City of Chicago Reminds Renters of Available Resources as the State Moratorium on COVID-19 Related Evictions Ends
From direct payments to free legal services, the City is working to prevent evictions due to pandemic-related shutdowns
The State of Illinois recently announced a step-down in protections for renters ahead of the end of the moratorium on evictions related to COVID-19 shutdowns which will end on August 30 and a plan to stay evictions for renters who have applied for rental assistance in order to give the organizations the opportunity to distribute the funds. Under the step-down plan, landlords will be able to file eviction proceedings starting August 1 on renters covered under the moratorium. Enforcement of the filing would not begin until the end of the moratorium on August 30. As these changes begin, the City of Chicago is reminding renters there are resources available to help them avoid housing instability stemming from shutdowns established to prevent the further spread of COVID-19..
"As this moratorium approaches its end, it is imperative that we remind our residents of the range of rental supports we still have in place to ensure they are able to stay in their homes," said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "After all, we still have a ways to go before we can officially turn the page on COVID-19—meaning that until and well after that day comes, we have a responsibility to protect and uplift residents who are struggling to make ends meet. I strongly encourage any of our renters who are still facing challenges with paying their rent to tap into the multitude of resources we have available and get the relief they deserve."
Direct Financial Assistance
The Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) closed applications on its latest round of direct financial assistance to impacted renters on June 15 after receiving over 26,000 applications. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) is providing up to 15 months of rental payments, 12 months of past due payments and three months of future payments, along with utility payment assistance. DOH is currently processing applications and distributing funds. While the evection moratorium will end in August, the Illinois Supreme Court also plans to place a 30-day stay on fillings for those tenants who have applied for emergency rental assistance under one of the programs administered by the City, State, or County. DOH is planning to open applications for a fourth round of direct rental assistance payments in the Fall.
The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) operates a Rental Assistance Program (RAP) that provides short-term financial assistance for rent, utilities, arrears, and other costs related to housing stability. In addition to financial assistance, households receive housing stability case management focused on budgeting and resolving issues that contributed to the initial housing crisis. Residents can visit any of the six Community Service Centers listed at www.chicago.gov/fss to apply.
“Through direct financial assistance, new legislation, and extensive partnerships, we are working to prevent a crisis similar to 2008,” said DOH Commissioner Marisa Novara. “Our efforts are designed to keep renters safely housed and landlords solvent now, as we work on new initiatives that will further protect renters and prevent evictions in the future.”
The COVID-19 Evictions Protection Ordinance requires landlords filing evictions due to nonpayment of rent against tenants who have coronavirus-related financial hardships, to wait for a seven-day “cooling-off” period in addition to the regular five-day notice period. After the “cooling-off” period, landlords must show the court that they have engaged in good faith efforts to reach a reasonable alternative to eviction, including mediation, payment plans or other options before an eviction can proceed.
Under the Fair Notice Act passed by City Council in May 2020, tenants have the right to cure a default by repaying past due rent in full along with filing fees and costs incurred by the landlord, until a judgment order has been ruled.
Free Mediation and Legal Assistance
Last year, DOH implemented a comprehensive #KnowYourRights campaign to inform renters of their rights when it comes to illegal evictions and lockouts. Under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (Municipal Code Section 5-12-160), lockouts, which include actions such as changing locks, blocking entrances, removing doors and windows, utility shutoffs, removing personal property, and any other act that makes the property inaccessible or uninhabitable, are illegal. Through a partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, renters can receive free legal and mitigation assistance to prevent being evicted. The hotline, Rentervention, is free and confidential, and tenants can call 312-347-7600, visit rentervention.com or text “hi” to 866-7RENTER (866-773-6837) to start a conversation with Renny, Rentervention’s bot.
Additionally, earlier this year, DOH also worked with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to establish a new lockout code for illegal lockouts and all 911 operators were trained on the protocol to ensure that officers have the proper response to prevent vulnerable residents from being locked out of their homes. In addition to assigning a unit, dispatchers also notify other support services (i.e., emergency medical, shelter, etc.,) or field units as the situation dictates.
The Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) also works to help minimize the number of post-pandemic evictions. For the past 40 years, CCR has been providing free mediation services to parents, families, youth, schools, landlords, tenants, religious institutions, and others. Each year, CCR conducts nearly 1,600 mediations across the City and County, including over 200 eviction-related mediations largely referred by the courts. In the last 10 years, 63% of CCR eviction mediations have resulted in settlements between landlords and tenants. A court case is not required to access mediation. Clients can also self-refer outside of the court process. Contact CCR’s case management team at 312-922-6464, ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to open a mediation case.
The Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) is a county-wide initiative to help resolve eviction, foreclosure, consumer debt, and tax deed issues. Its Early Resolution Program (ERP) provides free legal aid, mediation services, and connections to other resources including rental assistance for tenants and landlords dealing with evictions, property owners who are behind on their mortgage payments or property taxes, and creditors and debtors with issues related to consumer debt. Visit www.cookcountylegalaid.org or call (855) 956-5763 to find out more information and receive help.
To further promote housing stability across Chicago, the City with the Polk Bros. and the United Way is establishing a new Housing Stability Community Response Team to prioritize support for residents to mitigate and prevent a significant increase in evictions due to the end of state and federal moratoriums. This team, modeled after Chicago’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, convened to deliver hyper-local information, education and resources to Black and Brown communities which are disproportionately impacted in both cases and deaths, by COVID-19, will include city leaders, community leaders, housing experts, and other key stakeholders who will prioritize racial equity within the eviction prevention work already established by DOH and the City.
In March 2020, DOH opened its first rental assistance program funded with $2 million from its Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund (AHOF) providing 2,000 one-time grants in the amount of $1,000 to assist renters. The department received over 83,000 applications for this first round demonstrating the deep need across the city, a need that has only increased over the past year. A second round, the Chicago Housing Assistance program, launched with DFSS supported by funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Chicago’s philanthropic community. Through this second round, DOH and DFSS provided over $33 million in assistance to over 10,000 households. For more information about programs and services available from DOH, visit www.chicago.gov/housing.
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