Indy’s year-old tenant protection ordinance could be undone soon by the Indiana House.
The Senate has voted to override Governor Holcomb’s veto of a bill blocking any local ordinances on landlord-tenant law. House Republicans announced the bill hours before Indianapolis passed a tenants’ bill of rights. That ordinance requires tenants to be advised ahead of the time of their rights, and blocks landlords from evicting people to retaliate for complaints about the property.
Holcomb said in his veto message the bill is too broad, and Senate Republicans are advancing a bill this year to delete a catchall provision that would apply to any conceivable ordinance. Opponents say even without that clause, the specific areas declared off-limits — including security deposits, the application process, leasing terms, and landlord and tenants’ rights — would lock out all significant local authority.
Senator Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) says tenants already have protection under state law. He argues the rules for landlords should be uniform statewide, just as the federal government prohibits individual states from regulating interstate commerce.
Holcomb says he hasn’t changed his mind about the bill, and says he’s concerned it’ll increase evictions in the middle of a pandemic. Freeman says he doesn’t want evictions either, but says he’s equally concerned about rental property owners whose income has dried up because tenants aren’t paying.
Mayor Joe Hogsett calls the override vote “incredibly disappointing.” He says in the seven months the ordinance has been effect, just six claims of retaliatory evictions have been sent to prosecutors, contrary to warnings it would bog down landlords in bureaucracy. He contends the ordinance creates “common-sense protections” to help renters navigate a complicated legal system.
Indiana law allows legislators to override a veto with a simple majority. The Senate vote was 30-17, with eight Republicans joining all Democrats present in voting to sustain the veto.
The House hasn’t scheduled its override vote yet — the bill becomes law if a majority votes to override. The bill passed the House 64-32 last year. All but six of the yes votes are still in the House.