Gov. Eric Holcomb has vetoed legislation approved this month by the General Assembly that opponents of the measure claim would have tipped the balance between residential landlords and tenants solidly in favor of landlords.
Senate Enrolled Act 148 would have barred local units of government from regulating any aspect of landlord-tenant relationships, including the tenant screening process, security deposits, lease applications or conditions, property disclosures or fees.
Instead, all facets of residential property rental solely would be subject to regulation by the General Assembly, and any contrary local ordinance or rule automatically would be void, according to the proposal.
Supporters of the plan, championed by the Indiana Apartment Association landlord trade group, said it was a necessary response to new Indianapolis ordinances aimed at reducing evictions, making tenants aware of their rights to a safe residence, and prohibiting landlords from retaliating against tenants who report code violations or other dangerous conditions.
The Republican governor said in his veto message to the Republican-controlled Legislature there's no question the proposed law was overly broad, especially at a time when Holcomb temporarily has halted all residential evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"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 said.
"If enacted, it would prevent almost any type of local control over landlord-tenant relationships. It even contains a particularly broad provision preempting local governments from regulating 'any other aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship.'"
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, thanked Holcomb for refusing to uproot local protections for renters during an unprecedented public health emergency.
"It is my hope that this action will allow local leaders and the General Assembly to give this topic the attention and time that such a complex, difficult question of public policy deserves," Hogsett said.
The veto was just Holcomb's second since taking office in 2017. He previously halted a plan to charge Hoosiers a $20 per hour search fee to access public records.
The General Assembly will decide in 2021 whether to enact the law notwithstanding Holcomb's objection.
It takes only a simple majority of the House and Senate — the same needed to approve the measure in the first place — to override the governor's veto.