Amendment to Senate Bill 340 sparks renter, landlord protection debate

Politics

UPDATE:

The City-County Council has voted to pass Proposal 41.

ORIGINAL STORY:

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A plan to protect Indianapolis’ renters from predatory landlords faces an uncertain future after a surprise move at the Statehouse has set up a battle between city leaders and lawmakers.

The Indianapolis City-County Council is set to vote on Proposal 41 Monday. It protects renters by giving them information about their rights and going after landlords who retaliate against those reporting issues.

But a last minute amendment to a new bill would stop cities from intervening.  

Ryan Mann is the chief policy officer for the Department of Metropolitan Development and Department of Business and Neighborhood Services for the City of Indianapolis.

He believes the amendment to Senate Bill 340 is a huge mistake.

“On top of it being bad policy, it’s bad procedure,” Mann explained. “Senate Bill 340 first off is a bill on eminent domain. Amendment 9 actually tries to preempt any effort by cities to address the power imbalance that currently exists.”

According to State Senator Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) who authored the bill, “It would ensure Hoosier property owners are afforded due process and give opportunities to object in cases where authorities attempt to condemn private property.”

“Owning private property is the foundation of freedom itself,” Senator Spartz said. “We must protect that freedom from all powers, especially any government attempt to seize a citizen’s property.”

The vote for the amendment came down just hours before the city-county council is set to vote on Proposal 41, a city initiative that seeks to protect renters. It includes the launch of a tenant information hotline, a tenant legal assistant project and a new tenant protection ordinance, along with much more.

“We think is a lot stronger than what the state proposal is,” said Matt Giffin, the Deputy Director of Legal Council for the Office of Public Health and Safety.

Giffin claims the new amendment could be detrimental while the city works to fix the housing crisis.

“When people get into a cycle of evictions and they can’t secure housing going forward, that effects the stability of families, it effects child development, it effects mental health,” he added.

Senator Spartz defended the amendment saying, It appears reasonable to ensure uniform, predictable and stable housing market across the state of Indiana.”

Meanwhile, city leaders claim their efforts will protect renters and landlords.

“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,” said Mann.

Now they’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

“Until the state official tells us we can’t, then we’re moving forward,” said Giffin.

In a statement, Mayor Joe Hogsett expressed his response to the amendment.

I am deeply disheartened by this effort to kill local protections for renters in Indianapolis. The vast majority of states have enacted real retaliation protections for tenants, and on the night in which our city is poised to adopt its own regulations at the City-County Council, a watered-down version of real change is being slipped into a bill at the last minute. Stunningly, this amendment goes so far as to ban cities and towns from notifying tenants of their existing rights under the law.

Mayor Joe Hogsett

The amended Senate Bill 340 has a second reading this week. Then it will go on to a full vote.

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