Eviction And Renting In Illinois During The Coronavirus Pandemic: What Rights Do Renters Have?

Eviction And Renting In Illinois During The Coronavirus Pandemic: What Rights Do Renters Have?

Sona Sulakian
 | 
It's not cheap to live in Illinois. An hourly pay of at least $21.30 is required to afford a two bedroom rental in Illinois. If you earn minimum wage, that means you'd have to work 85 hours perweek. 

And some people in the state aren't working at all. The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported that unemployment rates fell to 11.3% in July. That was better than previous months, but that’s still high compared to 3.9% the same time last year. 

The CARES Act banned evictions on residential properties across the nation. But that ended on August 24 . That means protections are ending for over 40% of renters across the nation. 

A federal solution may be forthcoming. President Trump issued an executive order earlier this month, promising to “prevent residential evictions and foreclosures resulting from financial hardships caused by COVID-19.” 

But until then, renters, including those in Illinois, may have to deal with landlords filing eviction paperwork.  If you live in Illinois and haven’t or can’t pay your rent, you’re not alone. 

Here are your Illinois-specific answers to some of the most frequent questions we receive at Court Buddy from tenants concerned about paying rent.

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

The short answer is no. But that may change soon.  Illinois Governor Pritzker has extended the state’s eviction moratorium until September 22, 2020.

What happens when the eviction moratorium ends in September?

Once the eviction moratorium ends, landlords can resume filing for eviction. Chicago is trying to give its residents a few more weeks. The Chicago City Council approved a COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance, which requires landlords who are thinking of giving a five-day notice of eviction for nonpayment to include a notice informing tenants of their rights under the Ordinance. The Ordinance extends the five-day period by seven-days as a “cooling off” period if tenants can prove that unpaid rent is due to financial losses arising from the pandemic. In total, the ordinance allows tenants 12 days to respond to a landlord’s eviction notice.

Under the ordinance, a COVID-19 Impact exists when a tenant or household member:
  • Is laid-off from work
  • Has their hours at work reduced
  • Has to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19 diagnosis or possible exposure
  • Has to care for someone affected by COVID-19
During this “cooling off” period, the landlord must contact the tenant and in good faith try to work out a plan. Possible solutions include a repayment plan, mediation, an agreement to use the security deposit to pay for missed rent, or an agreement for the tenant to move out voluntarily. If the landlord fails to try to work out a solution, the court must dismiss the eviction case.

A lawyer can help you figure out if your landlord has done enough - from a legal standpoint - to work out a plan. 


What happens if I was already being evicted, or my landlord is threatening to evict me for reasons unrelated to my unpaid charges?

Governor Pritzker’s executive order 2020-30 suspended not only new eviction filings but also enforcement of previously filed eviction proceedings. 

However, landlords may file to evict a tenant for emergency reasons. These emergency reasons include posing a direct threat to the health or safety of other tenants or violating a regulation.

If you are concerned about being evicted, it is always best to talk to your landlord directly, and explain your situation. Loans up to $50,000 are available for landlords and other small-time entrepreneurs who support tenants by forgiving or discounting rent. 

For more resources, including sample letters to send to your landlord for seeking rent relief, visit Court Buddy’s Landlord-Tenant resources page. 

Can I pay partial rent?
 
In short, yes. But it may not be worth it, especially if you don’t have a written agreement with your landlord that this is OK. 
 
During our legal meetup on May 8th, Michael Neumann, Esq affirmed, “If you can't pay your rent because you don't have enough money, don't pay your rent.” 
 
However, your landlord is still entitled to collect all rental debt you accrue during this moratorium. This means that any rent you fail to pay now, you will have to pay later. If you are unable to pay the entirety of your rent, it is best to keep your landlord informed. 
 
For more resources, including sample letters to send to your landlord, visit our Landlord-Tenant resources page. 
 
Can my landlord charge me late fees?
 
Illinois does not provide any protections for renters against late fees, so you may be charged late fees. However, the Chicago City Council’s ordinance requires landlords to give tenants at least two months to repay each month of missed rent. The ordinance also lays out the interest and fees a landlord can charge, how a tenant can prove a pandemic-related impact, and how a security deposit can be used.
 
Can my landlord lock me out?
 
Chicago law bans do-it-yourself evictions, such as lockouts and any interference with utilities. The same is true for the rest of Illinois - landlords cannot lock you out without going through the proper legal process. This includes changing locks, removing your belongings, blocking entrances, interfering with utilities, or otherwise  threatening you. 
 
Landlords can only lock out tenants if they first file an eviction and then a judge signs an eviction order. Even then, landlords must wait for a sheriff to perform the eviction. But until September 22, none of this can happen.

I rent a low-income housing unit in Illinois. Are there any additional protections or relief programs available to me?

Starting August 10th, Illinois is offering $5000 grants to struggling renters as part of its Emergency Rental Assistance program.

Similarly, under the state’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance program, Illinois is offering $15,000 grants to eligible homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages. The program is set to accept applications from August 24 to September 4.
 
If you are looking for more resources, check out some more advice here. Feel free to utilize our self help resources or reach out to us for more help.

 
 
 
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.
Sona Sulakian

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