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State lawmakers override Holcomb’s veto, weaken renter protections in Indy

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The Indiana House of Representatives voted Feb. 17 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a bill that would undo recent renter protections passed in Indianapolis and prevent local governments from regulating landlord-tenant relations.

Holcomb vetoed Senate Enrolled Act 148 at the end of the 2020 session. The bill was initially unrelated to landlord-tenant relations, but Republicans added an amendment with the controversial language.

Critics say the bill is so broad it’s unclear how many local ordinances will be impacted by the veto override.

“Republicans seem relentless in their drive to strip local governments — particularly that of the city of Indianapolis — of their authority in these matters,” the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus said in a statement. “The General Assembly is not and cannot be the end-all, be-all power in Indiana.”

The Indianapolis City-County Council passed a set of renter protections in 2020 that requires landlords to inform renters of their rights and obligations. The ordinance also includes fines of $2,500 and $7,500 for landlords who violate anti-retaliation measures, as well as the creation of a Tenant Information Hotline to help with legal assistance.

With the exception of the hotline, those protections — which housing advocates said were fairly basic — are now nullified.

“It’s disappointing to have Governor Holcomb’s veto overridden today,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a statement, “but we are committed to continued conversations with members of the General Assembly and the ongoing funding of the City’s Eviction Avoidance Program and Tenant Legal Assistance Project.”

Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili said the council helped landlords in 2020 when it voted to dedicate about $33 million in rental assistance through federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“Today’s vote to override Governor Holcomb’s veto of Senate Bill 148 unfortunately strips a much-needed resource from tens of thousands of Marion County families struggling to avoid eviction as our community navigates the economic impact of COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

SEA 148 includes a list of eight things local governments can’t regulate, including the “rights and responsibilities of the parties” and “any other aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship.”

Holcomb cited the COVID-19 pandemic when he vetoed the bill in March 2020. The Senate voted to override the veto Feb. 9, an act that requires a simple majority in both chambers.

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