INDIANAPOLIS | Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. ran into a stone wall of indifference Wednesday before an Indiana Senate committee, as he fought to save his city's rental property registration and inspection program.
State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, chairman of the Local Government Committee, allowed the Democratic mayor to speak less than five minutes about the need for rental inspections, in a city with dozens of single-family homes illegally cut into multiple apartments, before hustling McDermott away from the microphone.
The panel then voted 7-1 to forward House Bill 1403 to the full Senate.
The legislation permits professional landlords to avoid municipal inspections and associated fees by hiring their own inspectors, who are not required to be independent. Inspections also would be limited to specific apartment features and structures; localities couldn't add items to the inspection list.
McDermott said without Hammond's rental registration program, apartments will be inspected less often and the safety of renters will be impaired.
He also questioned the self-inspection concept the sponsor, state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, touts as the free market at work.
"Would you go to a restaurant that inspects themselves?" McDermott asked. "Government is here for a reason. We do a good job."
McDermott said Hammond will have a hard time continuing its program if the proposal, which reduces the maximum annual registration fee to $5 per property instead of Hammond's $80 per unit, becomes law.
"I don't know what we're going to do if this passes," McDermott said. "It's going to force us to probably take the cost of this department and shift it onto the homeowners, and that's not fair to homeowners who take care of their properties."
The legislation is supported by the state associations of real estate agents and landlords.