Indiana housing advocates, legislators push for change to prevent evictions

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Housing advocates and some Indiana lawmakers want the General Assembly to do more to help prevent evictions.

Indiana has seen a spike in evictions since the national eviction moratorium ended in late August. State data shows Indiana has seen a 17% increase in eviction filings in the three months since the moratorium ended compared to the last three months it was in effect.

“It’s heartbreaking ’cause when you answer the phone, it’s families who are saying, ‘I can sleep in the car, [but] my kids can’t,'” said Michael Chapuran, executive director of Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis, a shelter for families.

Chapuran said calls to his organization have more than doubled compared to what he usually sees at this time of year.

“I don’t think what a lot of people understand is that most families calling us for shelter have jobs or are looking for jobs,” he said. “They fell behind sometimes for a month in rent because their child’s class was quarantined.”

Chapuran would like to see the state legislature consider several changes, including expunging eviction records in cases when the rent owed was paid before the eviction actually happened.

“There are landlords who can go to a public website and look up every single eviction filing you’ve ever had in your life, even if you made every single one right and were never actually evicted from an apartment,” he said.

State Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) plans to propose a similar idea this session.

“Perhaps it was a clerical error, perhaps the person can have an opportunity to say, ‘This is what I’ve done to address this issue,'” Yoder said.

Yoder said she also plans to propose a bill that would give prospective tenants better access to their screening reports, which may help them understand why they have been rejected by a landlord.

Screenings are often done using third-party software, so landlords themselves may not even know why a prospective renter didn’t qualify.

“I think some more transparency could certainly benefit our tenants, certainly benefit landlords even to have a reason why,” said Brandon Beeler, director of the Housing Law Center at Indiana Legal Services.

City and county governments are limited on the changes they can implement. Earlier this year, the state legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Eric Holcomb to approve some restrictions on local governments’ oversight of landlord-tenant relationships.

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