Rental Assistance And The Effort To Avoid Evictions
The rental assistance pipeline of funds has opened even greater in the last week. With these new funds available, it has created a new potential delay in removing a non-paying tenant from a rental. We understand many of you are frustrated with how long the process is taking. Here is what is happening specific to Indianapolis Marion County.
IndyRent Funds Now Available for 12 Months!
Marion County’s IndyRent program has begun accepting applications for up to 12 months of rental assistance. The move adds nine months of help to the program, which previously was limited to three months.
Beginning last Friday, new applicants can request up to 12 months of help for rent going back to April 1, 2020, or for upcoming rent payments. The network of not-for-profits administering the program has also started contacting thousands of previous recipients to invite them to apply for additional support. For example, a household with two months of previous assistance would be able to ask for another ten.
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ), as of this week, IndyRent has pushed out about $70.7 million in rent payments to landlords of 30,000-plus households seeking rental assistance. The program is averaging about $5.5 million in payments a month. There is another $91.4 million allocated for the Marion County program.
The biggest issue we experience is the timeline for assistance funds. Many landlords have refuse to participate because it requires a commitment not to take further action against a tenant for up to 45 days. Then, if a tenant is approved, it takes another 30 days to receive a check. All this time the tenant may not make any rent payments.
To qualify, Marion County households that are at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), have experienced a reduction in earned income due to COVID-19, and are at risk of housing instability are eligible to apply for rental assistance. Learn more here.
Tenants will be notified in groups beginning with those whose initial application approval occurred more than 90 days ago. The Department of Treasury guidelines limit the amount of forward rent that can be paid to three months at a time.
It is easy for a tenant to apply. So, the question is how quickly can we get the housing provider these assistance funds? Let us assure you, we are investing every effort to cooperate with the paperwork on the landlord side. Unfortunately, we are also seeing many people be declined. We are not given the reason for this but the assumption is they simply do not qualify.
There is an appeal process and we are even trying to use that with a little bit of success.
More Actions To Avoid Evictions
If an eviction must be filed due to tenant non-payment, and we can finally get a court date, there are new additional support options for the tenant.
If a tenant never applied for rental assistance IndyRent wants to have staff at the township small claims courts where eviction cases are heard. In this way the Small Claims Judges can refuse to grant possession and forward the non-paying tenant over to the IndyRent representative. Per the IBJ, the plan is to allow the courts to have processing locations for the program. Already, “tenant advocates” for renters with no legal representation are stationed in seven of the nine township sites, as part of a yearlong pilot.
The bottom line- in Marion County eviction has to be the last resort. The courts will not grant possession to a housing provider if the tenant shows the effort to work with anybody, including the housing provider. We continue to encourage your tenants to find solutions for their delinquencies. As long as there is this much federal money being handed to tenants, it is hard to imagine an easy path toward any evictions.
One solution- top notch, tenant screening that leaves no rock unturned. Avoid the issue altogether!