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Renters seek aid as evictions loom; Indianapolis tenant says landlord won’t participate in city assistance program

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Tenants struggling to pay rent scrambled to secure legal support and financial assistance after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb failed to extend the state’s eviction moratorium past Friday.

On Thursday, the Indianapolis Housing Agency announced an emergency payment plan aimed at preventing mass evictions.

The “repayment agreement policy” allows eligible IHA residents to pay a maximum of 40% of household income on rent and back rent until they repay what they owe, protecting them from losing their homes over unpaid rent.

IHA is the state’s largest housing authority and serves more than 10,000 families in Marion County.

At least 950 households across 15 of the agency’s communities could be at risk of eviction or termination of rental assistance, according to IHA executive director John Hall.

Approximately 400 households were not eligible for the repayment plan because they were behind on paperwork, he said.

Bonita Davis, an IHA commissioner who voted to approve the emergency policy, called it a “necessary” measure amid uncertainty wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

She lives in Barton Annex, an IHA community in downtown Indianapolis with 126 residents.

“A lot of people lost their jobs because of COVID-19… A lot of residents that are here would actually be displaced. Some would probably be homeless,” Davis told News 8.

Some landlords are expected to begin filing for eviction immediately after the moratorium ends, housing advocates said.

An Indianapolis tenant whose income “completely dropped” during the pandemic said she feared finding an eviction notice on her door within days.

Denise feared her landlord would retaliate against her and requested to be identified by only her first name. 

She applied for aid through the city’s rental assistance program before it was suspended due to overwhelming demand. She was deemed eligible but her landlord refused to participate in the program, she said.

Landlords must submit documentation and agree to participate; rent relief funds are paid directly to landlords.

Denise’s landlord could not be reached for comment. Text messages and emails provided by Denise corroborated her claims.

“I do not know what I’m going to do… or where I’m going to go,” she told News 8.

Denise said she attempted to negotiate a payment agreement with her landlord; wrote to the state attorney general’s office after the landlord sent her text messages threatening eviction; and sought legal aid from the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society and the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.

By Thursday, the eve of the moratorium’s expiration date, Denise still had no solution.

The state’s eviction mediation program, proposed to facilitate agreements between landlords and tenants, is not expected to be operational by Friday.