Council to consider citywide landlord registry

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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