Evictions may be on hold but only for now
Loop North News

Housing
While there is a moratorium on evictions in Cook County during the shelter-in-place order, in many cases landlords can still file eviction paperwork in anticipation of Circuit Court reopening.

19-Apr-20 – While Cook County has put a moratorium on evictions during the shelter-in-place order, many are uncertain about what that means for tenants and landlords in the near and distant future.

With over 500,000 unemployment claims filed in Illinois from March 1 to April 4, and more claims filed each week, many renters are concerned about paying their rent for the next few months. Thanks to a moratorium ordered by Chief Judge Timothy Evans, tenants who are unable to pay their rent are not facing evictions in the near future.

Right now, the sheriff’s office is not enforcing eviction orders, nor is it forcing people out of properties where evictions have been ordered by the court. The office is not giving notice of forthcoming evictions to tenants. Courts are closed, for now, until May 18.

Any court dates for eviction cases during that time have been postponed, explains Charles Drennen, founder and managing attorney of Chicago Tenants Rights Law. However, Drennen points out that landlords are still able to file paperwork for evictions because e-filing is available.

Charles Drennen

Once the courts reopen, Drennen (left) predicts that court calls that were postponed will be staggered so there will not be a flood of court cases on any single day. In other words, court calls canceled in mid-March will be rescheduled first and cases later in April will be scheduled later. New cases will likely have their court calls pushed out accordingly as the court system deals with an unprecedented period of closure.

There are exceptions, thanks to the CARES Act passed at the end of March. While landlords can still file eviction cases in many situations, the CARES Act stipulates that landlords cannot begin eviction proceedings or charge fees and penalties for non-payment of rent against tenants of certain types of residences – such as Section-8 or residences with federally-backed mortgage loans – for 120 days.

Drennen’s understanding is that this means landlords with qualifying properties cannot even post a five-day notice or e-file in Cook County.

There are resources for tenants to help facilitate rental payments, such as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and COVID-19 Hardship and Help Mutual Aid programs. But it’s important to remember that landlords are also facing a crisis. Many landlords rely on rental income for income and/or paying their mortgages. Foreclosure causes all sorts of complications for landlords and tenants alike.

While the number of eviction cases may be slow now, Drennen believes there will be a pickup in cases once the courts reopen. For tenants in financial distress, Drennen recommends they remain in communication with their landlord to hopefully come to a resolution without going through the expense and hassle of eviction when the courts reopen.

For the most part, Drennen says, “the laws haven’t changed, the rules of the game have.”

• Contact Elisa Shoenberger at bowlerhatfox@gmail.com

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