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‘There is no landlord accountability.’ Tenants call on lawmakers for better protections

Dee Ross, CEO of the Ross Foundation, speaking on behalf of tenant protections. (Ben Thorp/WBAA News)
Dee Ross, CEO of the Ross Foundation, speaking on behalf of tenant protections. (Ben Thorp/WBAA News)

Tenants and lawmakers called for stronger protections for renters during a Housing Advocacy Day at the Statehouse.

Advocates are rallying around Senate Bill 202, which would allow tenants to place rent in escrow in order to pressure landlords into fixing critical problems with heat or water. A similar House bill is unlikely to get a hearing.

Dee Ross is the founder and CEO of the Ross Foundation, which oversees the Indiana Tenants Association. The organization launched in tandem with Housing Advocacy Day.

Ross said the bill will help hold landlords accountable.

“Who is holding these landlords and property managers accountable for taking advantage of our tenants? Every Hoosier deserves to live in a safe living condition,” he said.

The event featured a number of tenant speakers who outlined why they believed the state needs ways to hold landlords accountable for repairs.

Jennifer Wells is a tenant and leader with Hoosier Action from Columbus. She said she has lived in everything from apartment complexes to single-family homes.

“Throughout my renting experience, it hasn’t mattered,” she said. “There is no landlord accountability.”

Sian Anderson is an Indianapolis renter who said she’s faced eviction for raising concerns about properties she’s lived in.

“We demand respect and we deserve a safe place that we can call home,” she said.

Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) sponsored SB 202. He said his legislation is seeing some pushback from other lawmakers.

“This general assembly leans more unreasonably to protect landlords at any expense,” he said. “What is wrong with saying we protect and we support both responsible landlords and responsible tenants?”

Specifically, Qaddoura said the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne), has asked that he remove language from the bill that requires landlords to keep some kind of physical presence in Indiana. Qaddoura said he believes it is easier to hold landlords with a connection to the state accountable.

“It is critical that out-of-state folks establish a connection with the locals, because a local real estate broker will not jeopardize their reputation to advance the interest of a negligent, out-of-state landlord,” he said.

According to Qaddoura, SB 202 is set to receive its first hearing this week.