Three weeks ago, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention extended the eviction moratorium throughout October 2021 for areas of the country within high transmission of COVID-19 virus. However, locally, despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout the country, legal battles continue as courts challenge the legality of the extension.
The eviction moratorium provides protections for tenants by barring landlords from removing tenants while the moratorium is in effect. However, while it prevents law enforcement from removing tenants, the moratorium is time-limited. In addition, it does not resolve the issue of back pay rent that tenants may still owe to their landlord. Today, nearly 6.4 million US households (about 15 percent of all renters) now cumulatively owe more than $21.3 billion in back rent, according to an estimate by the National Equity Atlas created by PolicyLink.
While the federal eviction moratorium is effective through October, the Illinois eviction moratorium expires on August 31, 2021. Therefore, eviction orders were permitted to be filed starting August 1.
While many states have created Emergency Rental Assistance programs, disbursement of these funds is often contingent upon the landlord completing the required paperwork. The moratorium also does not restrict landlords from filing eviction paperwork with local courts, so technically, the eviction process can start, even with the moratorium in place. In light of the various moratoriums and local protections, tenants are encouraged to know their local laws to prevent illegal evictions. For example, in Chicago, it is illegal for landlords to conduct lockouts. Chicago residents can call the Chicago Renter’s Right Hotline at (312) 742-7368 or discuss their case with an attorney at Legal Aid Chicago. Free legal help is also available through Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt, and legal assistance for all Illinois residents can be found at Illinois Legal Aid.
While the future of the Eviction Moratorium is unclear, Illinois continues to provide rental assistance through the following organizations:
- Illinois Department of Human Services: offers rental assistance to tenants by connecting them to participating agencies who can assist with the application process.
- Connections for the Homeless: provides rental, mortgage, and utility payment assistance for suburban Cook County residents (based in Evanston, IL).
- Illinois Housing Development Authority: while tenant-led rental assistance applications are currently closed, current applicants can check their status, download additional documents, and review rental assistance guidelines. Homeowners’ assistance is expected to be available through the American Rescue Plan Act within the next few weeks.
Chante’ Gamby is a writer passionate about social justice and empowering others to live their healthiest lives. You can follow her on Facebook at Fringefam, Instagram@fringegram, or on her website, www.fringefam.com.