General Assembly to put this issue in a summer study committee and give it the attention and the time that such a complex question of public policy deserves,” said Hogsett.

There’s a second reading for Senate Bill 340, including Amendment 9 on Thursday.

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