INDIANAPOLIS – A bill moving forward at the Indiana Statehouse would allow some court records involving evictions to be sealed, meaning landlords wouldn’t be able to see the filings.
House Bill 1214 passed the House unanimously last month and is expected to get a vote on the Senate floor within the next few days.
According to data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, Indiana has seen nearly 86,000 eviction filings since the pandemic began.
Jessica Savage, a team lead for Hoosier Action in Bartholomew County, is all too familiar with the repercussions of the process. Three years ago, she and her son were homeless for six months.
“I had to as a woman sleep under bridges or get under trees,” Savage said.
One barrier holding her back from finding a new home was a past eviction filing that never received further action, she said.
“If you’ve got an eviction in Indiana, you might as well hang it up,” Savage said. “You’re not going to get into a place.”
House Bill 1214 may allow some of those eviction records to be sealed. Under the bill, that could happen If the case was dismissed or if the judgment is in favor of the tenant.
If an eviction is filed and no further action is taken within 180 days, the case may be dismissed.
Tenant attorneys like Brandon Beeler said the legislation could have a big impact if it becomes law.
“The corporate landlords, they rely on these screening systems that don’t even necessarily tell them why the tenant was screened out,” said Beeler, who serves as director of the Housing Law Center at Indiana Legal Services.
The bill has bipartisan backing at the Statehouse and is supported by advocacy groups for both tenants and landlords. But some wish it went further to help tenants.
“The legislation still falls short of giving people automatic expungement,” said Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), one of the Senate sponsors.
“Hopefully what we can do next year is to come back and look at what are those underlying reasons behind Indiana’s eviction crisis,” said Andrew Bradley, policy director for Prosperity Indiana.
Bradley added he has concerns about a part of the bill that would make any court-based eviction diversion program voluntary, not mandatory.
Jessica Savage, who has since found a permanent home, said the bill gives her hope for other Hoosiers.
“That is a huge market for people to have a second chance and thrive here in Indiana,” she said.
More changes could be made to the bill before it would head to the governor’s desk for his signature.
We’ve reached out to landlord advocates to get their thoughts on the measure and are waiting to hear back.