New laws give homeowners tools to clean up their neighborhoods

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Indiana state leaders have passed several laws that are expected to help homeowners across the state protect themselves and the quality of their neighborhoods.

They are pushing city officials to adopt ordinances that would allow people living next to problem properties to buy them for $1 if no one purchased the land during a tax sale.

The program, which would also be accessible to people who have been pre-approved for an FHA renovation loan, will only become a reality if city officials pass a required ordinance.

“We have had problems with high weeds growing, and it would grow up to maybe six to seven feet high,” said Crystal Bridgewater, a homeowner on the near southwest side of Indianapolis who has been trying to buy the property next door.

When she moved in seven years ago, there was a dilapidated vacant home on the property, but now tall grass and pests are concerns.

Homeowners dealing with graffiti on problem properties that appear vacant or abandoned do not have to wait to act thanks to the expansion of the Good Samaritan Law on July 1. Before the expansion, the law would only allow the public to go onto seemingly vacant or abandoned properties and secure them, mow the lawn or clean up garbage.

“It is not a victimless crime at all,” said Ruth Shaw, an east side homeowner who was relieved to find out that anyone interested in painting over the graffiti on private property will not get in trouble for trespassing.

“It’s not the perfect answer, but what it says is those neighbors that want to clean it up and take back their community have the ability to do so,” said Justin Moed, an Indiana state representative who was behind the expansion.

Moed also pushed a law that’s expected to help tackle scrap metal thefts, specifically air conditioning unit coils and catalytic converters. The two items, which contain aluminum and copper, are considered favorites among thieves.

Scrap metal recyclers are now required to ask the public for identification, receipts, and proof of ownership before any money is handed over.

“If you make it difficult for them, they’re not going to come by and bother you,” said Larry Peffer, an Indianapolis homeowner who said he has already been a victim once.

Business people who deal in scrap metal are exempt from the new law.

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