Indiana Supreme Court to launch new program to prevent evictions

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Following the recommendation of its eviction task force, the Indiana Supreme Court has created a new program to help prevent evictions.

Data from an interim report prepared by the eviction task force shows evictions spiked about 20% in September compared to the previous month.

Judge Bob Altice, who chairs the task force, said it’s hard to tell if that trend will continue.

“We are fully prepared, I believe, to make sure people are aware of this money that’s out there,” said Judge Altice, who sits on the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Under the new pre-eviction diversion program, courts are required to advise both the tenant and landlord of rental assistance available.

If both parties agree to apply for that funding, the eviction proceeding would be stayed for 90 days, and court records would be made confidential. If the rent is paid, the case is dismissed, Judge Altice said.

“It applies not just to tenants but to landlords as well,” he said. “You got to remember these aren’t all huge apartment complexes. You have small business owners out there that are landlords.”

Brandon Beeler, another member of the task force, is an attorney with Indiana Legal Services who works with renters facing eviction. He said he hopes the program will make a difference for many Indiana renters.

“To have that eviction record sealed is huge,” Beeler said. “That will have a huge impact and alleviate the ongoing detrimental effects that evictions have on folks.”

Housing advocates believe the pre-eviction diversion program offers some benefits to tenants at risk of eviction.

“It’s really great that all parties are going to be informed about these resources that are on the table,” said Andrew Bradley, policy director for Prosperity Indiana.

Although he sees some positives behind the program, Bradley said he believes tenants’ rights advocates are not well-represented by the eviction task force.

Dee Ross, whose organization oversees the Indianapolis Tenants’ Rights Union, agrees, adding he is worried the program won’t have an impact because participation is optional for landlords and tenants.

“We have to get it where it is in law and permanent and not just temporarily or recommended,” said Dee Ross, founder and CEO of The Ross Foundation.

The program begins on Nov. 1. The eviction task force will monitor the program’s participation before deciding whether it should be mandatory, Beeler said.

For more information on rental assistance, click here.

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