A Valiant Effort

Hoosiers should applaud State Senator Fady Qaddoura.

Let me start this post with a disclosure: now-State Senator Qaddoura was a student of mine, and I also served on his PhD dissertation committee. I knew him as an excellent, very thoughtful student and a truly good human being. When he was elected to the state Senate, I was delighted; I knew he would bring both compassion and intellect to the job.

That said, let me also assure readers that–even if someone I didn’t know or someone I actively disliked was the lawmaker addressing Indiana’s truly awful landlord/tenant laws– I would be equally supportive.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle recently reported on Qaddoura’s most recent efforts.

Legislation allowing renters to withhold rent from landlords who don’t make critical habitability repairs, and expanding tax credits for renters, holds potential in Indiana, according to a report released Wednesday as lawmakers ready bills for the 2023 legislative session.

Housing constitutes the “civic fabrics of our communities,” said Indiana Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, who spoke at the report’s unveiling in the Indiana Statehouse.

The referenced report was produced by the student-run Student Policy Network of the University of Notre Dame. It pointed out what real estate lawyers ( I was once one of them) have long known–that Indiana law doesn’t just  marginally favor landlords, it is significantly overprotective of them, shielding absentee owners and slumlords from the most basic responsibilities of property ownership.

Indiana is one of only five states that lack what are called “rent escrow” laws. Such laws allow tenants to temporarily pay their rent to a third party (such as a court) acting as an escrow agent when landlords have been notified of, and failed to address, serious problems of habitability.

The report included comparisons between several other states and recommended that Indiana follow Minnesota’s highly detailed model, which includes specific scenarios, legal protections for all parties and a clear-cut definition of “essential” rental functions.

Qaddoura attempted to establish a rent withholding policy with 2021’s Senate Bill 230, but it died in a House committee controlled by Republicans. He’s taking a second stab at it next session, albeit with some tweaks.

“After further discussions with the chairman of the Local Government Committee, Sen. Jim Buck, it was clear and apparent to me that there’s hesitation within his caucus to support such ideas,” Qaddoura told the Capital Chronicle. “So we spent the summer looking at different models.”

The Capital Chronicle article referenced the recent saga of  New Jersey-based JPC Properties, owner of several Indianapolis housing complexes in which tenants have faced “utility shutoffs, lawsuits and ownership changes over dangerous living conditions and rent payment mismanagement.”

“These are individuals who, as recently as a couple of months ago, were banned from working or operating in the state of Indiana or managing apartment complexes in Indiana for at least the next seven years. These are individuals who steal money from tenants without paying their utilities,” said Qaddoura, who lambasted what he called reluctance by General Assembly leaders to “go after criminals.”

Jessica Preddie, a case worker at shelter Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis, described one family who couldn’t get its landlord to address mold in its unit, to steep personal and financial consequences. One family member was hospitalized at least three times over a period of eight to 12 weeks this year, lost her job while hospitalized, and couldn’t pay the rent she still owed on the moldy unit.

During the last legislative session, Qaddoura authored a bill that would have put teeth into  the enforcement of habitability standards. It  defined “essential services” to include utility services needed for the safe and habitable occupation by a tenant of a rental unit, and  required landlords to repair or replace an essential system not later than 24 hours after being notified by a tenant that the tenant’s rental unit was without such services. The bill also provided remedies for noncompliance.

The last I heard, the bill had been sent to a study committee (where, as I have previously noted, good bills go to die…)

If you google “most landlord-friendly states,” you will find Indiana prominently listed. The lack of balance in the Hoosier state’s landlord/tenant laws has contributed to our unconscionably-high eviction rates, a problem which Senator Qaddoura has also addressed.

If Indiana could ever rid itself of gerrymandering, we might elect more lawmakers like Senator Qaddoura, and fewer culture warriors laser-focused on banning abortion and destroying public education.

A girl can dream…..


  1. Yet another example of how the GOP are ONLY interested in defending the rich and powerful. And somehow, the rubes and boobs keep electing them. Sad. Good luck to those who TRY to make life better, like Prof K’s former student.

  2. I am glad to read about Senator Qaddora and his efforts to help people in Indiana against the WWL (Worlds Worst Legislature). I would welcome more posts about Hoosier legislators trying to do the right thing. It may be a short list.

  3. “…Indiana law doesn’t just marginally favor landlords, it is significantly overprotective of them, shielding absentee owners and slumlords from the most basic responsibilities of property ownership.”

    Sheila is this law connected to and the basis for the situation when a person purchases a tax sale property they are only purchasing the tax lien, original owners have another year to come up with the payment? This leaves the property in limbo; no longer responsibility of the county or the buyer, left to further deteriorate or taken over by drug dealers creating our many abandoned houses which was the subject of the Indianapolis Star “Abandon Indy” series a few years ago. A situation addressed by Mayor Hudnut in 1991 and abandoned by Goldsmith in 1992.

    Is it also part of the gentrification issue of evicting tenants, primarily low-income, elderly and often disabled, with no assistance to find replacement affordable housing? Some do become homeless, adding to that much ignored problem.

    The landlord protective laws appears to me to have many far reaching effects resulting in declining neighborhoods where homes and businesses fall into disrepair and are also ignored by infrastructure maintenance due to those declining structures.

  4. More social deconstruction by Republicans. Why do they exist? Why do voters keep electing these idiots?

    It’s not just Indiana, though the landlord laws seem especially draconian in favor of them. EVERYWHERE Republicans control legislatures, working people suffer and the quality of life is below average. And yet…

  5. JoAnn,

    The tax sale situation isn’t as bad as the foreclosure problem. At least with tax sale situation, the odds are the owner is going to redeem the property via the tax sale and incentivized to keep it up. Most tax sale buyers don’t want the property. Instead they just want the massive interest rate they get on the money they put down to pay the taxes and penalties.

    A far bigger problem is the in limbo status of properties between the time a court enters an order of foreclosure and the time it’s sold in tax sale. Even though the foreclosure process is over, and the court has ordered the house sold to pay the mortgage lien, until it is actually still sold in tax sale, it’s still in the name of the original owner. That owner has no incentive to keep the property up as the owner is losing the property nine times out of ten. The banks often don’t maintain it either. They can’t really go onto the property because they don’t own it until the sale.

    I’m a little less negative about Indiana’s landlord-tenant laws. I have represented both in court, and I’ve found the laws fairly well balanced. As far as so-called slum lords, I have a lot more sympathy to those people who are often unfairly labeled with the term. I have represented people who decide to go into distressed areas and rehab homes with great intentions, only to find themselves constantly battling theft. They would put in new appliances in the houses only to see them stolen in days. Even guttering and copper pipes and wiring get stolen. They end up losing a lot of money on these homes.

    Being a real estate attorney, I’ve often thought of buying and renting (or rehabbing) homes. But after watching what others go through…no thank you.

  6. Being a landlord can be a tough job if you rent to folks who don’t take care of your property. Being a slumlord can be an easy job if you don’t take care of your property. Between the two sets of responsibilities, there is both a good business proposition and a solution to homelessness for people who take care of where they live.

    Are there regulations that discourage both dysfunctional behaviors? Figuring that out would require smart, responsible non-partisan people in government. Let’s elect them rather than the Hershal Walkers and prima donnies of the world.

  7. I applaud Senator Quaddoura’s efforts on behalf of tenants. Out of state investors make the worst landlords. We need protection for Hoosier tenants who at times don’t even know how to contact the owner to secure repairs. I hope his proposal gets a hearing this year.

    Another issue I encountered as I was campaigning door to door is the horrible status of mobile home owners. Most parks offer only month to month leases which can be terminated by the owner for any reason. Local owners have been selling to investors who raise lot rents. If a mobile home owner cannot afford the new rent, they can be evicted and lose their mobile home because the cost of moving it is out of reach.

  8. In 2014 at least 3.4 million eligible voters in Indiana did NOT vote, while 1.333 million did. I can’t find newer numbers, but if you ask why nothing changes, well this might just be the answer.

  9. It seems to me that a well written rent escrow law would provide renters protection against exploitative landlords and landlords protection against exploitative renters. That sounds like a win,win solution to some serious problems. But I’m not an attorney, so maybe I’m just being naive.

  10. Gerrymandering is one of my pet peeves. How do we get rid of that, when the party in power wants to keep it?

  11. Leanne, great question. How is it being fought in other states? Who is having some success and how are they doing it? Help anyone?

  12. Leanne & Sharon–I will be addressing the problem for Indiana in a post next week. Not only is Indiana one of the most gerrymandered state, we have no provision for initiatives or referenda, and any amendment to the state constitution has be generated by the General Assembly–in other words, by the same people who benefit from it.

    It’s infuriating.

  13. i was in seattle 4 years ago to do my off season,outta state work.local hauling,dirt. in the needs of housing i went to many a onsite rental .coms. seems the aftermath of the 2008 mortage scam was in affect in seattle. the managers it turns out,in large complexes,(mainly) were thrid party of the owners. looking at the names and looking at when they took ownership,over the 5-6 years,after 2009 seems the banks/mortage brokers holding the notes were sold to investors/investment groups,,some still run by the local banks. i figure on a short count,100K units owned by these few like 4 groups. the management is wholley part of the investors.item one,everyone pays for a background check,every one who will reside in that unit, no refunds if they dont like ya. im sure theres a policy there,but i sure seattle has a get homeless policy too. as far as single dwellings,market wise,its all for sale,rentals in this genre seldom exist in a form of affordable. the issue ive had for a long time is,when a person,group or whoever, gets aloan for a dwelling to rent,seems the rents are to pay off the note as fast as possible..no regard to affordability,or maintence management. land lords possess 9/10 ths of the law,us squatters are just revenue with status to the land lord as just that,paying squatters. the law sees it that way to,backed by the real estate industry that sees banks as a transfer of anything to anyone with,money. as far as being working class,and needs,they could care less,as long as their note is paid and profits generated. no diffrent a mindset,by employers. overall, the right side of any isle(state/fed) would just like to keep this status quo. no need to worry,banks and real estate cos. fat pockets are generating a revolving door of money off the working class backs. it get bigger as the rent rise and now intrests rates climb.there should be a nationwide (why keep the powerful out of that picture)moritorium on rent control, it should be in the form of a percentage where the investor,or whoever, doesnt expect the payoff everymonth on their note via income by rents paid.instead they should be compelled to join in on their half out of their own pocket,instead on a complete payment met by the total of the combined months rents paid. looking at banks and loan mods,etc, no one should get a dime
    in any goverment subsides to buy a multi unit housing unless its affordable to anyone by a persons income..and grant money for new affordable housing,even in your neighborhood. the banks/mortage co.should be compelled to fully finance any multi unit,with that idea as law.with the given need to make affordable housing.if the investor wants to invest in multi units,then they should have a resposability to make it affordable. too many homeless people dont mean they wont work, once you get homeless,its very hard to start over. look at what ot takes,especially inner city,job,ok,now i need a place to live,clean up,sleep. think how hard it is just to start again.
    first ,last,deposit,selling your first born..(if you have one)
    seattle is perfect example of investors first,and the rich are getting their ass kissed.while the banks/owners will gleefully will screw any tenant.im sure this is ongoing in every state,and we see, just how out of hand it is for the people who do the work,get kicked to the curb time again.

  14. Sheila:
    seems many states are looking to end public democracy.referendums. that should be a paramount importance to the citizen,as they,can seek what the legislature refuses or decides it will not create.
    this is a common story every week some where in the U.S now

  15. Question: How did Indiana end up being a state where it’s citizens can’t make things change? Was our state constitution written to prevent that? I’ve been looking for literature on the history of the state constitution but haven’t found any. Any suggestions?

  16. Yes, gerrymandering is a culprit…a perpetrator of many, many wrongs.
    A boy can dream, too…that the two coming D.C. legislative years will show enough
    people of good will that the Rethugs care not a whit about governing, and will come
    together to elect a Dem based congress, and POTUS, who will get rid of gerrymandering.
    Can you imagine a congress without the likes of a Gosar, or Cruz?

  17. I’m on the other side of this issue…a landlord. Perhaps we could also address the extreme amount of property taxes in the IPS areas? Some are gentrified and some are not. In any event, there is an extreme difference in the tax rates. Paying a third of yearly rents on property taxes when historically they were no more than 10% of the rents is egregious. Particularly on old houses where your plumber, electrician and drain people are on speed dial. Also, can we address the Red Line/Indy go buses who are causing property damage because the buses are too heavy for the streets and are causing foundational damage to properties. Also my understanding is that charter schools are 10% of the school load but take 30% of the funding. Is that just another reason for these high property taxes? I’m told I am a great Landlord. I try to keep my rents comparatively low. Some in the Meridian Kessler area this year told me that their rents went up by $300. in just one year which is egregious. I did not raise mine and have elected not to have professional management so I can keep them lower. There is something to be said for both sides. The big problems are with the out of state people who aren’t paying the bills.

  18. Peggy Hannon:
    Exactly my point about VOTE
    If a higher % voted we as a state could be purple instead of bloody red.

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