House votes to override governor’s veto of landlord-tenant bill, allowing it to become law

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The GOP-controlled Indiana House has voted to override Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a controversial landlord-tenant bill, allowing the measure to become law.

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

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

Holcomb vetoed it later that month, saying he thought the language was “overly broad.” It was the only bill he vetoed last year and only the second veto during his first four years in office.

“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 House voted 67-32 on Wednesday to override Holcomb’s veto, with four Republicans joining Democrats to oppose overturning it. The Indiana Senate voted 30-17 to override the veto on Feb. 8.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett issued a statement expressing disappointment in the veto override.

“During one of the most difficult times in our city’s history, local programming has allowed us to communicate with thousands of renters about their rights, help hundreds of tenants navigate the complicated legal system, and provide actionable steps for holding bad actor landlords accountable for taking retaliatory actions against some of our community’s most vulnerable residents,” the statement says. “It’s disappointing to have Governor Holcomb’s veto overridden today, but we are committed to continued conversations with members of the General Assembly and the ongoing funding of the City’s Eviction Avoidance Program and Tenant Legal Assistance Project.”

Both chambers are moving forward with bills that would eliminate the language in SEA 148 that allows it to apply to “any other aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship.” The Senate version — Senate Bill 150 — cleared that chamber on Tuesday.

If either of those bills becomes law, then SEA 148 would prevent local governments from regulating the screening process a landlord uses; security deposits; lease applications; leasing terms and conditions; disclosures on the property, lease or rights and responsibilities of the parties; the rights of the parties to a lease; and any fees charged by the landlord.

The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition says even if the “any other aspect” language is removed from the law, it would still be overly broad.

In a statement issued after the Senate voted to override the veto, Holcomb stood by his decision.

“To be sure, we are still navigating through this once-in-a-century pandemic and therefore I still believe this is not the right time for that overly broad language to have become law,” Holcomb said in the statement. “While I obviously disagree with their decision to override my veto, I hope the General Assembly will take a careful look at how this new law will affect local residents and units of government.”

Housing advocates who opposed the bill last spring have argued that the law will negatively affect the state’s economy and overall public health. Plus, advocates say, it could create a wave of evictions during some of the coldest temperatures of the year.

“We are prepared to offer our recommendations for a more balanced law,” Jessica Love, executive director of Prosperity Indiana and Housing Housing Needs Coalition member, said in a written statement. “The solutions are at the ready. Now it’s time to see leadership bring those solutions to the table.”

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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