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Council to consider citywide landlord registry

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Indianapolis landlords would have to register with the city by Jan. 1 or face a $500 fine under a proposal that will be introduced to the City-County Council on Monday night.

The proposal is the product of legislation this year that effectively shut down rental-property inspection programs but left municipalities the option of creating registries. As required under the law, the registration fee will not exceed $5, but there are heavy penalties for failing to sign up. 

"It's a very low-impact and low-administrative-burden proposal," said John Barth, a Democratic councilor at-large, who co-sponsored Proposal No. 195 with Republican Jeff Miller and Democrat Zach Adamson. "If there's not some teeth in it somewhere, it's not going to be successful."

Enforcement of the registry requirement will be complaint-driven, Barth said.

Barth expects Democrats and Republicans to support creating a registry.

"It's not just the core urban area that has problem rentals," he said. "It's a countywide issue now."

Under the proposal, which would take effect July 1, owners of rental units must provide their names, telephone numbers and addresses. Those who aren't Indiana residents must provide the same information for an in-state property manager. The registration will also require affirmation that the rental units and any other property titled to the owner are not violating city code, that there are no delinquent taxes or fees, and that the Department of Code Enforcement's list of "tenant rights" will be given to tenants at the start of each new lease. Finally, the registration must state the number of rental units on each parcel of property.

The city would charge one $5 fee per apartment complex, or per landlord, regardless of the number of rental properties he or she owns, as long as each one is registered at the same time.

In addition to the proposed $500 fine for failing to register, the city could levy a $100 fine for failing to update the registration upon change of ownership and $100 for not allowing inspection of a rental unit. While Indianapolis doesn't plan to launch a separate program to inspect rental properties, the Department of Code Enforcement can still respond to tenants' complaints about code violations.

The proposal will be referred to the council Rules and Public Policy Committee.

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  • It is a start that could protect both owners and potential tenants
    This is a way to get more of the information that "is already available" all into one place that is easily accessible to potential renters. It is a start of something that could protect against those landlords that do not take care of their property and should be a way to also protect landlords from deadbeat renters that destroy properties or don't pay the rent. I say have a database for them too. The ultimate question is paying for the services it provides and requires.
  • Not effective
    There are already agencies in place to address slumlord issues and conditions of houses falling into severe disrepair. Tenants are free to call Code Enforcement, the Board of Health, etc. I always give my tenants a copy of Title 32 so they will know what their rights are. This can be found online at the Indygov.com website if you are interested in what it says or if you aren't familiar with it. Also, the $5 fee won't be effective in trying to have a staff take care of the paperwork on any Landlord Registrations. I just paid my annual Broker's fees and they are about $70. The licensing department at the state government office is so overworked that even brokers paying $70 a year isn't enough to keep it adequately staffed so we can receive prompt responses on our requests or answers to our questions. If $70 isn't enough, $5 won't be, either. I have about 15 homes and condos under contract. My minimum rent is $1000, maximum $2800 per month. Obviously, when people pay that much in rent, they demand a lot and they report concerns to me promptly and I act on them just as promptly because my contract to the owner is to keep their homes in good repair. My goal is to return the home to the owners when the home vacates that is in just as good of a condition as when I went under contract with them (the owners.) At the last meeting, the committee mentioned there are currently a certain number of vacant homes right now as well as foreclosures. Within five years, if these numbers don't significantly change, would the committee continue to keep the program in place, even if it isn't effective? I think there needs to be a re-assessment at some point with an independent auditor to determine if a significant number of vacancies and foreclosures have decreased within the five-year period. I don't think a government body, trying to maintain its status, would be impartial, so an independent audit would be necessary, and perhaps even required under Indiana Statutes. Perhaps this is where the $5 should be used. If the program the committee is proposing passes, I hope the egos aren't so big that they would continue to keep an ineffective program going after an assessment in five years (or so.)
  • Revenue generation
    We all know this is about one thing and one thing only: Revenue generation. It's a win-win for the city. They either get the $5.00 or most likely the fine. This is what happens when we run out of things to sell (parking meters, etc) and are looking for other sources of revenue. www.landlord-toolkit.com
  • Heads up
    The legislation was introduced on Monday night. If you are alarmed at this, then you need to contact your City-County Councilor to state your opposition. You can also contact the City-County Council to find out who are the members of the Rules and Public Policy Committee. If you only voice your concerns here, the chances are that all this will come to pass.
  • Unnecessary
    I agree 100% with Small Guy Landlord's comment. Landlord information is readily accessible to the tenant via the Marion County Treasurer's Office website. The free market is very efficient in allowing Tenants to move in and out of properties in a situation where a Landlord fails to make necessary repairs. This proposed bill is totally unnecessary.
  • landlord
    Registration
  • Yay...
    Yay.. another reason for cash strapped landlords barely keeping their heads above water to abandon their properties. It's barely worth it to own rental property in Marion County as is. With this new mechanism to punish those saddled with under-water rentals who cannot afford to keep up with repairs as is, property abandonment becomes an increasingly viable or even a prudent option.. Lord knows tens of thousands of these rentals are unsaleable already due to neighborhood blight. Good job guys.
  • More bureaucracy
    And what is the point of this exactly? Besides more bureaucracy and a chance to collect money in fines, exactly what does this accomplish? Tenants can already report problems to the Board of Health who issues citations, where uncorrected problems are levied on the property taxes. Is this a lead-in to larger obligations and more red tape for decent landlords trying to eke out a living in the urban core, where rents barely cover the cost of doing business now? Believing in the city and that property values will SOME DAY rebound is one thing, but we're still wary that we'll get nickeled and dimed out of business before then by things like expensive smoke detectors and whatever becomes of things like this.

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