August 18, 2022

New report underscores Indiana's lack of legal protections for tenants

A map showing all of the health department complaints in Marion County against rental properties for the first six months of 2022. - Courtesy of SAVI

A map showing all of the health department complaints in Marion County against rental properties for the first six months of 2022.

Courtesy of SAVI

Legal experts say a new report on evictions in Indianapolis underscores the lack of protection for tenants.

Researchers from Indianapolis-based community data center SAVI, found that properties with more health department complaints also had higher eviction rates.

Specifically, just 93 locations out of more than 76,0000 across the city accounted for one-third of health department complaints and one-fifth of eviction filings. The data is from a report covering the first six months of 2022.

Adam Lappin is the Tenant Legal Assistance Project Attorney for Indiana Legal Services. He said many states will either allow tenants to deduct repairs from their rent – or pay rent into an escrow account until the problem is fixed.

“Indiana is like a handful of states maybe that don’t have one or the other - or both,” he said.

Lappin said habitability issues dovetail with evictions because once a tenant is removed or leaves – the complaints are considered resolved.

“As soon as the tenant moves out then no one’s health is in jeopardy so the violation goes away,” he said.

Among the owners with the highest number of housing complaints and violations were Genesis Housing Foundation and JPC Affordable Housing Foundation. Genesis had 384 complaints and 194 violations recorded, JPC had 335 complaints and 74 violations.



Another complicating factor, according to Lappin, is whether a rental property is run by large out-of-state corporations. For some tenants that can make it more difficult to get repairs - or even requests - handled in a timely manner.

“One of my clients, basically their maintenance department was run out of Nevada,” he said. “That’s probably where they are headquartered but it’s a national company that is buying up homes.”

As SAVI’s report also indicated - larger corporate apartment complex owners, many of them out of state, are also linked to higher eviction rates in Indianapolis.

Legislation to strengthen tenant protections was introduced during Indiana’s last legislative session but never passed.

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