Lawmakers consider issues for homeowners

Today’s roundup includes a housing study, picketing, property taxes and AirBnB regulations

By: - February 22, 2023 6:30 am

Senators consider several bills impacting homeowners. (Getty Images)

Lawmakers considered several bills Tuesday that impact homeowners, from property taxes to protesting at a private residence and regulations on short-term rentals.

The “residential harassment” bill was the most controversial, passing by a vote of 29-16 in the Indiana Senate.

Protesters seeking to picket outside of someone’s home could face a Class C misdemeanor under the bill, which creates a new crime.

Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, said professional protesters have learned to circumvent existing laws elsewhere, even endangering the safety of some public officials.

“I’m just trying to protect the sanctity of one’s home,” Baldwin said.

Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis. (Courtesy Indiana Senate Republicans)

Baldwin’s bill faced bipartisan opposition, most vocally from fellow Republican Sen. Mike Young, of Indianapolis. He said he believed he should be able to protest against his own officials, including District Attorney Ryan Mears who publicly said his office would no longer pursue charges for minor marijuana possession.

“I think I should have the right to… tell him, in a nice way, ‘I think you stink at your job,'” Young said. “I don’t think it’s right to keep protesters away from the people they elected.”

He said he doesn’t think it’s right to keep protesters away from elected officials: “It just doesn’t sound American.”

Young was one of the seven Republicans joining with the chamber’s nine Democrats to votes against the measure.

The Senate also passed a bill to study renter and landlord conditions in Indiana despite some resistance from some, with nine GOP senators voting against the bill and 37 voting ‘yes.’

Previously the bill created a series of renter protections, drawing heavily from the experiences of several Indianapolis renters whose out-of-state owners didn’t pay utility bills to the detriment of their tenants. After a committee amendment, it sends the issue of renter protections to a study committee.

“While the outcome isn’t what I hoped for… it keeps it alive,” bill author Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, said.

Tax committee hears, doesn’t pass two bills

Sen. Travis Holdman, the chair of the Senate tax committee, determined that two bills were worth hearing but shouldn’t move on for further consideration.

Sen. Brian Buchanan, R-Lebanon, likened his bill on economic development districts to homeowners’ association fees in which a community voluntarily decides to pay additional funding for a developer project – which he said could help with the state’s housing shortage.

All homeowners must agree to a developer’s plan, which must then receive the approval of a local legislative body. Afterward a committee, which includes homeowners, self-assess the properties and determine an additional amount paid by homeowners to fund up to 30% of a proposed project.

But Maggie McShane, representing Indiana realtors, said the effort amounted to a lien against a home that increased its cost. Additionally, projects included were so broadly defined that she said they could include coal washing plants or pollution control infrastructure.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle (Monroe Bush for Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“We have a dire need for housing,” McShane said. “(Many bills) in both this chamber and across the hall are doing so much to help lower the cost of housing. Unfortunately, this bill in front of you will increase the cost of housing.”

A half dozen others testified in support of the bill, notably the Indiana Chamber and builder organizations.

Upon hearing that his bill wouldn’t advance from the committee, Young declined to present his bill and left the room. The bill allows local units of government to charge up to $25 for an annual short-term rental inspection fee for homes listed on popular sites like AirBnB or VRBO.

Several homeowners and even town council members bemoaned their inability to curb what they described as negligent, out-of-state owners who allow massive parties under unsafe living conditions.

Kelly de Waal, a resident of Herron-Morton Place in Indianapolis, said people had fallen out of windows, declined to clean up elephant poop and heard gunshots at the short-term rentals in her neighborhood.

To her, and others testifying, the problematic owners were those who didn’t live in Indiana and didn’t properly maintain the home – which could be partially alleviated by the inspection fee or, ultimately, by requiring registration of all short-term rentals.

“We’re excited about… local entrepreneurs who are owning and operating their short-term rentals responsibly (and) contributing a lot of value to our neighborhood,” de Waal said. “We can’t power our tourism industry if we continue to let out-of-state investors hollow out a very critical part of our housing stock.”

Holdman, R-Markle, held both bills back, citing a lack of committee consensus.

House Chamber passes property tax bill

Homeowners could see a little property tax relief in the coming years under a House proposal.

Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, said property taxes will increase by an average of 18% across the state when bills due in May are released, much higher than in a typical year.

“This prepares us for the storm — that 18% increase in homeowners’ property taxes. This bill tries to do some things to help mitigate that,” Thompson said. “This is a work in progress, and there’s a lot of moving parts … but with this, I feel best for homeowners and all taxpayers.”

Thompson’s bill would create a temporary property tax cap starting in 2024 and returning to normal in 2026. With tax bills arriving in just a few weeks, it’s too late for legislators to provide homeowners relief in this calendar year. Additionally, it would limit local levy growth and increase the renter’s deduction from $3,000 to $4,000.

The bill passed 94-1, with Rep. Jennifer Meltzer, R-Shelbyville voting against the measure.


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.