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Proposal to protect renters approved by city council but faces uncertain future

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A set of proposals pushed by Mayor Joe Hogsett and passed by the Indianapolis City-County Council on Feb. 24 are meant to further protect the rights of renters, but a last-minute amendment added to a bill in the state legislature could nullify the effort.

Indiana lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee added an amendment to a Senate bill that would prevent any city from regulating landlord-tenant relations without approval from the General Assembly.

If the bill passes as amended, it would nullify at least two parts of the mayor’s effort: fining landlords who retaliate against tenants for reporting poor housing, and requiring landlords to notify tenants of their rights and responsibilities.

State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) said at the city-county council meeting she would add an amendment to remove that language from the legislation.

Hogsett released a statement before the council meeting saying the amendment would “effectively ban the implementation of these local regulatory changes.”

“I am deeply disheartened by this effort to kill local protections for renters in Indianapolis,” he said. “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.”

Proposals 40 and 41 in the city-county council do not extend any new rights to renters; they require landlords to tell renters what their rights are.

The proposals also create and fund a Tenant Information Hotline, which renters could call to be referred to any legal assistance program partnered with the city.

After the proposals passed, council President Vop Osili released a statement saying the “vast majority” of landlords do fair business and that the proposals are aimed at landlords who “seek to discriminate against housing applicants based on expunged or sealed criminal convictions or who retaliate against renters for simply exercising their rights under the law.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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