[r63] From rental leases to trespassing, economic development is everywhere

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, September 27, 2013

I know the idea of rental leases isn’t incredibly exciting, however it affects us in more ways than we may think. At some point in each of our lives, we were probably all renters. We’ve probably all had that first apartment on our own; tiny in size but big in personality. We probably also all know someone who is a renter right now, whether it be a friend, family member, child or even grandchild.  

This week our economic development study committee was asked to study the issue of inspection and registration fees and their potential impact on limiting growth in rental property development that came out of our past legislation session.

Sixteen cities in the state have ordinances that allow either registration or inspection fees to be collected on rental housing. Those fees are not collected on any other type of property. Many of these communities have had inspection programs for several years with landlords and local inspectors in general agreement with the cost of those programs and their benefits being reasonable.

In 2011, legislation was passed that allows these inspection fee costs to be passed on to the renters but also mandates that the rate of those inspection fees can be no more than the cost of the inspection program they administer. 

The more recent development that some cities have engaged in has been to charge registration fees to the owner of the rental properties and providing no services for those fees. These fees have been used as a way to bypass the impact of tax caps on local government revenue.

Testimony was taken from both sides of the issue. We need to balance the safety concerns of areas with large multi-family housing areas and the need to maintain that those fees are reasonable and do not prohibit rental property development.

Part of the testimony given expressed concerns over the practice in some communities of illegally converting one and two- family properties into three or more separate rental units. This is already against state law without obtaining a State Plan Review and State Building Permit, so part of the issue is educating local authorities on what they can already do to stop this from happening in an unsafe manner.

The second half of our hearing this week dealt with the negative economic impact of people trespassing onto livestock farms and illegally videotaping, with the intent of inflicting economic harm on that farm owner.   

Another area of concern was committing fraud on an employment application in order to gain access onto farms or in manufacturing facilities to try to illegally videotape various trade practices.

There was very good testimony from the Indiana State Press Association and the Indiana Broadcasters Association on the potential violations of first amendment rights when dealing with legislation on this issue. However, there was no disagreement from all who testified that trespassing and employment application fraud are not to be tolerated and that attempts to raise the penalties for those violations were reasonable.

My goal again today was to objectively present both sides of the issues that we heard in committee. I want to keep you involved in everything that I do and the happenings at the Statehouse. Just as I am listening to public testimony and forming my opinions, I want to give you the opportunity to form your own opinions as well. Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday October 9. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts with me on what we’ve discussed so far!