Concerns about an eviction crisis related to COVID-19 have been shared since March 2020. Now, almost 17 months into the pandemic, evictions and eviction moratoriums still remain in the headlines.
However, the conversation shifted this week. As of October 3, 2021, the moratorium on evictions in Illinois has expired.
While renters, landlords, advocates, and communities are bracing themselves for what’s next, lawyers across Illinois have been working on the legal ramifications related to the pause in evictions throughout the pandemic.
A few of those lawyers (Bob Glaves, Executive Director, The Chicago Bar Foundation; Dennericka Brooks, Director of the Housing Practice Group, Legal Aid Chicago; and attorneys from Prairie State Legal Services) took time to answer some questions about where things stand.
What’s the status of the eviction moratorium?
(Britta Johnson, Prairie State): There is currently no eviction moratorium affecting Illinois residents. The Illinois eviction moratorium ended on October 3, 2021. The national moratorium was held unconstitutional on August 26, 2021. We aren’t aware of any movement to reinstate an eviction moratorium at the state or national level.
(Bob): The Illinois moratorium on filing most new eviction cases was already lifted at the beginning of August, so new filings have been permitted for more than two months now.
The Illinois Supreme Court’s Order encouraging early resolution programs like the Early Resolution Program in Cook County (cookcountylegalaid.org) continues to permit courts to enter continuances for the parties to seek legal assistance or rental assistance.
Has there been a rise in case filings?
(Sarah Megan, Prairie State): We don’t have numbers statewide, but some courts in our service area [which includes 36 counties in northern Illinois], have reported an increase in residential eviction filings from 2-3 per week a year ago to 20-28 per week since September 1, 2021, even before the moratorium fully ended. Our rental housing cases have more than doubled over our numbers a year ago.
We will have a better grasp on the numbers after next week when we can speak to judges and clerks about the filings, since the information isn’t publicly available.
(Bob): There was a noticeable uptick in filings beginning in early August when that part of the moratorium was lifted, but to date, there hasn’t been anything approaching an avalanche that many feared could happen when the moratoriums lifted.
(Dennericka): In July there were 1,600 filings in Cook County and 2,300 in August. I think it’s important to note that eviction cases have continued to be filed during the pandemic – even with the moratorium.
Who is eligible for housing assistance?
(Gautham Kaveti, Prairie State): The Illinois Court-Based Rental Assistance Program (for residents outside of Cook County) has four requirements (view the requirements here). The application requires that the landlord participate. If the landlord refuses to participate, the eviction case may proceed, and the tenant will need to apply for local assistance to prevent their homelessness.
There is also local housing assistance available in several of our service areas, but that assistance varies city-by-city. Most communities have a 2-1-1 service that residents can call to get connected to these services.
(Dennericka): I think it’s important to note that proof of immigration status is not a requirement for assistance. The COVID requirement has also been relaxed so that the impact of COVID can be direct or indirect.
(Bob): Landlords and tenants in Chicago and suburban Cook County can get information here: chicookilrenthelp.org, and elsewhere in the state can connect to programs here: www.illinoisrentalassistance.org.
How do they apply?
(Gautham): The application is only available online at ilrpp.ihda.org. The tenant starts the application by completing some questions and submitting their supporting documents.
Then, an email will be sent to the housing provider to complete section 3 of the application and upload their supporting documents.
If a tenant or landlord has barriers to completing the online application, several housing stability servicer organizations are trained to help by calling 1-866-IL-HELP1.
(Dennericka): In the City of Chicago, residents/landlords can apply online at www.rentrelief.com/allchicago or contact one of the many agencies that have partnered with AllChicago.
For those that are in court in suburban Cook County, court-based rental assistance is coming.
(Bob): There are now court-based rental assistance programs available throughout the state for landlords and tenants who already are in court and for whatever reason may not have connected to rental assistance before an eviction was filed but can still benefit from it. Judges can refer the parties to these programs in the court case.
Are courts across Illinois executing evictions the same way?
(Dennericka): Not at all. Unfortunately, some courts have ignored the moratorium and allowed filing to proceed despite the tenancies being “covered” properties and despite there being no health and safety violations.
Here in Cook County, the sheriff has been excellent in ensuring that they don’t execute eviction orders without certain guarantees that the moratorium and general administrative orders have been followed.
(Sarah): We have found that the biggest gap in execution is in the amount of time provided to the tenant to move if an eviction judgment is entered against them.
For example, in the 10th Judicial Circuit, tenants are given five days to move, whereas in the 12th Judicial Circuit, judges typically provide 30 days.
Judges have expressed to Prairie State that guidance on this issue would be useful for uniformity, such as factors for judges to consider.
How can lawyers help community members struggling with housing and debt problems?
(Kim Thielbar, Prairie State): Prairie State has developed a robust pro bono program to specifically address the eviction surge. Volunteers contact clients and provide advice with an optional opportunity to negotiate settlements. All the work can be done remotely, and volunteers are not expected to represent clients in court if the case cannot be resolved through negotiations.
Prairie State provides all the training you need for CLE credit, you get ongoing support for any questions, as well as malpractice coverage. If you’re interested in volunteering with Prairie State, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Dennericka): Legal Aid Chicago and other firms have robust volunteer programs that provide training and support for attorneys willing to volunteer and help tenants facing eviction.
(Bob): Lawyers can volunteer to help people in these cases and can learn more about available opportunities throughout the state here: cbf.joinpaladin.com/chicago-bar-foundation/.
Lawyers can also donate to support the court partners making these early resolution programs and legal aid programs generally and can learn more about the organizations doing that work at cookcountylegalaid.org and evictionhelpillinois.org.
ABA President Reginald Turner recently issued a call to action, asking all U.S. attorneys to commit to 10 hours of pro bono work before the end of the year.
The eviction crisis is far from over and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Please take a moment to consider what you can do.
- How Are You Giving Back? Opportunities to Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2021!
- Manage Your Court’s Caseloads With the NCSC’s Eviction Diversion Tool
- Five Ways to Address the Eviction Crisis in Illinois
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