Illinois' Eviction Moratorium Explained
Below is a transcript of a video presentation prepared by our housing lawyer, Charlie Isaacs. To watch the video, click here.
Illinois’ New Eviction Moratorium Explained
Hi, I’m Charlie Isaacs, I’m a housing lawyer at Uptown People’s Law Center, and I’m here to talk you through the changes to the statewide eviction moratorium.
To put it briefly: The new moratorium prohibits evictions from getting filed against renters if you submit a form swearing that you meet all 4 of the following criteria:
- You expect to make under $99 thousand this year,
- You fell behind on rent due to COVID-19,
- You’ve made best efforts to pay rent, and
- You’re at risk of homelessness if you lose your home.
- You can easily find the form at IHDA.org or rentervention.com.
I know that’s a lot to take in. I’m going to explain all of this to you.
Eviction Notice - Eviction Action (filing) - Eviction Order - Eviction by the Sheriff
Before I explain the changes, I want to remind you that evictions aren’t single events. Before someone can be actually removed from their home, the landlord has to give them a 5-day notice (basically, a chance to pay up in 5 days), file an eviction action in court after those 5 days expire, and get the judge to grant an eviction order. This is also a good moment to remind you that your landlord cannot be the one that removes you. Only someone from the Office of the Sheriff of Cook County can.
PREVIOUSLY: No Evictions Except for Emergencies
First, let’s take a step back so we understand what’s changed. For the past several months, Governor Pritzker has been renewing and extending a 30-day ban on eviction filings and eviction enforcement to protect people from losing their homes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The only exception was when the renter posed a direct threat to the health and safety of others, or an immediate and severe risk to property. So basically, no evictions except for emergencies.
Nov 13 - Dec 12: Narrowed
But on November 13, the eviction moratorium got narrowed. It’s still a 30-day order like the others, but it doesn’t work the same way.
(1) Limited Eligibility (2) Submit a Declaration (3) Landlord Must Provide Declaration
The new moratorium has three key changes: First, only certain renters are eligible for protection from eviction filings. Protection against eviction enforcement is still the same -- no enforcement of evictions unless the renter is a direct threat and immediate risk to the building. Second, eligible renters need to submit a “declaration” that basically says, “I am eligible for protection and I swear to it!” Third, if you haven’t submitted a declaration and your landlord wants to file an eviction, the landlord first needs to give you a copy of the declaration to give you a chance to submit it.
Okay so let’s go through each one of these.
(1) Limited Eligibility
This is the first key change: instead of shielding all renters, the moratorium only shields renters who qualify as a “covered person”. To be eligible, you have to meet all four of the following criteria:
- You expect to make no more than $99 thousand in 2020, or $198 thousand if you file as a couple; OR you received a stimulus check; OR you were not required to report your income in 2019 to the IRS.
- You fell behind on rent due to COVID-19 because you lost a job, lost hours, lost wages, or had higher expenses related to the pandemic.
- You are doing your best to pay rent, even if it’s partial payments, taking into consideration the costs of your necessities. Those costs include food, winter clothing, medicine, utilities, phone or internet, child care, school supplies, and transportation costs including car payments and insurance.
- You are at risk of homelessness or doubling up in a shared housing facility, like a shelter, if you lose your home.
Those are the four criteria. I know some of that is confusing. This is very new. Housing lawyers are working to find out more information. The best thing you can do if you’re not sure if you qualify is to contact a tenants’ lawyer and ask.
But let’s say you review these four criteria and you believe you qualify for protection. What’s next? This is the second really big change under the new order.
(2) Submit a Declaration
Now, instead of protection being automatic, Illinois requires you to sign and submit a form to the landlord, called a “Declaration.” The declaration basically says that you meet the four criteria I just described, and that you’re telling the truth.
This is really important: by signing the form, you do so under what the law refers to as “penalty of perjury”. Just like if you were to lie about something on a witness stand in court, if you lie on this form, you could be fined or even imprisoned. It can be used against you in court. Again, if you aren’t sure if you qualify, ask a lawyer for help. But unfortunately, I know this is hard to hear, you should not sign the form if you don’t qualify-- you could get in serious legal trouble.
I also want to just make you aware of one risk to consider: Signing the declaration might make it easier for the landlord to prove that you owe them rent. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sign, especially if you’re at a high risk of eviction and your priority is to not lose your home right now. If you have any questions, reach out to a housing lawyer to walk you through it.
But if you do sign and submit the form, and you are being truthful, then unless you’re a direct threat and immediate risk to the building, the eviction moratorium will protect you from an eviction filing in court.
But how do you find this form, you might be wondering?
Here are the two easiest places to find the form.
Second, you can go to rentervention.com. This website will generate a form for you to give to your landlord.
Now let’s say that you forget about the form and now you’re at risk of an eviction. This leads me to the final really big change with the new eviction moratorium:
(3) Landlord Must Provide Declaration
The landlord cannot file an eviction against you without first providing you with the Declaration form. In fact, the landlord must give you this form before issuing the 5-day notice! This is meant to ensure that renters who don’t know about the Declaration form have a chance to sign and submit it before the landlord takes action.
This is crucially important. If you get an eviction notice without first getting a copy of this Declaration, that notice shouldn’t be effective. Housing lawyers are figuring out how to get evictions lawsuits tossed out of court when landlords fail to provide these forms. So it’s really important that you pay attention to what the landlord says to you, and gives to you.
That leads me to a larger piece of advice:
Document everything! Keep track of everything the landlord says and gives you, and vice versa. That includes when you talk to your landlord about a payment plan, for example: be able to show that you made real efforts! If you sign the Declaration, take a picture of it. If you place it in a drop box or under your landlord’s door, take a picture or even a video of yourself doing that. Show that you’ve done your part to gain protection from evictions under the moratorium.
One final reminder:
Remember that this order lasts until Dec. 12. We don’t know what will happen next. But we’ll let you know.
Nov 13 - Dec 12
Any questions? Need more information? Need to talk with a lawyer? Go to Rentervention.com. Same site for getting the Declaration form. That’s also a good way to get in touch with an attorney.
If you have questions about this presentation, you can send me an email: charlie@UPLCChicago.org. Again, my name is Charlie Isaacs, and I work for tenants’ rights at the Uptown People’s Law Center. I hope this was helpful to you. Thanks so much for watching. Stay safe.