Indianapolis—State Senator David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) and State Representative Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend) join together to release a joint statement in response to the tragedies in South Bend, Indiana:
Senator Niezgodski released the following statement:
“Accountability and prevention are the two most significant pieces absent in the case of Cedar Glen Apartments and the LaPorte Ave tragedy. As residents face dire challenges, ranging from inadequate living conditions to blatant neglect of property maintenance, we are calling attention to the urgent need for systemic change in landlord accountability.
“This incident serves as a stark reminder of the crucial responsibility of landlords to maintain safe living conditions for tenants. Indiana is a landlord-friendly state where tenants face barriers when it comes to receiving basic rights. With this in mind, we must look for ways we as state legislators can take action to help.
“There are numerous errors in landlord discretion here, especially in the case of Cedar Glen Apartments. Leaving residents without heat or hot water demonstrates neglect for human rights and basic duties of a landlord. Furthermore, the LaPorte Ave fire, which tragically killed 6 children, may very well have been prevented if in fact the ongoing investigation proves that the landlord had not resolved the ten violations the last home inspection found.
“This is not just about property. It’s about people’s lives and their well-being. I, along with Representative Bauer, call for legislative action to impose stricter penalties on negligent landlords. I, not only support Senate Bills 277 and 243, but also will be seeking any and all other legislative means to further strengthen our ability to bring true and lasting change. We are also jointly sending a letter to Attorney General Rokita asking him to also use the full strength of his office to further assist us with all means possible. We want to incentivize responsible property management while holding accountable those who compromise the safety, dignity, and in these most egregious cases, the lives of their tenants.”
Representative Bauer released the following statement:
“Last week’s fire was the deadliest house fire South Bend has seen in nearly a century. Our community remains shaken by this loss of young life, and our hearts are with the Smith family as we look for answers following this tragedy.”
“The most heartbreaking aspect of this story is that it could have been prevented. However, our state has tied the hands of our local government’s ability to enact landlord-tenant agreements. As a result, Indiana has some of the weakest renters’ protections in the country and is one of only five states in the nation that forces tenants to pay rent to landlords, when necessary, repairs have not been made.
“Yet, we have an opportunity to act now. Senate Bill 277 would allow for a rent escrow program where tenants pay their rent to a third party until essential maintenance requests are completed. Additionally, Senate Bill 243 would allow the city to hold problem property owners accountable for neglecting to make necessary repairs.
“Landlords must be held accountable when they put the safety and wellbeing of their residents at risk.
“The bottom line is that tenants in Indiana need more rights. The tragedy on LaPorte Ave. and the lack of heat and hot water at Cedar Glen Apartments only reveal our lack of protections for renters, which is not just exploitative, but deadly.”
Rep. Bauer and Sen. Niezgodski encourage renters to call 311 if they are without heat or hot water, as no inspection can be done by the RSVP program unless a complaint is made. Senate Bill 243 is scheduled to be heard on the Senate Judiciary Committee today around 1:30 p.m.