Know Your Rights: COVID 19 Eviction Protection Ordinance
Updated Nov. 17, 2020
Chicago residential tenants who have lost income as a direct or indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic should notify their landlords in writing within five days of receiving an eviction notice in order to further protect themselves from eviction.
This written notification can take place through letter, email or text message. A text message to the landlord as simple as “I have been unable to pay rent because I have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic” will suffice. A more formal template is available below.
State and Local Requirements
On Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced an extension to the statewide moratorium on evictions now in effect through Dec. 12, 2020. This extension prohibits landlords from initiating eviction procedures against tenants unless they pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants or an immediate and severe risk to the property.
To qualify for the moratorium, tenants must:
- Earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or $198,000 if filing jointly);
- Be unable to make a full rent or housing payment due to a COVID-19 related hardship including, but not limited to, substantial loss of income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, or an increase in out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Be using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other non-discretionary expenses; and
- Eviction would likely render them homeless—or force them to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting—because they have no other available housing options. The moratorium does not relieve any obligation to pay rent and tenants will be required to pay all unpaid rental payments.
The moratorium does not relieve any obligation to pay rent and tenants will be required to pay all unpaid rental payments.
When the moratorium period ends, Illinois landlords can again file for eviction due to non-payment of rent. Typically, a tenant has five days to respond to a notice of a landlord’s intent to file for eviction. In June 2020, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot signed the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance, which extends that period another seven days for a total of 12 days, if the tenant writes the landlord stating that they have had a “COVID-19 Impact.”
A COVID-19 Impact can be claimed when a tenant or another household member:
- Is laid-off from work
- Has their hours at work reduced
- Has to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19 diagnosis or possible exposure
- Has to care for someone else affected by COVID-19
By City ordinance, during the 12-day period, the landlord has to contact the tenant and try to work out with the tenant a plan to avoid eviction. A plan to avoid eviction could include a repayment plan, mediation or arbitration, letting the tenant use their security deposit to cover the missed rent, an agreement for the tenant to move out without the landlord getting an eviction judgment against them, or other arrangements agreed to by the landlord and tenant.
The ordinance also requires that a repayment plan must give a tenant at least two months to re-pay each month of missed rent, but the landlord and tenant can agree to more time if they choose. The ordinance also determines what kind of interest and fees a landlord can charge on missed rent, how a tenant can show the landlord proof of a COVID-19 Impact, and what happens if the landlord and tenant decide to use the security deposit.
The ordinance does not require that the landlord and tenant reach an agreement, but that they make a good faith effort to do so. If a landlord does not use good faith to try and work out an arrangement with the tenant, but files an eviction case anyway, the court must dismiss the eviction case.