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Report: Indiana needs more tenant protections, not more help for landlords

By Brandon Smith, IPB News | Published on in Community, Government, Health, Politics
Indiana is one of only five states without "repair and deduct" legislation that allows tenants to withhold rent or make repairs and deduct the cost from their rent if their landlord is ignoring serious health and safety issues. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

The Indiana General Assembly’s failure to enact tenant protections can lead to lifelong health, educational and financial challenges.

A report by the Notre Dame Student Policy Network said such protections include one measure that 45 other states already have.

It looks at a bill that failed to pass this year. SB 230 would’ve allowed tenants to withhold rent – or make repairs themselves and deduct that cost from their rent – if there are serious health and safety violations that a landlord ignores.

Prosperity Indiana policy director Andrew Bradley said Indiana remains one of only five states without such a law, which contributes to a serious affordable housing shortage.

“It’s a hole in the bottom of the bucket of the housing supply when you have places that really are not truly habitable, but are able to continue to extract rent,” Bradley said.

The Notre Dame report noted that a person making minimum wage in Indiana would have to work 91 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental and 74 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom.

Bradley said he hopes lawmakers will study “repair and deduct” legislation before next session.

“Look a little bit deeper under the hood of what’s made this work in other states,” Bradley said. “To see what are the health impacts when we don’t get this right. What are the economic benefits for states that have got this right?”

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The report does applaud the legislature for passing a bill this year, HEA 1214, that allows some eviction filings to be wiped from a person’s record, making it easier to get housing in the future.

Still, Bradley said the balance is off. The report also points to a bill from 2020 – SEA 148 – that it said “severely restricts a municipality’s ability to enforce restrictions on the tenant-landlord relationship.”

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.