The Coronavirus and your rent: What’s legal and illegal in Illinois

The Coronavirus and your rent: What’s legal and illegal in Illinois

Marin Clapper

Over one million people rent housing in Illinois.


Illinois’ unemployment rate is currently at 16.4%.


If you are unemployed and worried you won’t make your June rent payment, here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about rent. 


Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19? 

Not right now.

The CARES Act, passed by Congress on March 27th, placed a 120-day eviction moratorium on all housing that receives government subsidies or federally backed loans.

Note the keywords here: government subsidies or federally backed loans.

According to the National Housing Law Project, over 70% of all US mortgages are federally backed or owned.

The federal moratorium expires July 25th.

Illinois banned evictions across the state until May 30th, when the stay-at-home order is set to expire. 

The 30% of property owners don’t have a federally backed mortgage - meaning they outright own the property or have another type of loan – could have legally begun eviction proceedings on May 30th

But in late May, Governor J.B. Pritzker said he would continue to ban eviction proceedings. He did not say when the moratorium would be lifted.

What happens at the end of these moratoriums on evictions?


Your landlord can begin eviction proceedings. 


In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance that would require landlords to give tenants up to 90 days to find new housing. But the bill won’t be voted on until June. 


If your landlord files eviction paperwork, you may be able to find housing assistance. 


In Illinois, there is a homeless prevention program. This program provides renal or mortgage assistance to prevent homelessness based on individual’s/family’s qualifications. 


In Chicago, there is a rental assistance program that can give up to $1,000 in rent/mortgage assistance for 2,000 eligible households. 


Currently, there are measures for statewide rent relief which would help for tenants, landlords and homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Chicago Dem. Rep. Delia Ramirez introduced COVID-19 Emergency and Economic Recovery Renter and Homeowner Protection Act, but it has yet to be signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 


Can I pay partial rent?

It depends. 


Read your lease and speak with your property manager about your options during and after the moratorium ends.  


Talk to your property owner about your options during and after the eviction moratorium. Some possibilities include:

  • temporarily pausing your rent payments
  • paying reduced rent
  • extending the timeline to repay rental debt.


Always keep a written record of any agreements you reach with your landlord – including expectations of how much rent will be repaid and when. Be sure to compile any documents you have that show your inability to pay rent, or inability to pay rent in full, during this crisis.


What happens if I break my lease and just leave?

Your lease is a contract. 


When you sign it, you agree to pay for the entire term. Breaking your lease does not make the contractual obligation go away.


If you leave early, your landlord will likely hold you responsible for rent through the end of your lease by filing a collections suit against you.


If your landlord finds a new tenant before your lease ends, however, they can no longer hold you responsible for rent through the end of your lease following the new tenant’s first rent payment.


Because each lease is different, the best thing to do is to review your lease, particularly section about lease breaking/early termination


Can my landlord lock me out during the moratoriums?




If you are covered by the CARES Act, your landlord can’t start eviction proceedings until July 25. The earliest you could lose access to your property would be 30 days after that.


If you are not covered under the CARES Act, your landlord still cannot lock you out until the state-wide moratorium ends. This date is not yet clear.


To lawfully evict a tenant, your landlord must first serve you with a written notice and then file a case with your County’s Court if you do not move out voluntarily. If you do not move out voluntarily, they cannot have you physically removed from the property or change the locks until they have a judgment from the Court. 


If your property is covered by the CARES Act, you cannot be served with a notice to vacate due to nonpayment of rent until the federal moratorium ends on July 25th. 


The timeline of an eviction case will vary depending on the details of the case. 


If you have been locked out, call 311 


Does my landlord still have to fix things that are broken even if I haven’t paid rent?

Yes. If the needed repairs are due to a major habitability problem, and if you did not cause the damage, your landlord must fix the issues. 


Some examples of damages that could cause habitability problems might include plumbing issues, broken windows, damages to your heating system, or issues with your hot water.


If you’ve come to an agreement on postponing your rent payments or paying partial rent due to the pandemic, be sure to cite that when discussing damages with your landlord. 


Again, make sure that any agreements you make about fixing the damages are in writing.


If you are having more rent-related issues, contact us


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

Marin Clapper

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