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At least 400 eviction filings in Marion County after moratorium expires

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — At least 400 eviction-related cases were filed in Marion County after the statewide eviction moratorium ended Friday.

Local eviction filings nearly doubled Tuesday, attorneys said.

The previous week, Marion County saw approximately 24 small claims filings of any kind on a typical weekday.

“Unfortunately, this is just what we expected to see,” said Andrew Bradley, policy director at Prosperity Indiana, a statewide group also called the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development.

He described the influx of post-moratorium filings as the “first wave” of evictions to crash upon Hoosier renters.

Tenant advocates and housing attorneys across the state prepared for multiple waves of eviction filings for at least several months.

Bradley predicted the rate of filings would increase with any resurgences of the coronavirus in Indiana or dwindling rental assistance funds.

“Unfortunately, beyond the rent relief programs, there are not a lot of options,” Bradley said.

The state recently boosted its rental assistance program by $15 million.

Indianapolis officials voted to add $7.5 million to the city’s separate rental assistance program, but online applications remained suspended in the wake of the eviction moratorium’s expiration. Nearly 20,000 Marion County applicants were placed on a wait list.

Landlords must agree to participate in both the state and city aid programs.

Staffers at John Boner Neighborhood Centers, a nonprofit organization helping the city distribute rental assistance funds to eligible applicants, has initiated outreach efforts to engage reluctant landlords.

“I think our biggest challenge right now is we’ve had about 60% of the landlords that have participated in the program and we want to encourage the other 40% [to participate],” said James Taylor, CEO of Boner Neighborhood Centers. 

Denise, an Indianapolis tenant who requested to be identified by only her first name, applied for rental assistance and was deemed eligible. But she never received assistance because her landlord refused to participate.

She spent Tuesday packing her belongings in preparation for eviction proceedings.

Taylor suspected reluctance among landlords stemmed largely from registry requirements.

However, the city requires the same registration for landlords not participating in the rental assistance program.

Bradley warned mass evictions could further the spread of COVID-19 and lead to increased economic hardship.

“This is a housing crisis and if folks don’t have a stable place to stay at home, then that really puts Indiana’s public health recovery in jeopardy,” he said. “If we have folks who are put out on the streets and couch surfing, then we may see more community spread as one person catches the virus and takes it with them from place to place.”