Holcomb vetoes controversial landlord-tenant legislation

Gov. Eric Holcomb (TheStatehousefile.com photo/Bryan Wells)

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has vetoed a controversial bill that would have prevented all local governments from regulating any aspect of landlord-tenant relationships.

Holcomb’s decision to block the legislation from becoming law allows tenant protections that the city of Indianapolis recently put in place to remain in force.

“While I understand the bill was intended to create uniformity between state and local law governing the relationship between landlords and tenants, I believe this is not the right time for such language to become law,” Holcomb wrote in a letter explaining the veto.

Holcomb also said he thought the language was “overly broad.”

It’s the only bill Holcomb vetoed this year and just the second since he was elected in 2016.

The Legislature can overturn the governor’s veto with a simple majority vote in the House and Senate, although lawmakers have adjourned for the year. That means the first time they could consider an override is November, unless they are called into special session before then.

The controversial provision emerged at the Statehouse in February as a last-minute attempt to block the Indianapolis City-County Council from implementing two ordinances designed to protect tenants from predatory landlords.

The City-County Council passed the ordinances anyway, just hours after state lawmakers introduced the preemption language. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett then signed the ordinances in a rare public ceremony a couple of days later.

Hogsett issued a statement on Wednesday thanking Holcomb for the veto.

“As we confront an unprecedented public health emergency that has cast a dark cloud of economic uncertainty over families across the state, now is not the time to uproot local protections for renters without understanding the consequences,” Hogsett said. “It is my hope that this action will allow local leaders and the General Assembly to give this topic the attention and time that such a complex, difficult question of public policy deserves.”

The city of Indianapolis has the second-highest number of evictions in the nation, behind only New York City, according to the Eviction Lab from Princeton University.

Hogsett’s administration said the legislation could have taken away its ability to impose fines against landlords who violate their regulations.

The legislation attracted widespread criticism, with a group of nearly 300 opponents sending a letter to lawmakers urging them to defeat the measure.

The Indiana Apartment Association, which opposed the Indianapolis ordinances, was the biggest supporter of the legislation, arguing that statewide regulations would provide consistency for its members.

The legislation passed the House and the Senate on the final day of the 2020 session earlier this month.

Hours before vetoing it, Holcomb told reporters he was still undecided on this bill and two others that he had not signed yet. The deadline to sign all three bills was Wednesday.

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13 thoughts on “Holcomb vetoes controversial landlord-tenant legislation

  1. As a longtime landlord I was opposed to the Marion County ordinance. It has major flaws. As a citizen, I applaud the governor for vetoing the bill which unnecessarily infringed on the rights of local communities to regulate their own affairs. In the long run Marion County’s ordinance will drive the small landlords out of the market which is bad for tenants and bad for the economy.

    1. As a fellow landlord, please explain one thing to me? How exactly does this hurt you? If you already keep your property well maintained and give tenants decent living conditions, this law shouldn’t effect you.

  2. Property owners and small business owners always get short stick with Indiana legislature…Regardless of all the partisanship being promoted …The small guy gets screwed ..Everytime !

    1. Are tenants not also the “small guys?” Or, does only the landed gentry fall into that category?

      And, how does this veto “screw” landlords? (And, I think your ire is directed at the Governor, not the Legislature).

      Unless you are a slumlord, the Marion County tenant protection ordinance should not have any great impact on you. New York, LA, San Francisco, DC, and many jurisdictions in Maryland and New Jersey have rent control along with strict tenant protections, and many other places without rent control still have very strict tenant protections. Marion County has rather weak tenant protections even with its new ordinance.

  3. Nice Job. This topic deserves public input, and not just lobbyists input. State legislators rammed this through without any public input and if it is worth doing, then it will be worth doing again next year, but AFTER it gets a little input. Like a lot of legislation, state lawmakers are too quick to ram it through just to spite Indiana’s urban areas.

  4. I had mixed emotions about this bill. It is already very difficult to evict tenants who are not paying rent. By the time the tenants are evicted they have had plenty of time to destroy the rental and they often do. Local laws that make it harder to evict non-paying tenants will only drive up rental rates. On the other hand, I’m tired of the legislature taking away the ability of localities to make and enforce laws that their residents want. On balance, I’m glad he vetoed the bill.

  5. The Indianapolis ordinance is horribly flawed, was never thought thru, never written with any kind of research other then a totally outdated Eviction Lab report, and listening to every organization EXCEPT a reputable property management company, on their point of view. I personally brought a few flaws and oversights to the city attorney, who agreed totally with what I was saying and understood how and why it needed to be corrected, yet he TOTALLY ignored getting the language corrected. I am all for getting the slumlords to straighten up, but again, the majority of evictions are due to tenants not paying rent (see IU’s report of October 2019, where they dug into the “why” tenants are evicted in most cases). The city ordinance will do NOTHING to curb slumlords……bad landlords will be bad landlords. That said, if the city is going to use the FAILED Landlord Registry, and Business and Neighborhood Services to collect data on who is who on properties, do their audits, etc., then they better do something to get it right, and start enforcing it. If not, only the landlords who register, as they should, will be subject to the audits and fines thereof. FYI…..slumlords don’t register. After being a landlord for over 35 years, of single family homes, that are in pristine condition, all close or in the downtown area, I have NEVER seen an ordinance come out of the city for landlord/tenant as poorly written as this one. Make all the rules you want, but all you are doing is forcing me to add yet more language in my lease, and forcing me to put even tighter criteria on tenant approvals. Both of which will do nothing to serve the population you are trying to help. I fear the next thing the city will do is rent control……that happens, I’m out.

  6. I have not read the details, since I am not a renter or a landlord, but my brother had experience in another state, and there was a state law that allowed him to check references of people wanting to rent, specifically there was a state wide searchable public records database of anyone who had eviction proceedings against them, and by the opposite token, it was searchable by landlords for renters complaints as well. This made it easier for everyone to keep from getting in a bad situation.

    Again, I don’t mind a statewide law as long as it has public input and not just lobbyist input. If it is a good issue this year to tackle, it will be a good issue next year to tackle.

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