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Government / WBAA

Senate committee hears but doesn’t vote on bill to seal some eviction filings

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Randy Shelton testifies in favor of HB1214 (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

A Senate committee heard legislation Wednesday that would seal eviction filings in some instances.

Those instances can include when there is no action on an eviction case after 180 days from the initial filing, when an eviction filing is resolved outside of court, or when a judgment is entered in favor of a tenant.

Tenant advocates have long argued that eviction filings can serve as a permanent “scarlet E” that harms a renter's chances of getting housing in the future - even if an eviction filing against them is ultimately thrown out.

During a hearing in the House, Representative Ethan Manning (R-Peru), who authored HB 1214, said roughly 40% of eviction filings don’t result in an eviction or judgment, and tenants should have the option of keeping those filings sealed.

During the Senate committee Wednesday, Randy Shelton testified in favor of the bill on behalf of Hoosier Action. Shelton is a retired veteran who had to leave his apartment after health complications left him unable to work and pay rent. Shelton agreed to leave his apartment so long as his landlord removed the eviction filing from his record. That never happened, which Shelton said has kept him from getting housing ever since.

“I know I’m not alone,” he said. “There’s thousands of Hoosiers having eviction filings makes it impossible to find good, safe, quality housing.”

Tenant advocates say there are still some parts of the bill they’d like to see ironed out - including a stipulation that eviction diversion programs must be “voluntary” but must also be tied to rental assistance. Advocates worry this might end eviction diversion programs for infractions other than non-payment of rent.

Brian Spaulding, with the Indiana Apartment Association, said the group supports the legislation but underlined the importance of keeping diversion programs voluntary.

“I believe the pre-eviction diversion program only makes sense when both parties agree to participate and the tenant qualifies for emergency rental assistance,” he said.

The bill is expected to get a second hearing and some amendments as early as next week.