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What Indianapolis Landlords Need to Know About the Tenant Protection Initiative

Jan 27, 2020 11:00:00 AM

News broke several days ago about initiatives brought on by Mayor Joe Hogsett to provide more protections to Tenants in Indianapolis. 

The goal, according to various news outlets, is to hold Landlords more accountable, to better educate Tenants on their rights and to help curb the eviction problem currently facing Indianapolis.

As a leader in the single family property management space here in Indianapolis, we thought it appropriate to provide our take on Mayor Hogsett’s plans.

First, we could all see this coming. There has been a long history of absentee Landlords in Indianapolis, leading to many substandard or vacant homes. 

The Mayor termed these Landlords “bad actors.” Recently, the situation was made much worse by one specific group: Oceanpointe. 

Clearly, there are other Landlords out there who are “bad actors” and take advantage of Tenants whenever possible.  Always have been and, in reality, always will be.

But, Oceanpointe was a colossal mess.

If you don’t already know the story, you can read all about Oceanpointe here

Long story short, Oceanpointe (allegedly) :

  • Duped hundreds of investors into making bad purchases
  • Ramrodded hundreds of Tenants into barely livable homes
  • Failed to maintain said barely livable homes, making them uninhabitable in many cases
  • Left a massive black eye on our community

There was a decent amount of press, and continues to be coverage of the Oceanpointe case.

So, it’s no surprise that the City responded. 

Is it overreaching?

Well, that depends on who you ask. 

Let’s dig into the specific initiatives of the plan and we’ll provide our take on each.

  1. A Requirement to provide Tenants a “Notice of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.” family-2057307_1920Presumably, Landlords will be required to furnish, at Lease signing, a notice that outlines a Tenant’s right and responsibilities. Failure to provide the notice will result in a $500 fine to the Landlord.

    Our Take: Fine with us. Tenants should know their statutory rights under the law and, just as important, should know their responsibilities under the law as well. Since we abide by all state statutes, this doesn’t bother us. If anything, we hope this requirement better educates our Tenants so we can better work together on creating a more successful tenancy.

  2. New Tenant Hotline. This hotline is intended to help Tenants get advice or information regarding their rights.

    Our Take: the success of this will come down to who is running the hotline. Will the information/advice provided be balanced and accurate? Will it be appropriately staffed, or will it be a voicemail black hole?  Realtors within the MIBOR network also have a hotline that has proven to be helpful over the years. If good information, provided by qualified people, is provided then, again, we’re all for it.

  3. A new Tenant Legal Assistance Project. This is intended to provide Tenants with free legal counsel for claims against Landlords who have violated Tenants‘ rights to safe and livable housing.

    Our Take: OK, but what will be the end result? This initiative is obviously in response to the numerous Tenants who suffered through terrible living conditions in the Oceanpointe debacle, which was well chronicled in the Indianapolis Star.

    So, here’s an example. Tenant moves into a home. Furnace fails. Landlord refuses to repair or replace the furnace. Providing a heat source is a statutory requirement for every Landlord. So, the Tenant engages free legal assistance and…. what then? 

    In some cases, a Landlord may do the right thing and repair or replace the furnace when a lawyer gets involved. But, our guess is that in most of these cases, the Landlord will be MIA or financially unable to do anything.

    The result, unfortunately, will be the same. The Tenant will be in a home that is uninhabitable and forced to move.  

  4. Additional Funding for the Eviction Avoidance Project. Our Take: We don’t know much about this project, but we have no issue with curbing bogus or unnecessary evictions. Our problem is when judges, mostly in small claims court, fail to timely evict Tenants who are in clear violation of their lease - failure to pay rent being the number one reason. shield-1086703_1280

  5. New Tenant Protection Ordinance. This would penalize Landlords - financially - for taking adverse action (evictions, namely) against Tenants for calling the Health Department or otherwise exercising their basic rights as a Tenant.

    Our Take: We welcome this ordinance. Lazy and spiteful Landlords give us bad names. Our hope is that this will, indeed, make Landlords more accountable.    

Overall Impressions

As owners of a small business, regulations can sometimes feel restrictive, unfair, etc. However, we don’t necessarily feel like these new initiatives place any undue burden on us as Property Managers.

We’re big believers in educating both our Clients (Owners) and Customers (Tenants). If our Tenants are better educated, that’s always a plus for everyone involved so, in that respect, we’re on board. 

For a long time, Landlords in Indiana have enjoyed a Landlord-friendly environment. The Mayor is right when he says some “bad actors” have forced the government to add some additional legislative steps to try to hold these Landlords to account.

Now, the real question is: Will the initiatives make things better?  

Answer: Hopefully

All residents, regardless of income, deserve safe and inhabitable housing.  

As we discussed above, some Landlords simply shouldn’t be Landlords because they don’t have the financial means, or the required set of ethics it seems, to effectively manage a home. The steps outlined above won’t necessarily curb this reality and we hope it won’t be another bureaucratic black hole.

As with most things, time will tell. 

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Jeremy Tallman

Written by Jeremy Tallman

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