By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – While the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a federal eviction moratorium on Aug. 26, a recently-extended state stay on residential eviction enforcement remains in effect at least until Sept. 18.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority in issuing the federal moratorium, and a future extension of the moratorium would have to come from Congress. But the order does not affect a state’s ability to initiate such a moratorium, which is what Illinois has done.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed that extension Aug. 20, when he issued his latest 30-day disaster declaration, a practice he has done monthly since March 2020. The moratorium cannot exceed the length of the 30-day declaration, so it is possible it gets extended again when it comes time for the governor to issue another 30-day declaration in September.
As it stands now, law enforcement agencies “are instructed to cease enforcement of orders of eviction for residential premises entered against a Covered Person, unless that person has been found to pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants or an immediate and severe risk to property,” per the order.
Covered persons include those who expect to earn less than $99,000 individually or $198,000 in a joint filing household, if they’ve experienced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tenant must also certify they are making “best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment” as “circumstances permit.”
Any covered person must submit a declaration form through the Illinois Housing Development Authority certifying that they fit the categories within the order. The most recent order gave landlords the authority to challenge such a declaration.
Evictions are allowed in cases initiated prior to March 2020 and for health and safety reasons.
The state has made rental assistance available through money it received from various federal stimulus packages. Thus far, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority, 98,806 applications have been received, and 26,434 have been funded for a total of nearly $228.5 million.
While the IHDA portal has closed, rental assistance may still be available through certain providers coordinated by the Illinois Department of Human Services at illinoisrentalassistance.org/providers. Information is available at that website based on the applicant’s region.
Tenants seeking legal help can receive free assistance through Eviction Help Illinois by visiting https://evictionhelpillinois.org/ or by calling 855-631-0811.
While the governor’s order halts eviction enforcement for covered persons, an Illinois Supreme Court order allows for filings in evictions cases but temporarily stays all judgments and trials on eviction cases pertaining to covered persons. The court has not yet extended this “triage” period for evictions cases, which is set to expire Sept. 1.
For the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance, which is an alliance of several small Chicagoland area property owner groups, allowing for the cases to move forward is a step in the right direction.
“Just because we can evict doesn’t mean we want to,” Michael Glasser, president of the NBOA, said in a news release. “Housing providers don’t want to go through the long and painful legal process of eviction, especially when they have the opportunity to receive rental assistance. However, having the ability to evict is an important tool. Often, invoking the eviction process brings a tenant to the table, resulting in productive negotiations.”
One issue facing housing providers, according to the NBOA, is the fact that assistance is available only to current tenants at the time of filing. So if someone didn’t pay rent for several months but moved out prior to filing a declaration, a landlord could not apply for assistance for that tenant.
As well, a poll of NBOA members showed that for the applications filled out by landlords, about a third of them did not receive confirmation by tenants.
Other landlord groups have warned that while the governor’s order protects those earning up to $99,000, assistance is available to only those earning 80 percent of the Area Median Income, which equates to $38,000-$52,000 depending on the region.
The NBOA also noted cases often take months to come to a final eviction decision, so the eviction enforcement the current moratorium is halting would likely not occur for months anyway.
Bob Palmer, policy director of Housing Action Illinois, said his affordable housing advocacy organization is lobbying for an extension of the Supreme Court’s triage period. But even if it expires after Sept. 1 as is scheduled, he’s not expecting a wave of judgments.
“So I wouldn't expect that in the worst case scenario from our perspective – that is, the Supreme Court just quits the order, just lets the order expire – that on Sept. 2, you know, there would be a wave of eviction orders filed to be enforced by the sheriff the next day or within a week or something. I think it'll be slower than that,” he said.
Several county courts are providing mediation services for renters and landlords in eviction proceedings, Palmer said, noting that the pending September launch of a court-based rental assistance program is another reason to extend current orders.
(Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.)