INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are trying to crack down on landlords who aren’t paying their utility bills. 

Senate Bill 114 was proposed following several situations last year where utilities were shut off or nearly turned off at some apartment complexes.

In February 2022, some Indianapolis residents lost running water after a utility company said the landlord racked up more than $1 million in unpaid bills.

And in other situations, renters were at risk of having their water and gas turned off.

“Tenants have no recourse in Indiana,” said Rabbi Aaron Spiegel of the Greater Indianapolis Multifaith Alliance, a housing advocacy group.

Spiegel’s organization has worked with some of the affected residents.

“They just want to be home in a place that’s safe, and the heat works, and the water comes out of the tap,” he said.

Now, Indiana lawmakers are trying to prevent other tenants from facing similar situations.

“The week that this bill was moving through the Senate, this happened up in a community in northern Indiana,” said State Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), the author of Senate Bill 114. “So this is not something that is limited to Marion County.”

Koch’s bill would allow utility companies to ask courts for receivers to be appointed over landlords who haven’t paid their bills.

If granted, receivers would take over those properties and get the bills paid off so residents don’t lose utility access.

“Under current law, there was no remedy,” Koch said. “And last year when this issue first arose, there were many people both in and out of government trying to find a solution and they just lacked the legal tools.”

Utility companies and landlord advocates have shown support for the measure.

Spiegel said he believes it’s a “small step” in the right direction but wants to see lawmakers do more.

“We need rent escrow,” Spiegel said. “We need tenants [to] have the ability to use their rent as leverage against these bad actors.”

The bill passed in the Senate unanimously and also received full support by the House utilities, energy and telecommunications committee. It now heads to the House floor.