August 27, 2021

Advocates Worry Rental Assistance Won’t Reach Hoosiers In Time, As Eviction Moratorium Struck Down

Brandon Beeler, housing law center director for Indiana Legal Services, offers legal services to renters facing eviction filings in a Lawrence Township court. - Ben Thorp/WBAA

Brandon Beeler, housing law center director for Indiana Legal Services, offers legal services to renters facing eviction filings in a Lawrence Township court.

Ben Thorp/WBAA

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the latest federal eviction moratorium Thursday, tenant advocates say it will be a race against the clock to ensure eligible Hoosiers receive rental assistance before they can be evicted.

Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 57,000 evictions have been filed across Indiana - many of which are still pending. Federal emergency rental assistance has been slow to reach tenants and their landlords - the state has so far issued just under $30 million of roughly $372 million in federal emergency rental assistance, with more federal dollars still on the way.

READ MORE: The Supreme Court Will Allow Evictions To Resume. It Could Affect Millions Of Tenants

Brandon Beeler, housing law center director for Indiana Legal Services, said it will be up to landlords to decide whether they are willing to wait for federal aid to reach tenants.

“That’s really what it’s going to take at this point to avoid a huge eviction wave is landlords also being willing to work with tenants and understand that tenants who are applying for rental assistance and believe they will be qualified for it - just to wait,” he said.

Beeler said anecdotally he’s seen rental assistance take anywhere from a few weeks to multiple months to reach people.

“The big concern is tenants who, from our standpoint, is tenants who will likely qualify for rental assistance and either have all their arrears or all their rent covered but because of the timing, and just how long it’s taking the programs to get money to tenants and landlords, that they will be evicted just based on the fact that it’s taking too long,” he said.

Federal guidance has called on courts to connect tenants to diversion programs and require landlords to apply for rental assistance before filing an eviction for nonpayment of rent.

Indiana’s landlord tenant task force has released a list of recommendations for how courts should handle evictions, which includes informing tenants and landlords about programs that can help with overdue rent, but those recommendations are only guidelines.

Notification within courts of the state’s eviction settlement program has been optional -- which advocates say has led to low participation.

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