Know Your Rights: Illinois and Federal Eviction Protections in Light of COVID-19

August 26, 2020

By Amy Lenz, Associate at Quarles & Brady LLP and a CARPLS Professionals Board member

“Carl” called CARPLS after he was illegally threatened with eviction from his apartment during the pandemic. The unfortunate part of this story is that if had he called CARPLS right away after service of the eviction notice, CARPLS Supervising Attorney Karla Chrobak notes, “we could have prevented the whole thing.”

This is because, in light of COVID-19, federal and state agencies have implemented eviction moratoriums, or suspensions, to prevent a homelessness crisis during the global pandemic. The filing of the complaint against Carl, which was for non-payment of rent, was in itself a clear violation. He panicked and moved out, but with CARPLS’ advice, he could have asserted this defense and the order would not have been entered.

Knowing the statutes and rules recently passed both federally and in Illinois to protect renters will help you have a better understanding of the protections available and the upcoming deadlines you may face when it comes to eviction.

What if I rent in federal housing and couldn’t pay my rent? Your landlord must give you a 30-day notice to pay rent.

What if I have a home mortgage backed by the federal government and couldn’t pay my mortgage?

CARES Act Federal Eviction Moratorium

The CARES Act passed by Congress on March 25, 2020 included nationwide relief to renters who participate in federal housing assistance programs and homeowners who own homes with federally backed mortgages.

The Act prohibited landlords of these properties from filing eviction actions against tenants who were unable to pay rent or from charging late fees due to non-payment. Foreclosures were paused for homeowners with federally backed mortgages.

However, these protections under the CARES Act expired on July 24, 2020.

The only federal protection currently in place is from the Federal Housing Finance Agency that announced it would continue to suspend foreclosures for single-family mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration until August 31, 2020.

If I couldn’t pay my federally-subsidized rent or federally-backed mortgage during the pandemic, do I still owe the money?

The CARES Act did not excuse the rent or mortgage payments. To avoid a potential eviction or foreclosure action, you need to pay what you owe. Landlords are now able to file eviction actions unless prohibited by applicable state and locality moratoriums. If you are a renter in Illinois, you are protected under Illinois’ extended moratorium until 9/20/2020. Illinois also passed new protections under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 139 and Chicago passed the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance.

What are the eviction protections in Illinois?

Illinois’ Governor J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-30 on April 23, 2020 and it is set to expire on September 20, 2020. The order prohibits landlords from filing eviction actions for the nonpayment of rent. This moratorium does not prevent landlords from filing actions against tenants they claim are a “safety threat”. With the moratorium in place, renters are safe from eviction for now, but it is important to know your rights once the moratorium expires.

So what are your protections as an Illinois renter?

If a landlord wishes to evict you, they must start by serving you with a notice of eviction. When the eviction is for the non-payment of rent, the notice must be a 5-day notice. During the five days, you may pay the rent to avoid an eviction action. If you cannot pay within those 5 days, the landlord may then file an eviction action in court.

Illinois Supreme Court 139 provides that a landlord must include the following additional documents when filing an eviction action:

  • A copy of the eviction notice or demand that was given to the tenant, or an affidavit stating under oath that a notice was given; and
  • A copy of the written lease, or an affidavit describing the terms of the lease if there is no written lease, if the eviction is due to alleged violation of the lease’s terms.

If an eviction action is entered against you and the landlord fails to file either of the above described documents, you should raise this defense with the court.

What eviction protections exist in the City of Chicago?

The Chicago City Council passed the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance to encourage Chicago landlords and tenants to encourage alternatives to eviction actions.

The Ordinance requires landlords to make a good faith effort to resolve rent payment disputes with their tenants before filing an eviction action. It is important to note that this Ordinance only applies to eviction actions filed by landlords for unpaid rent due to COVID-19. The protections do not apply to any other kind of eviction, such as an eviction due to a tenant’s safety threat or breach of another lease provision.

The Ordinance’s new procedure includes the following steps:

  1. The landlord must serve you with the standard 5-day notice for failure to pay rent. This notice must include information on your right to file a COVID-19 Impact Statement;
  2. Within the 5 day notice period, you may provide the landlord with a written “COVID-19 Impact Statement” stating you have had a COVID-19 Impact. You may explain that the following COVID-19 impacts have occurred for you or another household member:
    1. You or another household member has been laid-off of work;
    2. You or another household member has had a reduction in work hours;
    3. You or another household member has had to isolate or quarantine because of a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure;
    4. You or another household member has had to care for someone affected by COVID-19.
  3. Upon receipt of your COVID-19 Impact Statement, the landlord must extend the notice period for an additional seven days and must contact you to work out a plan, in good faith, to avoid eviction. Any repayment plan entered into must give you at least two months to re-pay each month of missed rent.

If your landlord proceeds with an eviction action without notifying you of your right to provide an Impact Statement or, upon receipt of an Impact Statement, the landlord does not attempt to settle in good faith, you may use this failure as a defense and the court must dismiss the eviction action.

The Chicago Ordinance does not excuse the payment of rent and any unpaid rent must be repaid or accounted for in an agreement with the landlord to avoid an eviction action.

Have Questions About a Possible Eviction?

Changes to eviction actions are happening quickly and depending on where you live, your rights may be different. If you are facing eviction or have questions as to whether you are protected under the Chicago, Illinois or federal eviction moratoriums or statutes, please contact the CARPLS hotline at (312) 738-9200 for access to free legal services in Cook county.

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