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Eviction filings spike after federal moratorium ends, funds slow to reach tenants

Experts say the resources are there for tenants at risk of eviction, it’s just a matter of getting them to Hoosiers before it’s too late.

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been almost three weeks since the latest eviction moratorium ended in August and small claims courts are flooded with cases.  

For example, in Pike Township, the docket for Tuesday shows 79 out of 109 cases are for evictions, which is about 72 percent of the hearings. That’s just in one day.  

“Since the end of the CDC eviction moratorium on August 26, we are suddenly starting to see that spike that people have been talking about, being worried about in terms of eviction filings,” said Andrew Bradley, a policy director at Prosperity Indiana, which tracks issues impacting community development. 

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It’s estimated 93,000 Hoosier households are behind on rent and at risk of eviction, according to National Equity Atlas’ Rent Debt Dashboard. Eighty-three percent of them haven’t applied for assistance. 

Since early September, Indiana’s eviction filings have jumped 22 percent above the pre-pandemic average and in Indianapolis, we now know that 36.7 percent of all COVID-19 eviction filings are coming from just 100 buildings. 

Bradley said the resources are there, it’s just a matter of getting them to Hoosiers before it’s too late, calling for an “all of government approach” to increase the effectiveness of the programs.

“That’s why we want to make sure all the available resources are aligned together so we can prevent as many of those evictions upfront,” he said.  

It’s something Brandon Beeler and his team at Indiana Legal Services are working to do as their clientele dramatically increases. 

“The intake list, especially here in Marion County, has been astronomical. It’s been the highest I’ve seen it at my time at ILS,” Beeler said. 

He said right now, federal funds have been slow to reach tenants and some landlords aren’t willing to wait.  

“It’s an unprecedented amount of federal money that’s being dispersed to the states and the cities who are administering these programs. So, it’s just taking time to get the rent to the tenants,” Beeler said. 

If you are still waiting for assistance, experts say attend your hearing and explain to the judge that you applied and are trying to pay your rent. If you can, also bring a copy of your application status. 

On Monday, the state officially launched its new Eviction Task Force, which offers resources to both tenants and landlords. It can help find solutions outside of eviction. 

They're also sending out postcards to people involved in eviction cases to share links with resources. 

In Marion County, the Tenant Advocate Program offers legal help at small claims courts for people late on their payments. 

They can even help negotiate rent or a "voluntary move-out." So far, at least six of the nine townships in the county have signed up. 

There’s also financial and legal assistance available through the Tenant Information Hotline at (317) 327-2228. 

Beyond rental assistance, it's important for tenants to know their rights. 

Everyone has the right to livable conditions. In some cases, 13News has heard of people threatening to withhold rent until landlords make rental repairs. In Indiana, that likely won't fly. 

Tenants whose landlords haven't made repairs in a reasonable amount of time can give their landlord notice and a reasonable amount of time to fix it. They can also contact the local board of health to report problems. 

But, unlike some states, tenants can't withhold rent in Indiana and could face eviction if they do. There's also no guarantee that tenants will get a rent deduction if they make repairs themselves. 

However, if their landlord doesn't fix issues in a reasonable time, they can sue. But, if the tenant is in violation of their lease in any way, they're still at risk of eviction. 

Tenants can find help at https://housing4hoosiers.org/. It has a full breakdown of Indiana tenants’ rights, covering everything from privacy to security deposits and your responsibilities as a renter.