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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Know your rights: understanding evictions

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While a March moratorium on evictions, signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb and extended to the end of July, currently makes it illegal for landlords to evict tenants for not paying rent, no one knows how long it will last. For many Hoosiers struggling to make ends meet due to job loss or pay cuts due to the pandemic, the end of the moratorium could mean losing their home. 

Luckily, several state and city leaders are making an effort to shine a light on programs — many of which were in existence before the pandemic began — to help tenants work with landlords to prevent evictions and foreclosures. 

Jacob Sipe, executive director of Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, said with the moratorium in place, it gives both landlords and tenants the opportunity to work together to create a payment plan, and a majority of the landlords he’s worked with have been willing to work with tenants and community organizations to keep people in their homes. 

However, if a tenant finds their landlord to be less than cooperative and worries they may be evicted once the moratorium is up, Sipe recommends using HUD’s toolkit. The toolkit helps Indiana residents get more information about their rights and access to resources if they find themselves unable to pay their rent or mortgage. 

The toolkit, which can be accessed as a PDF online, includes information on rental assistance, foreclosure prevention, home energy assistance and an eviction and foreclosure guide, the latter specifically in response to COVID-19.

While the moratorium currently in place prevents landlords and property owners from evicting tenants, it does not mean tenants do not have to pay rent for the duration of the pandemic. 

In a statement, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill encouraged Hoosiers who are unlawfully subjected to eviction to contact his office or file a complaint with the office’s Consumer Protection Division.

“The coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of Hoosiers temporarily unemployed and facing financial distress,” Hill said. “It’s important for Hoosier renters and homeowners to be aware of their rights during these difficult times. If you are unlawfully subjected to eviction or foreclosure proceedings during this public health emergency, contact my office. We may be able to help you.”

Under state law, a renter who pays on a monthly basis must be given 30 days warning before an eviction, whereas someone who pays annually must be given three months notice. Sipe said evictions should always be the last resort and often are because the proceedings can be costly for landlords. 

With rental assistance programs being offered in Marion County and around the state, Sipe said landlords who agree to work with the programs must wait 45 days before going ahead with evictions, and encouraged both tenants and landlords to work to create a payment plan to prevent evictions. 

However, Sipe encouraged Hoosiers who feel they are being taken advantage of — as well as those who are being threatened with eviction despite the moratorium — to contact Indiana Legal Services, which is free, or the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

Get help! 

Find the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s toolkit at www.in.gov

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