INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new pre-eviction diversion program is set to go into effect later this fall as a way to tackle the surge in evictions happening across Indiana. The purpose of the program is to tackle the Indiana Supreme Court’s biggest challenge so far: making sure people are aware of their eligibility for rental assistance.
“Have … you accessed the pre-debit eviction diversion website? Have you filled out an application? Where are you in the process?,” said Judge Bob Altice, chair of the Indiana Eviction Task Force.
Altice says those are the questions judges will now be asking in court to see if tenants are aware of possible resources and see if they are eligible for the pre-eviction diversion program.
The Eviction Task Force, which issued an interim report, say they modeled the program after the those in Texas and Michigan.
According to the task force, at least 36,000 eviction cases have been filed in since Jan.1. More than 5,100 of those were filed in September alone — after the federal eviction moratorium expired.
Some say they are encouraged to see the court taking action, but note that the program doesn’t go far enough.
“Our eviction process is notoriously landlord-friendly. It’s quick. It’s easy for landlords. So there’s very little incentive for them to want to participate in this type of program,” says Katie Whitley, a law student at IU McKinney’s Health and Human Rights Clinic.
Whitely pointed out to I-Team 8 that the program is not mandatory for landlords and requires for landlords and tenants to agree in order to move forward. She says the “voluntary” part of the program can leave a devastating impact on those seeking help.
“As soon as the tenant falls behind, instead of giving time for them to try to catch up, they just move forward anyway,” she said.
Whitley says she was happy to see that through the pre-eviction program, records are sealed. She says the sealing can help tenants find affordable housing without the fear of other other landlords seeing an eviction filing on their record.
Still, in order for records to be sealed, both landlords and tenants have to agree to enter into the program.
“I would love to see those eviction records sealed at filing regardless of whether or not the landlord wants to participate,” says Whitley.
The pre-eviction diversion program goes into effect Nov. 1.