Indiana Bill Would Ban Unconstitutional Rental Inspections

Introduced by Indiana State Representative Mike Speedy (R-Indianapolis), HB 1313 would ban requiring licenses for landlords to rent out property. The bill would also prohibit inspecting and/or registering rental units. In addition, municipalities could no longer levy fees to pay for inspections. HB 1313 is currently in committee. However, a similar bill died just last year.

According to the Indiana Apartment Association (IAA), a trade group for the apartment industry, 15 cities and towns in Indiana have inspection ordinances. In these cities, inspection fees range everywhere from $10 to $250 per unit. Unsurprisingly, this can be a tempting source of revenue. The town of Merrillville, Ind. generated over $250,000 in fees, after just its first year of inspecting rentals.

The IAA opposes rental inspections, arguing “inspections are intrusive to residents,” while they can also become “a way for local governments to generate extra fees at the expense of affordable housing providers and low-income residents.”
On top of that, mandatory rental inspections are unconstitutional. As the Institute for Justice has shown in its recent primer, “Does the Constitution Apply to Renters?” cities that conduct rental inspections do not require probable cause to search someone’s home. In other words, “Thanks to this rental inspection loophole, criminals actually have more constitutional rights than law-abiding renters.” That clearly violates the Fourth Amendment.

The Institute for Justice is currently suing Red Wing, Minn. for its suspicionless rental inspections, representing both tenants and landlords. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments on Red Wing’s ordinance.

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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