What Does the Chicago Emergency Travel Order Mean for Apartment Landlords and Renters?

Before the novel Coronavirus reached Chicago, a landlord’s public health dilemmas were somewhat mundane, like whether to allow smoking or pets (other than service animals) on the premises.  Today, as landlords try to adopt safe practices to protect tenants from the transmission of the virus on their properties, they must consider their role, if any, in enforcing state and local orders designed to flatten the curve.  
An Emergency Travel Order was issued by the City of Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner over the July 4th Independence Day weekend to help the city combat the spread of Coronavirus. The order addresses travelers entering or returning to Chicago from certain states experiencing a surge of new COVID-19 cases and directs them to quarantine for a 14-day period. The order "shall remain in effect until the Commissioner makes a written determination that the threat to public health posed by COVID-19 has diminished to the point that this Order can be safely repealed." How will this impact renters who are moving from a state that has high case numbers of COVID-19?
The order to self-quarantine brings up a raft of questions for travelers and apartment renters alike. This post will address some of the most pressing questions from both the landlord’s and apartment renter’s perspectives.

Which States are on the List for Chicago’s Emergency Travel Order?

Travelers coming to Illinois from states with high rates of daily infections per 100K residents are directed to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. The order went into effect for Chicago on July 6, 2020. The list is subject to change based on how states are managing their infection counts. As of October 13, the states covered by the order include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa 
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Some of the states on the list share a border with Illinois, so there’s probably a fair number of Chicago residents, both new and longstanding, who need to quarantine if they’ve just returned from a visit to one of these nearby or bordering states. Other recent transplants, such as college graduates or people moving to Chicago for work, may have to isolate for 14 days as they leave their home state to start anew in Chicago.

Are There Exceptions from the Self-Quarantine Order in Chicago?

Essential workers are exempt from the order. If an essential worker has traveled to one of the hard-hit states for the purposes of their job, then they are exempt from the 14-day quarantine rule. There are also exceptions for people traveling for medical care or parental shared custody.

What Penalties Do People Face if They Violate Chicago’s Self-Quarantine Order for Travelers?

The order states: "Any person who violates this Order shall be subject to applicable penalties provided by law." People found in violation of the order can face fines of $100 - $500 per day, up to $7,000, according to the City of Chicago's website.

How Can Landlords Enforce the Self-Quarantine Order in Chicago Apartments?

Most apartment leases require tenants to follow federal, state, and local law. In fact, paragraph 5 of Domu’s form lease requires tenants to “comply with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations while occupying the Premises,” and further confirms that tenants “shall not engage in any action, or allow any guests or invitees to engage in any action, that would be dangerous to life, limb, or property, cause a disturbance to other tenants or neighbors . . .”

If a landlord has used Domu’s lease, or a lease that similarly forbids tenants from endangering the lives of others, a landlord could enforce public health rules like mandating masks in public areas, limiting the number of guests a tenant might invite into the building at any particular time, or even forbidding guests who are subject to the recent self-quarantine order.

Most Chicago landlords are actively communicating with their tenants about their efforts to contain the virus on the property. In addition to notifying tenants of upgraded schedules for disinfection of high-touch surfaces, landlords could further reassure tenants by attempting to enforce the self-quarantine order. For example, landlords could notify tenants that visitors from the designated states must self-quarantine before using common areas (to the extent possible), and landlords could adopt a virtual-tours only policy for potential renters who are subject to the self-quarantine order.

For more information, renters and landlords are encouraged to visit the City of Chicago’s website or the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website for Coronavirus resources.