Fort Wayne-area residents who rent are facing the end of a pandemic-related program that bans evictions for nonpayment of rent, according to housing experts who participated in a webinar Thursday.
Could Be Extended Beyond March 31
The Facebook Live event was sponsored by the local chapter of the AARP.
Andrew Thomas, an attorney with Indiana Legal Clinic, said the federal program that placed a pause on evictions for nonpayment of rent may expire as soon as March 31.
There is confusion as to whether the program has been extended to June 30, he said, but his understanding is that it has not been.
The program may still be extended, Thomas said, because past extensions have tended to happen a few days before the deadline.
The measure, known as a moratorium and issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been extended several times since September, Thomas said.
The CDC, the Biden administration, or Congress might extend the moratorium, he said.
Thomas did not have a count of how many Fort Wayne-area residents may be enrolled in the moratorium. But he said they could number several hundred.
In Allen County, the moratorium is treated as a defense for nonpayment, Thomas said. However, landlords can still file for evictions, and tenants must apply for the moratorium and notify their landlord to be covered, he said.
Enrolling “will not stop an eviction, but it can provide a defense,” Thomas said. The form is at www.in.gov/courts/covid/housing.
To qualify, a renter must show efforts to pay, have less than $99,000 in annual income, be affected by the loss of employment or income, or be facing emergency medical costs and, if evicted, become homeless or living in crowded quarters, Thomas said.
Even if enrolled, it's a good idea to keep trying to provide payment, including making partial payments, he said.
It's unclear what will happen when the moratorium ends, Thomas said, but it's likely the state will go back to its pre-pandemic eviction procedures, which tend not to be as tenant-friendly as those in other states.
“The bill (for rent) will become due to the landlord, possibly in total,” he said.
Even with the moratorium, “there are still evictions happening in Indiana,” Thomas said. Each county, “and really each judge,” can handle such situations differently, he said.
Renters in Fort Wayne can apply to be covered under an emergency rent-payment program, Thomas said.
Applications and information can be found at www.fwcares.org.
The panel also included Kelly Lundberg of the Fort Wayne Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services; Pam Brookshire, Brightpoint's vice president of community services; and Betsy Kachmar, AARP volunteer moderator.
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