Housing advocates worry about veto override of controversial landlord-tenant legislation

Indiana housing advocates say they are worried the GOP-controlled Indiana General Assembly will override a veto made last year by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb of a controversial landlord-tenant bill and are raising alarms to try to stop it.

Senate Enrolled Act 148 would have prevented all local governments from regulating any aspect of landlord-tenant relationships and would have blocked tenant protections that the city of Indianapolis had put in place last spring.

The legislation passed 29-19 in the Senate and 64-32 in the House in March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state.

But Holcomb vetoed it later that month, saying he thought the language was “overly broad.”

“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.

The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, a group formed last year to advocate for housing security, shared concerns on Tuesday that lawmakers are considering overriding Holcomb’s veto this session, which started Monday.

Overriding the veto would require a simple majority in each chamber. If that occurred, the law would take effect immediately.

Jessica Love, executive director of Prosperity Indiana, said during events hosted by her organization, that lawmakers acknowledged that there is an active effort to override the veto.

“We are trying to proactively respond to some of what we heard,” Love said.

It’s unclear whether House or Senate leadership has an appetite to override the veto.

“Our caucus has not yet discussed or made a decision with regard to whether there will be support to override this veto,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said in a statement.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Todd Huston did not provide a comment before deadline.

During a virtual press conference Tuesday morning, housing advocates said overriding the veto would negatively affect the state’s economy and overall public health.

Love said the pandemic has only “amplified the negative impacts of SEA 148.”

Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said the state does need to review its housing policies, which she believes are overly favorable to landlords, but this legislation is not the answer.

“Indiana legislators do not just represent landlords,” Nelson said. “They represent tenants, too.”

Before the legislation passed last year, a group of nearly 300 supporters sent a letter to Bray and other members of the Senate to urge them to vote against 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.

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17 thoughts on “Housing advocates worry about veto override of controversial landlord-tenant legislation

  1. Of course they want to override the veto. We can’t have anything that might improve quality of life in Indiana or hold bad landlords accountable. That would be sOcIaLiSm.

  2. How many rentals do you own, A.T? Walk a mile in the shoes of someone who tries to be a good landlord and then you may pontificate on the matter. Been there, done that.

    1. Thank You Bob P. I’m tired of people who have no experience in dealing with rentals and tenants who don’t pay, vandalize and basically destroy properties trying to tell us how to manage our properties.

    2. Did you consider that they may be another solution. Many states have a state wide system of reporting evictions and property damage claims. This protects land lords from the few bad apples without punishing every tenant.

    3. Bob P., I agree landlords ae hurting as a consequence of not being able to evict the people who, for the most part, simply have no money to pay rent. Let me ask you three questions (and I’ll provide answers too): (1) Since the majority of these properties have mortgages, do you really think the banks want to foreclose and take ownership of rental properties where half the people can’t pay rent and be stuck in exactly the same situation the landlord is in? Of course not. (2) Even once the moratorium is lifted, who will have the readily-available funds to absorb all the vacancies? Few people. So even after lifting the moratorium, many units will remain vacant and they’ll be in the same situation as now. (3) Do you have a Christian heart to help those in desperate need by not throwing them out on the street? Answer: No, you do not.

    4. Oh yeah, Rhea P., there’s such a huge % of tenants who vandalize and destroy property. S/

  3. The Indy tenant protections law is simply a burden on the overwhelming majority of quality landlords in the city. It adds additional burdens, with a simple lapse in paperwork bringing fines to the landlord. In particular, those landlords that work tirelessly in the lower-income section to bring safe/clean/affordable housing to tenants in the lower income range, are often burdened by additional legal fees, time, and expenses, now that evictions come with free legal service for tenants, regardless of the reality of the situation. Legislation meant to help tenants and meant to “make landlords better”, should involve both sides coming together to provide guidance on what is best for everyone. As opposed to housing advocates hoisting up the worst of the worst examples to push an agenda forward.

    1. SB – you don’t know from squat what strong tenant protection laws are. Compared to many states, in particular they ones I am well-acquainted (Illinois and California), Indiana is extremely lopsided in favor of Landlords. Get your facts straight.

    2. Thanks Randy, you really set me straight there. Going to go ahead and toss out my 20+ years in Property Management and as a Landlord, as well as Consumer Protection prior to that. Additionally, being on the other side of California’s tenant’s rights laws, does not equal “lopsided in favor of landlords”.

  4. “A veto would require a simple majority in each chamber. If vetoed, the law would take effect immediately.”

    I’m confused. Does the writer mean that an override only requires a simple majority? If so, that seems like an oddly-low requirement of legislative support.

  5. That would seem to be a workable idea on the surface, Dan M. However, consider the legalities of a prior landlord being sued for liable or slander for posting words to that effect about prior deadbeat tenants. There are likely lawyers out there who would salivate at the chance to branch out from ambulance-chasing!

    1. Bob P., no surprise you’ve had your brush with liable and slander laws. Sort of your stock in trade, isn’t it?

  6. What Bob P. said is right. I do what is right regardless of the laws. I treat people like I want to be treated. That is the way I was raised. The law is mostly a low standard and most moral people understand that and live accordingly. When the government gets involved they usually screw things up. I know from experience and any other small business owner or entrepreneur can attest to that.

  7. I can speak from first-hand experience, I’ve been taken advantage of during this pandemic. I have captured my tenants working collecting stimulus checks, using my house as a pet air b and B, all while not paying one dime of rent. These are called opportunists, or ConMan. They’re out there trust you me. Way more common when you own numerous rentals.

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