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Indianapolis renters owe $83 million in back rent as CDC issues new moratorium

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The CDC on Tuesday issued a new moratorium on evictions that would last until Oct. 3 for U.S. counties with substantial or high levels of community transmission of COVID-19. That includes all but eight Indiana counties.

The news comes as Indiana braces for an avalanche of evictions, and it may not be enough to help thousands of Hoosier families.

This duplex on the near north side is owned by Tim Krause. In the past 20 years or so, he has built up a a small business of rental homes all over Indianapolis.

Last year, he lost almost 50% of expected revenue when his tenants were forced out of work. He said many of them filed for rent assistance, but the money never come through.  

“All of those people all signed up for money through the Indy rent dot org, it never paid,” said Krause. 

Krause said as landlord he fully participated in the program as required, but nothing was paid out to him directly. A few of tenants did receive assistance from other not-for-profits, but at the end of the day, not nearly enough to cover back rent.  

According to Surgo Ventures, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group that has been tracking back rent and evictions during the pandemic, 27,066 households in Marion County are behind on rent, which is 16% of households and the average amount owed is $3,108. That’s per household. The estimated total amount of back rent due is $83,234,175.

Doug Deglopper is a lawyer who represents landlords and says many of his clients are mom-and-pop operations with one or two rentals. The pandemic has taken a toll on them; he says some tenants owe much more than $3,100. 

“We are seeing that, except that number maybe a little deceiving, because I think there are a fair amount of people who only owe a month or two rent, but I have seen a lot of people that owe a lot more than that,” said Deglopper.

According to Surgo Ventures, statewide there are 98,715 households behind on rent: That is 13% of households. On average, renters in arrears owe $2,842 per household. And the total rent due statewide is $280,533,897.  

Renters who owe the most per household are in Hamilton County, where the average owed in back rent is $5,187.  

Deglopper says even with rental assistance programs in place, not all of that money makes it the landlords, and he believes that the eviction crisis could lead to a wave of foreclosures.  

“A lot of times that money doesn’t actually get to the landlord, so the problem I think is going to be pretty large and that they are going to a eventually get foreclosed on and lose some of these properties because they have not collected rent for a long time,” said Deglopper.

Because of the pressure on the current housing market, finding new tenants for houses will not take long. But for those newly evicted, finding a new place to live could be a challenge.