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Legal protections available for tenants

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Hoosiers worried about evictions now have a tool to determine if they’re eligible for legal protection. 

Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic partnered with the city of Indianapolis and legal technology company Theory and Principle to create indyrenterhelp.org. The five-question survey helps determine whether an individual qualifies for legal protection under the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Federal Eviction Moratorium.

In September, the CDC issued a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium expires Dec. 31.

“The way the moratorium works, you have to meet a set of five criteria that the CDC order laid out,” Chase Haller, an attorney for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, said. “Once you walk through all five of those steps, it allows you to both e-sign a declaration or email it, and if you’re in Marion County, you can mail it directly to your landlord.”

One reason the tool was created is simply practicality. With just two attorneys and one paralegal at his firm who focus on housing law, Haller said the firm didn’t have the time or manpower to help every Hoosier who needs legal protection from eviction. 

A report by the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership estimates more than 30,000 renter households in Marion County are at a heightened risk of eviction due to the pandemic. A National Council of State Housing Agencies study found there could be up to 150,000 eviction filings in Indiana by January 2021.

“This tool will help us meet the need here in Indiana with technology that’s available all the time, even when attorneys aren’t directly available,” Haller said. 

With COVID-19 cases in the state continuing to spike — Indiana has reported 224,374 cases as of Nov. 11 — Haller said it would be naive to think there won’t be another shutdown. If that happens, he said the following economic downturn would disproportionately affect renters and people of color. 

“In the midst of a global pandemic and economic instability, this self-help tool is needed more than ever,” Amy Adair Horton, executive director of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, said. “As more and more of our neighbors have slipped into financial distress, the ability to pay for legal assistance poses great hardship. A self-help platform for those facing eviction will allow families to take the steps necessary to benefit from the CDC’s eviction moratorium.”

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

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