The coronavirus pandemic has caused many businesses to be closed and consequently many renters may not have been able to keep up with their monthly rent because of job loss. What is the law on landlords evicting residential tenants for rent defaults during this reign of COVID?
Two sets of laws temporarily limit evictions of residential tenants: one federal and one from the state of Illinois.
The CARES act passed by Congress in March put a halt until July 26 on the filing of eviction suits for non-payment of rent by landlords on residences that are either federally subsidized on rents or have mortgages that are federally insured. Under CARES, the landlords of those properties must give a 30-day notice of the nonpayment of rent before the landlord can sue to evict. Such notice cannot be given until after July 25. Landlords cannot charge late fees that may have otherwise been incurred during the moratorium period ending July 25.
Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency orders issued since March 9, landlords are barred from filing suits to evict residential tenants unless it is for a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants, an immediate and severe risk to property, or a violation of any applicable building code, health ordinance or similar regulation. The Illinois eviction suit moratorium is thus broader than the federal as Illinois’ covered any leased residence whether or not it is federally subsidized or has a federally insured mortgage on it.
Gone but not forgotten
The purpose of both the federal and the Illinois moratoriums is to prevent a tidal wave of evictions for nonpayment of rent, which would otherwise create a flood of homeless persons in addition to profoundly increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
Under both federal and state moratoriums, the obligation to pay rent that became past due is not eliminated. In response to that issue, the Illinois Housing and Development Authority will launch in August the Emergency Rental Assistance Program running to the end of the year.
Grants of $5,000 in the program will provide emergency rental assistance to Illinois tenants who were unable to pay their rent. The state eviction lawsuit moratorium is also set to expire July 26, but the Governor’s office has announced the moratorium will be extended through July 31 to provide a smooth transition into the assistance program.
Get in line
Renters who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic will be prioritized in the grants. Eligible tenants must carry an unpaid rent balance from March through present day and certify that the reason they were unable to pay rent was due to a COVID-19 related loss of income on or after March 1, 2020. The assistance will be paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant, and as a condition of accepting the assistance the landlord must agree not to evict the tenant for the duration of the program. Assistance will be on a first-come, first-approved basis until the funds are exhausted.
Money to assist payment of back rent may also be available from local government entities such as county regional planning commissions and other funding sources. Renters should contact their local housing authorities to see what’s available. Veterans may also get rent assistance through Supportive Services for Veteran Families program.
Let the levee sandbagging begin.