A row of houses.
(Photo by David McNew/Getty.)

Tenant Rights: The Argument for Rights and Regulations

STATE HOUSE–Tenant rights are not just an issue during the pandemic. Thirty percent of Hoosiers rent, and in some urban areas, high eviction rates were apparent before coronavirus. The moratorium has stopped evictions temporarily. But, state Rep. Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend), says the General Assembly is wrong to try and make landlord-tenant rules a one-size-fits-all issue.

Earlier in this legislative session, Republicans overrode the veto of Senate Enrolled Act 148-2020, which prohibits Indianapolis and other cities from regulating landlord-tenant relationships.

Bauer said her experience in South Bend informs her belief that cities should be able to make decisions regarding those relationships, like the Indianapolis Renters Bill of Rights. South Bend has some of the highest eviction rates in the state.

“It takes away the local ordinances between a tenant and their landlord, which have been put in place in largely urban areas to protect the 30 percent of renters in the state,” she said. “For a largely rural supermajority to say we don’t need these protections is really not recognizing the fact there are urban communities that really need these protections in place.”

Bauer, a life-long renter, said she believes some hidden homelessness, like people sleeping on relatives couches or doubling up, will become more prevalent.

The Republican argument, the winning argument in the legislature, is that the landlord-tenant regulations should be uniform and made by the General Assembly.

Bauer said that doesn’t fly with her because every city is different and cities are different from towns and rural areas.

“I don’t see the argument in putting a one-size-fits-all into all 92 different, varying counties, when it becomes something so specific as housing conditions and safety and tenant rights and protecting from retaliation.”

Bauer introduced legislation that would create a bill of rights and statewide health and hygiene program to serve individuals facing homelessness.

“The reality is people are living in these conditions and not saying anything or they don’t know who they go and say something to or the building is managed by somebody who lives out of state and there’s no phone number to call,” said Bauer.

While her argument is just one saide of the issue, she says she believes Republicans have squandered an opportunity to protect Hoosiers who rent.

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