COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Residential Eviction Update

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COVID Rules for Residential Evictions

RESIDENTIAL EVICTION UPDATE – August 27, 2021 – SCOTUS weighs in.

Finally, some clarity to the situation by the source least expected – the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”).   It has been a tortured road for Landlords during the COVID-19 Pandemic as the story is told in this blog.  Basically, SCOTUS ruled that the eviction moratorium mandated by the CDC exceeded it’s authority under the law.   The justices divided along party lines, with the court’s three liberal justices dissenting from the unsigned eight-page decision.  Landlords are now allowed to start evicting millions of Americans who are behind on rent because of the Pandemic.

This was a temporary ruling and only deals with whether the moratorium should continue on a temporary basis while the lower courts thoroughly consider the the underlying challenge.  The CDC’s moratorium was set to expire October, so this ruling deals with the situation while the legal fight continues over the moratorium, leaving Landlords and Tenants at odds over rent payments and evictions.

But the bottom line is that Landlords can now start eviciton proceedings which had been stayed.   This ruling will not mean any immediate evictions, but it allows Landlords to start the eviction process.  But don’t expect any immediate evictions.  The rubber will meet the road at the Sheriff’s Office.  In Cook County the Sheriff’s Office had suspended enforcement of residential evictions – except for emergency orders from the court – due to the the Governor’s Executive Order staying evicitons.  The Sheriff’s Office will be inundated with eviction orders and it will take time to process all of the eviction orders which have been stayed over the past 18 months.

The Cook County Sheriff has published a guide for Landlords on eviction procedures, and this is certain to be modified shortly.   Landlords should be consulting with their attorneys about the local procedures for evictions.    The courts in Cook County have set up an Early Resolution Program in which trained mediators help resolve the rent payment issues to the benefit of both the Landlord and Tenants.

Tenants should be loooking for rental assistance programs such as the one established by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.  See: https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org/   This website also shows other resources available to assist with the payment of rent and utilities.   Additional rental assistance and legal aid can be found at EvictionHelpIllinois.org or call 855-631-0811.

Landlords are well advised to provide delinquent tenants with info about the financial assistance programs since rent could have been paid directly to the Landlord.

RESIDENTIAL EVICTION UPDATE – August 13, 2021

Landlords are getting screwed again.   The CDC issued a new eviction moratorium through October 3, 2021 but only in ares of  “Substantial” COVID transmissions.  The new CDC order essentially carries over the protections and requirements from the previous Order.  A CDC hardship declaration form submitted by a tenant under the previous order will apply under the new order.

You can track whether your community is one of the areas of “substantial risk” thru the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker at: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.   As of August 5, Cook County is an area of “substantial risk” so the moratorium applies to Cook County, Illinois.

Landlord can file eviction actions  against “non-covered persons” as they have been always been defined by both the State of Illinois and the federal government  against any resident who returns a signed Declaration to the landlord.  EMERGENCY EVICTIONS are still allowed if a landlord can prove the resident is a threat to the security or safety of other residents or the Building.   If landlords do file for an eviciton, they must include a Declaration which is available at: https://halc.org/download/Tenant-Declaration-Forms.pdf

RESIDENTIAL EVICTION UPDATE – July 18, 2021

The Illinois Supreme Court ordered an amendment to Order M.R. 30370 concerning residential evictions.  The Order can be viewed here.

Eviction filings will be allowed to resume on August 1, 2021.  During the one -month period until September 1, judges will refer newly filed cases to State programs providing financial assistance to landlords and tenants.   On September 1, all restrictions will be lifted.

UPDATED June 28, 2021

Last week the residential eviction moratorium was again extended to July 31.  There is no end in sight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) extended the evictions moratorium from June 30 until July 31 but said that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”  (See: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s0624-eviction-moratorium.html)

The courts and the sheriff’s offices will be busy next month.

UPDATED May 10, 2021

The largest landlords in the US received letters from the  Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) reminding the landlords that the COVID-19-related eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has been exttended until June 30, 2021, and that the CFPB has issued an interim final rule establishing new notice requirements under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).

The letters ask the landlords to review their practices to ensure that they comply with the CDC moratorium, the FTC Act, the FDCPA and the CFPB’s interim final rule.  The CFPB interim final rule requires debt collectors to provide to tenants who may have rights under the eviction moratorium a written notice of those rights concurrent with an eviction notice or on the date that an eviction action is filed, and clarifies that notice given over the phone or by electronic means such as text or email is insufficient.  The FTC and CFPB’s letters came just two days before a federal judge struck down the moratorium as an excessive exercise of power by the CDC, a decision that the judge temporarily put on hold pending additional filings.

UPDATED APRIL 7, 2021

The Illinois Supreme Court issued an order this week creating stronger protection for tenants in need of rent relief due to the pandemic and making it more difficult for landlord to obtain an eviciton.

Landlords seeking to challenge the eviction moratorium have to declare the legal and factual basis for the challenge.  The Illinois Supreme Court issued an order in December 2020 relating to the eviction moratorium that outlines the process for landlords to challenge a tenant’s declaration under the order.  The order was It amended in February and again on Tuesday.   The Illinois Supreme Court’s latest order of April 6 states that landlords must identify “with specificity the legal or factual basis…for any such challenge.”  It also states directly that the “burden to sustain such a challenge remains at all times with the plaintiff/landlord.”  THIS MAKES IT HARDER FOR LANDLORDS TO GET RELIEF.

And …. Illinois Governor Pritzker reissued another eviction moratorium executive order last week, extending rent relief to tenants who are unable to pay due to economic hardship through May 1.  If you are a tenant facing eviction, go to https://covidhelpillinois.org/ for additional information and resources.

UPDATED MARCH 23, 2021 FOR COOK COUNTY

The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County issued an Amendment to General Administration Order 2020-7 and some highlights are:

– bans all residential evictions unless the Judge finds that compelling circumstances require an immediate eviction and the Sheriff is prohibited from conducting any evictions unless specific instructions are given by the Judge;

– Civil Jury trials may not scheduled until at least May 3, 2021 (but it is doubtful that any civil jury trials will be allowed to start at that time);

– requires all civil proceedings to be conducted remotely by videoconferencing unless the trial judge determines that extradordinary proceedings should be held in person;

– all court personnel shall work remotely;

– anyone coming into the court houses must wear masks;

– marriages must be arranged by appointment only;

The bottom line:  We are still in state of pandemic and the courts in Cook County are operating under the emergency orders.

UPDATED JANUARY 17, 2021 FOR COOK COUNTY

The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County issued another Administrative Order affecting the status of all cases, including eviction cases.

An Early Resolution Program is available for all eviction and consumer debt cases filed after March 20, 2020.  Services available under the ERP will include brief legal services (legal screenings, legal information and advice, settlement negotiation, referrals for extended representation, drafting assistance), conflict resolution (mediation and negotiation assistance), and/or financial assistance (applying for emergency rental funds, mortgage relief, financial counseling, or other financial assistance). The services that are directly needed by a case will depend on the facts and circumstances in each specific case. Services are available for landlords, tenants, and debtors by calling 1-855-956-5763 or visiting cookcountylegalaid.org.

UPDATED DECEMBER 22, 2020:

The COVID-19 Pandemic has drastically altered the rules for Residential Evictions affecting both landlords and tenants.  The recent Stay-At-Home recommendations and the slowdown in the economy have created pressures on both landlord and tenants.

Commercial Evictions are not subject to these new rules.

The Federal Government and the State of Illinois have enacted rules tthat strictly govern residential evictions and landlords must be aware of the rules to protect their interests.   

On December 22 the Illinois Supreme Court stepped into the discussion and issued an Order which will affect the procedures for the filing of a residential eviction.  See: Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19 Emergency Residential Eviction Proceedings, Order # M.R. 30370.   This Order describes a process for every eviction action and requires a certification form that all landlords (residential and commercial) must submit with any eviction complaint filed until the moratorium ends.  Before the case is accepted a judge must review the filings and if the filings do not satisfy the requirements of the Order, the case will be dismissed, the court file will be sealed, and any future refiling fee will be waived.  This is intended to avoid erroneous filings and allows landlords to correct any errors by permitting them to refile without incurring additional court costs.   The Order and the Certification Form are available online here.

The Illinois Eviction Moratorium was first enacted in March and most recently extended on November 13 by Executive Order 2020-72 extends the residential eviction prohibition, including the Federal Order requirements regarding “covered persons” and adding an additional requirement of mandating that the Economic Hardship Declaration form be given by Illinois landlords to all tenants PRIOR to serving any notice terminating tenancy.  This broadens the scope of the order from mere demands for unpaid rent to any notices “terminating tenancy.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a formal Agency Order on September 4 halting evictions thru the end of the year.   See: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/04/2020-19654/temporary-halt-in-residential-evictions-to-prevent-the-further-spread-of-covid-19   For FAQs about the federal order see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/eviction-moratoria-order-faqs.pdf   The CDC Order includes the requirement of a Declaration signed by the Tenant to avoid eviction.

Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-72 protects tenants who have experienced economic hardship due to COVID-19 and will not earn more than $99,000 in 2020 ($198,000 for a married couple).  To get protected, tenants must submit a Declaration to their landlord stating that they have experienced an economic hardship. 

The Declaration is available at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf  

NOTE TO LANDLORDS: the Landlord must give the form of the Declaration to the Tenant prior to the service of the Five-Day Notice.

For additional FAQs about the Rental Relief Program go to: https://df7qosnywqs6g.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/FAQ-Eviction-EO-11.13.20-FINAL.pdf