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Though the BSU Rentals sign read “closed” Saturday, Sept. 10, the sidewalk was filled with protesters chanting in front of their door from 3-5 p.m.
The protest against BSU Rentals and MiddleTown Property Group was organized by the Muncie Chapter of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL). The Muncie PSL provided a petition with a list of their demands for MiddleTown Property Group.
Below is said list:
MiddleTown Property Group will directly and promptly address every tenant about their housing grievances.
MiddleTown Property Group will present a plan of action to correct the housing issues and guarantee the tenants a timeline for the expected repairs.
MiddleTown Property Group will justly compensate tenants for the time with damages it has failed to repair all the while demanding rent and charging extra fees.
MiddleTown Property Group will provide full and equal maintenance to all units with no financial burden put upon tenants.
Ball State University must stand alongside tenants, students, and the community to materially change the housing conditions of this city and hold MiddleTown Property Group accountable.
Cheyenne Brooks, an organizer at PSL, said they have already received 700 signatures on one of their petitions against the rental companies.
“This could be affecting your friends, it could be affecting your community,” Joseph Souza, Ball State third-year and member of Muncie PSL, said. “So it ultimately will always come back to you. And so, I think everyone in this town should be up in arms against the landlord who's putting people through inhumane housing.”
Protestors carried signs while walking down West University Avenue, some detailing their own experiences. One sign read ‘No Power for Two Weeks’ and another listed their experiences with BSU Rentals after losing their home in a fire, along with many others.
Zeenat Tabaku and Audrey Prater, roommates and renters from BSU Rentals, have lived in BSU Rentals houses since the fall of 2020.
“We really tried to rent from someone else, and it wasn't possible around here,” Prater said.
The two girls are paying a combined $1300 a month.
“When we walked in, there was like melted candle wax all over the place,” Tabaku said. “Our basement was disgusting and filthy. Bugs everywhere. It was just, it was horrible. It's not a safe living condition for anybody.”
Branden and Amber Hall rented from BSU Rentals until their apartment complex burnt down. Amber Hall said there were no fire extinguishers in their apartment and the sprinklers had been painted over. They said BSU Rentals said they would provide them housing but never did. Branden said multiple people were also denied housing.
Ainsley George, organizer at PSL and former Ball State student, said the movement started with the Facebook group “BSU Rentals/MiddleTown Mgmt Complaints.” The group has almost 1,500 people in it, and people in the group posted their experiences with BSU Rentals and MiddleTown.
“We are protesting the slumlord practices of Dane and Derek Wilson, owners of MiddleTown Property Group in their subsidiary, BSU rentals,” George said. “They're notorious slumlords in our community.”
According to Merriam-Webster, a slumlord is “a landlord who receives unusually large profits from substandard, poorly maintained properties.”
Indiana is one of five states that doesn’t require inspections and occupancy permits from rentals, Jeff Robinson, District 2 city councilman, said at the protest. Robinson held a council meeting on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. to try to gain more protections for tenants in Indiana.
“When you look at a city like Muncie, … more than 50 percent of our properties are rental homes,” Robinson said. “This is an important issue right here in Muncie, and I know it's an issue in other college and university towns like West Lafayette, Bloomington, South Bend and others. This is something that we need to address.”
Robinson said he showed up to stand with the protestors. Robinson heard problems about BSU Rentals and MiddleTown in the past, but this year, he said he received hundreds of complaints and knew something had to be done.
“I want to do something so these people, the people that are dealing with these issues, understand that we as a city council, we understand,” Robinson said. “We see you, we empathize with your position, and we want to do whatever we can to help.”
George said the rental companies own over 3,300 properties in East Central Indiana, so it has been hard for people to find decent rentals that aren’t owned by them.
“It’s a notorious problem in our community,” George said. “So I feel like it's just been building up and then I went into the Facebook group, and that's when I realized, okay, we as the people can stand together, it's something that the community really has a problem with.”