One of the most discussed public impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the ability of tenants to pay rent and remain housed, with a large number of tenants experiencing financial hardship due to loss of employment or other sources of income due to the pandemic. In response, government on the federal, state, and local levels have implemented measures relating to evictions. It is important for tenants to understand their rights relating to potential evictions.
While the federal moratorium on evictions expired on July 24, 2020, Governor Pritzker recently extended the Illinois moratorium to August 22, 2020. This means that no new evictions may be filed prior to this date. Renters remain obligated to pay rent to landlords as previously agreed, and both landlords and tenants remain obligated to comply with the terms of their lease, but new eviction proceedings may not be implemented.
The City of Chicago has instituted some additional protections for tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the blanket moratorium on the filing of evictions put in place by the State of Illinois, these protections, for the most part, apply only to those actually impacted by COVID-19. Such impacts include situations where a tenant or a member of the tenant's household:
- 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 else affected by COVID-19.
If a landlord seeks to evict any tenant, they must provide a tenant with a five-day notice, allowing the tenant to respond to the intended eviction during a five day window. Notably, while there is a moratorium on the filing of eviction actions in place, these notices still may be given by landlords to tenants during the moratorium. Chicago's COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance modifies the five-day notice requirement in some important ways.
First, landlords are required to provide a copy of the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance to their tenants along with the five-day notice. If the tenant is impacted by COVID-19 (as explained above), the tenant should notify the landlord in writing of this fact within five days of the notice.
For those affected, the five days normally provided to respond to the eviction notice is extended by seven days, for a total of twelve days to respond. During the twelve-day period, the landlord has to contact the tenant and try to work out with the tenant a plan to avoid eviction. A plan to avoid eviction could include a repayment plan, mediation or arbitration, letting the tenant use their security deposit to cover the missed rent, an agreement for the tenant to move out without the landlord getting an eviction judgment against them, or other arrangements agreed to by the landlord and tenant.
Any payment plan reached to avoid eviction must allow the tenant at least two months to repay each month of missed rent, but may allow a longer time period. For example, if a tenant has missed two months rent, the payment plan must allow the tenant at least four months to repay the rent.
Finally, while the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance does not require the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement with respect to the repayment of rent or avoidance of eviction, it does require both the landlord and tenant to negotiate in good faith. If the landlord ultimately files an eviction action and it is determined by the court that the landlord did not make a good faith attempt to resolve the issue before filing the eviction, the court must dismiss the eviction action.
If you are a tenant who has received an eviction notice or who believes you may be in danger of eviction, you should contact an attorney to help you exercise your rights under state and local law. CTM Legal Group has experienced attorneys who stand ready to assist you.