Indiana passed a new law allowing for some eviction filings to be sealed. Some experts say that law is helping residents
Earlier this year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a new law allowing for the sealing of some eviction filings. Now, some experts say the new system is being put to use.
During the 2022 legislative session, tenant advocates argued that expungement is a necessary step because eviction filings – even when they don’t lead to an eviction – make it much harder for tenants to find housing again.
Judge Kimberly Bacon, who oversees the small claims court in Lawrence Township, said she’s seeing the eviction sealing process get used.
“This will close out a case that has been sitting open for years on the courtside but on the tenant side you’ll see where that benefit is having it sealed from the public allows them to regain some housing security in the future,” she said.
The eviction sealings are only available to tenants who have eviction filings against them but were never formally evicted. The law allows tenants to have the eviction filing expunged from their record six months after the initial filing.
In her court, Bacon said she reminds tenants that expungement is available to them – but the number of filings that have been sealed is difficult to quantify at this point.
“I don’t know that the data has been collected to determine what the positive impact is,” she said, “...but what I also believe is when you provide the access to resources, to justice, to a simple legal packet that people will take advantage of it and be able to do some things to self correct their own lives.”
Jeff Heck is the pro-bono director of Indiana Legal Services, which assists low-income residents with free legal aid. He said ILS has held two eviction-sealing clinics in Indianapolis that quickly filled up with over 100 appointments each.
“There is certainly a need for it or a perceived need as people are hearing more about it,” he said. “So from our end anyway we’re going to keep doing these clinics – try and get up to once a month throughout the city and throughout the state to try and help people take advantage of this.”
Heck said it’s still too early to know what the impact of the law will be, however. The eviction expungement law took effect in July.
Those seeking to have an eviction filing expunged from their record can find a form at Indianalegalhelp.org or by accessing housing kiosks set up across Indiana.