INDIANAPOLIS — An order by the Indiana Supreme Court will make it easier to track eviction cases in Indiana’s small claims courts.
Beginning January 1, eviction cases will be coded with the letters “EV.” Currently, cases are coded “SC” along with other small claims cases.
Data compiled by FOX59 using the state’s MyCase portal shows the dramatic effect 2020 had on Marion County small claims cases.
In April, as courts shut down and Hoosiers were told to stay at home, filings dropped close to zero. Filings remained extremely low during the state’s eviction moratorium, then rose sharply as the moratorium ended in mid-August. They remained below average levels through December, likely due to the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium.
Cases filed by township, per year
Stanford University’s Eviction Lab, which studies eviction levels nationwide, recently began compiling and updating weekly eviction cases in Indianapolis’ small claims courts.
Dr. Breanca Merritt, IUPUI professor and director of the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy, hoped the data would help inform policies to help Indiana’s tenants.
“I do think the drop off tells us that policy matters and decisions matter from our government,” Merritt said. “I hope it brings greater attention and greater activity and support for those who are really in limbo.”
Dee Ross, founder of The Ross Foundation and Indianapolis Tenants Rights Union, sees the real-life effects of high eviction levels. Ross said he worked with more families than ever this year to keep them in their homes.
“No one should be evicted during this pandemic, especially our vulnerable communities, because if they’re already living in the lowest of the low areas and they’re getting put out of that area, where else do they have to go?” Ross said.
Ross pointed out that before the pandemic began, greater attention was already being drawn to Indianapolis’ high rates of eviction.
“We are so behind other states when it comes to tenant protections,” Ross said. “I’m glad that it’s on people’s radar.”
Indiana’s state legislators are expected to debate issues surrounding eviction and the landlord-tenant law in the upcoming 2021 session.