Hoosiers fight for better rental laws

There is no law in Indiana that allows tenants to withhold their rent or make necessary repairs and then deduct them from the rent.

INDIANAPOLIS – In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech entitled “The Other America”.

He describes what America was like for two different classes of people. Now, decades later, certain aspects of King’s speech still ring true.

“The Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 was passed exactly one week after the assassination of Dr. King. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in creating an equitable housing market free from discrimination and segregation,” said Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

Many Hoosiers are fighting for better rental laws.

Tajuana Fleming lives in the Abington Apartments in western Indianapolis.

Fleming invited 13News to her apartment two weeks ago to show us holes in her wall, duct tape to keep mice out, and a wooden board hammered into her kitchen ceiling to cover a hole she said had been made was when a pipe in her bathroom started leaking.

“You can see another hole forming here. There’s mold and mildew there,” Fleming said.

A way of life that Fleming and her family are not used to.

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’m sick of it,” Fleming said.

Fast forward to Monday. The hole in her ceiling does even more damage. Fleming showed 13News water pouring from her ceiling onto her kitchen floor.

13News reached Abington Arms but was unable to reach a live person, only a voicemail.

The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana and the Indiana Legal Service are attempting to enact legislative changes related to housing discrimination and landlord-tenant issues.

“We see devastating concerns when it comes to habitability,” Nelson said.

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Nelson said there is no law in Indiana that allows tenants to withhold their rent or make necessary repairs and then deduct them from the rent.

“Even if it’s the middle of winter and their pipes are frozen or they don’t have heating. They withhold the rent and they could be evicted and evicted,” Nelson said.

Tenants like Fleming want to change that.

“We’re trying to go and move somewhere else, then we’re breaching the contract and we’re going to be in court trying to repay a lease that we’re legally bound by,” Fleming said.

A problem where many tenants have their hands tied.

“In a state like Indiana with limited renter protections compared to other states, this puts families of color at greater risk of exploitation by bad-handling landlords. Every week there are stories documenting low-income people and people of color experiencing terrible living conditions at the hands of unwary landlords,” Nelson said.

Tenants ask when they will see changes.