Confusion, disagreement across Indiana as CDC extends eviction moratorium again


SHELBYVILLE, Ind. — Another extension of the CDC’s moratorium on evictions led to confusion about how it’s being interpreted across Indiana.

When Dustin Johnson lost his job last year, he thought that filling out the CDC moratorium declaration form would protect him and his daughter, 5, from eviction.

“I honestly didn’t believe it would happen to me,” Johnson said.

In October, a Shelby County judge ruled that Johnson did qualify under the moratorium and pushed his eviction case to January. Despite another extension to the moratorium, a different judge reversed course in February and ordered Johnson out of his home for “failure to make payments when due.”

“It was devastating,” Johnson said. “Every reply I got back was, well we can’t rent to you because now you have an eviction.”

Data collected by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab shows that since the CDC issued its moratorium on September 4, eviction filings across Indiana have stayed below average. However, the order does not cover everyone and according to real estate attorney Jason McAuley, there is no standard for how a judge interprets it.

“I’ve seen a wide range of outcomes from county to county and that’s not unlike other areas (of law), but at the same time, this is pretty new to everybody,” McAuley said.

Brad Grayson runs the Bartholomew County Landlord Association, as well as his own rental company. He and McAuley both said in some cases, tenants have stopped paying rent entirely after submitting a declaration.

“Letting them get behind, on the surface it sounds good but that just lets them get deeper and deeper into debt,” Grayson said.

Grayson argued that as landlords, particularly those with only one or a few properties, struggle to pay their own bills, costs could be passed on and rental housing could be lost.

“Landlords that I’ve talked to are in jeopardy of losing their own home because the rent is not being paid on their rental, they’re trying to make up for it,” Grayson said.

The moratorium does require tenants to pay as much as possible and apply for rental assistance. Housing advocates have argued that Indiana has one of the highest eviction rates in the country and calls for that assistance began early on in the pandemic.

According to the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which administers assistance throughout most of the state, payments as part of the latest, and largest, assistance program will begin within the next week. Indianapolis will also reopen its program on April 5.

“If we can get the government to release the funds that they have promised, then an awful lot of people could be helped and we can avoid a lot of this talk about eviction,” Grayson said.

That rental assistance came too late for Johnson, who was forced to move out of his home at the end of February. He hoped to warn other tenants to read the CDC declaration carefully and seek out help as soon as possible.

“I think everybody should go get an attorney. I thought I was covered,” Johnson said.

If you need helping paying your rent, you can call 211 or visit the links for resources below:

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