City council acts to close loopholes in landlord registry system

The city of Indianapolis is hoping to get derelict property owners into shape with new changes to its landlord registry.

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night approved changes to the registry it first passed back in 2014 to "close the loopholes" in the current system, said Vice President Zach Adamson.

That meant changing the definition of a rental to include units advertised as rentals and units offered for sale as rent-to-own properties. The proposal passed 19-3.

"The city lost a case or two or more where a landlord said, 'You can't prove I'm renting," said Republican City-County Councilman Jeff Miller. "Of course the city's not going to go tear down the door and figure out if there's a tenant in there. If you're advertising, now it's black and white."

Under the landlord registry ordinance, IBJ reported in 2014, 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 require affirmation that the rental units and any other property titled to the owner are not violating city code. Landlords also must attest there is not more than one delinquent tax payment associated with their properties. Finally, the registration must state the number of rental units on each parcel of property.

The city also is trying to solve another problem with the changes: it hopes to add more people to its list of rental property owners. The landlord registry once had about 22,000 properties on the list. Now it has around 13,000 properties.

Miller and Adamson said since owners can list 100 rentals and process them through the registry for a nominal sum, it appears some people could be leaving the registry to avoid accountability as they notice loopholes.

"This is an attempt by the city to gain control over a runaway situation that is costing taxpayers enormous sums of money," Adamson said. "We aren't trying to put a hammer on the good players. We wanted to be able to have an accountability system for the scofflaws."

Adamson said the changes "fall back to the premise that with property ownership comes responsibility." He said run-down rental properties, many with out-of-state owners, create negative consequences for neighborhoods.

He said it's also an attempt by the city to prevent properties from becoming "wards of the city."

Indianapolis under Mayor Joe Hogsett is attempting to tear down, rehab or otherwise rehabilitate vacant and problem homes throughout the city.

"Before those properties become derelict properties, they were poorly maintained rental properties," Adamson said.

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