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Evictions still being filed despite CDC moratorium

Posted at 10:22 PM, Oct 12, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — COVID-19 has not only taken thousands of lives, but countless jobs and sources of income for many Hoosiers.

A new study finds up to 250,000 people are at risk of being evicted right now in Indiana.

150,000 evictions are expected to be filed by January.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing a national moratorium on evictions a month ago to try to prevent this, WRTV Investigates found, evictions are still happening as we speak.

Many people questioning, how?

Toi Pollard is facing eviction in the middle of a pandemic.

“The hard thing about it is not knowing where or how much stuff you need on a daily basis to survive,” Pollard said.

“I think it’s inhuman,” she said. “They know what’s going on right now. And unfortunately for people like me, we don’t have a lot of resources or anybody we can turn to.”

A single mom, domestic violence survivor and working as a certified nursing assistant when COVID-19 hit, she stopped working to take care of her children.

“Just so much stuff going on, it’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable,” she said.

Patrick Vick is also at risk of being evicted.

“The fact that we are all going to crash out of the economy and be homeless is mind-boggling to me,” Vick said.

He was working at a software company doing tech support but was let go when businesses first shut down in March.

The company tried to bring him back a few months later but couldn’t.

“I lost the same job twice due to COVID. I have to smile or I’ll cry,” Vick said.

This left both tenants with no income and no way to pay their rent.

But then, a glimmer of hope.

Despite Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to not extend Indiana’s eviction moratorium beginning August 14th, which was keeping them in their homes, the CDC imposed one of its own nationwide.

The federal moratorium — which took effect Sept. 4 — aims to avoid mass evictions and contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Tenants just have to print and sign a declaration form from the CDC’s website.

But not everyone qualifies for this blanket protection.

You must have:

  • used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing
  • earn no more than $90,000 a year
  • are unable to pay rent due to substantial loss of income or hours of work
  • and are using best efforts to make partial payments

Vick, seemingly meeting all the criteria, said he alerted his landlord.

But they still moved to evict him.

Nationwide, there’s been much confusion in how each state, each judge is handling this moratorium. Many evictions are still moving forward despite the federal order.

What we’re now seeing popping up across the country and right here in Marion County are landlords filing for eviction under non-payment, losing because of the CDC order, but then, re-filing their case as what’s called a “holdover eviction.”

This is if during the now seven-month COVID period, someone’s lease has also expired.

If this continues to happen, experts say, a significant amount of renters are still at risk of eviction.

“Anything that can keep someone in a safe home and out of an unhealthy situation and out of homelessness is good. It is important,” Molly Martin, the New America Indianapolis director, said. “Whether or not it’s available to everyone is where it falls short.”

At the same time, while tenants are struggling, so are the landlords, property-owner advocates say.

They’re being put in scary situations, with mortgages, maintenance, property taxes, utilities to keep up of their own.

“If a property owner isn’t able to meet these financial obligations, the property becomes at risk of foreclosure,” Lynne Petersen, Indiana Apartment Association president, said. “Which is very problematic to our industry.”

Petersen says the rate for overdue rent has been as high as 24%, when it’d typically run 1 to 2% before the pandemic.

If landlords can’t pay their bills, this order could jeopardize the very homes and renters it intends to save.