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Tenants call for Indiana lawmakers to improve renters’ rights

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Eviction rates are a crisis in Indiana, according to tenant advocates.

The coronavirus pandemic has only made things worse.

Hoosiers shared their stories Thursday at the Statehouse to draw attention to the issue.

Tenant advocates says current legislation favors landlords and, as a result tenants, doesn’t often give tenants much to stand on when they want to file a grievance.

So, they say, the first Tenants Day of Action was a chance to bring light to an issue that’s impacting countless Hoosiers.

“My rent and utilities are more than 50% of my income,” said renter Allison Grimes.

Her stories and others drew attention to Indiana’s housing problem, one that, tenant rights supporters say, has only gotten worse in the pandemic.

“I’ve lived in places with uninhabitable conditions, rotting floors, bugs and mice coming from the other unit,” Grimes said.

She’s one of about a half a dozen others who shared their rental stories at the Tenants Day of Action. Many told stories of run-down living quarters, unjust landlords, and problems accessing affordable housing.

“They put a notice on my door saying I had seven days to vacate. Where are you going to go in seven days? This is just a few weeks ago,” said renter Jessica Savage.

Dee Ross with the Indianapolis Tenants Rights Union says, in the pandemic, Indiana now leads the nation in evictions. Before the pandemic, the state came in second behind New York City.

“So, that should tell you it’s more than people just not paying their rent is the problem. It’s a combination of discrimination for housing violations slumlords,” Ross said.

Supporters say the day of action gave renters a platform to use their voices without fear of retaliation, and to educate them on their rights to a safe, livable space. It was also a chance to urge legislators to act.

Ross said, “Every single day. Especially people of color. Black and brown families are disproportionately being impacted the most during this pandemic and also rural communities.”

Proposed legislation to improve things have been drawn up but are still waiting to be heard, much the renters at Thursday’s event.

“I know what it is, and it’s just way too hard for everyday people to get stable housing nowadays,” Savage said.