June 3, 2020 Landlord Advice

Extended Stay-At-Home Order Halts Eviction Filings in Illinois

UPDATE July 2, 2020: Eviction filings will be on hold in the state of Illinois through at least July 26, 2020 according to a recent announcement from the office of Governor J.B. Pritzker. Landlords were not permitted to file eviction cases through the end of June according to COVID-19 Executive Order no. 37, which reissued the previously announced Executive Order 2020-30. This Order deals with residential eviction filings and enforcement for the state of Illinois.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker extended a stay-at-home order through the end of May 2020 in an effort to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus within the state. Executive Order 2020-10 was originally announced March 20, 2020 and was set to expire on April 30, 2020. The initial order required all non-essential businesses to cease activity (except for operations that could be performed from the homes of employees and contractors). Of particular note to Chicago landlords is Section Two of the Executive Order, which ordered law enforcement officers to cease enforcement of eviction orders throughout the duration of the stay-at-home period. That same provision clarified, however, that the Order did not relieve any individual of his or her obligation to make rent payments, and it did not preclude landlords from initiating an eviction process through filing court papers. 

Governor Pritzker’s extended stay-at-home order further constrains the ability of landlords to evict tenants. Specifically, it states that no new eviction proceedings can be filed through June 27, 2020. Eviction is a multi-step process that begins with a five-day notice served on a tenant, followed by filings and procedures. Chicago City Council approved a COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance in its mid-June legislative session. This new ordinance requires that landlords extend a seven-day "cooling off" period if tenants respond to the five-day notice with a Tenant Notice and can prove unpaid rent stems from financial losses that are cauesd by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The Order clearly intends to prevent conditions leading to a loss of shelter, even as it protects landlords by requiring tenants to pay rent and providing exceptions to the general rule. For example, landlords may file eviction proceedings if “a tenant poses 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.”

In case landlords are thinking about performing a DIY eviction, here’s the deal: don’t do it. Lockouts are illegal in Chicago apartments. Chicago’s landlord-tenant law also heavily favors tenants in cases of retaliatory conduct. Landlords may end up in a heap of legal trouble if they even hint that they’re willing to circumvent the eviction moratorium for the month of May. Expensive fines and legal fees await landlords who attempt to perform self-help evictions in Chicago.

Apartments and real estate were exempted from the governor’s stay-at-home order as essential business operations. The maintenance, cleaning, and leasing of apartments was allowed to continue because these are vital functions in the lives of Illinois residents -- landlords are responsible for providing safe living conditions for tenants in a collective effort to stem the spread of Coronavirus. 

Kicking tenants out of their homes in the midst of a public health crisis isn’t merely bad PR for landlords, it’s a counterproductive move that may end up with dire consequences. Domu isn’t a law firm and doesn’t offer legal advice.