BLOOMINGTON – It’s for real this time.
This is the sentiment among local lawyers, judges, housing officials and lawyers over the impending expiry – set for October 3 – of the state’s moratorium on residential evictions.
Their relative confidence comes more than 18 months after the break was first implemented and repeatedly extended by Governor JB Pritzker at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
It also comes after some hurdles by the Illinois Supreme Court, which allowed the resumption of filings on Aug. 1, but prevented lower courts from enforcing an eviction until the moratorium expired.
The court extended this stay on Tuesday until October 3, coinciding with a decree issued by Pritzker on September 17 authorizing the resumption of the legal proceedings that led to the expulsions.
“The meaning of the language of the order is that it will be the last, but that could change again – we’re not sure,” said Erin Duncan, a lawyer in the Bloomington office of Prairie State Legal Services.
“With the feeling that this will be the last extension, it helps in some ways so that we can really be prepared for the wave of cases we know are coming,” said Duncan, who represents local tenants who cannot. offer services.
The depth of this wave, however, is still unclear.
When the deposit suspension was lifted in August, Duncan said there was a slight increase in the number of new cases, with some homeowners lining up for deposits in anticipation of the moratorium lifting.
Last week about 16 deportation cases were on the roll, and this week half a dozen more were added. Of these, PSLS represents tenants in 11 cases.
Duncan said those numbers could double or triple after the expiration, but “we’re not going to see hundreds” of cases show up for first appearances.
Even still, the Eleventh Circuit Court is preparing for the expiration of the moratorium.
Chief Justice Mark Fellheimer was the only judge in McLean County to hear deportation cases, but due to the expected influx of cases, two others – Justice Rebecca Foley and Justice Paul Lawrence – have set aside time for eviction trials.
Fellheimer can’t guess how many deportation cases he and other judges will hear after October 3, but “common sense tells me there is going to be a flood of deportations filed,” he said .
A better understanding of the workload will come around October 15, he added.
“The double-edged sword” for tenants of social housing
Jeremy Hayes, executive director of the Bloomington Housing Authority, said “no one knows exactly what to expect” as the moratorium is finally lifted.
But Hayes’ best guess is that the BHA will see an increase in the volume of applications for affordable housing, which have already seen a steady increase in recent months.
“There is a good chance that our volume of applications will increase once the owners are able to go through the eviction process,” said Hayes, explaining how that increase would translate into listings. longer waits.
And as the landlord himself, lifting the moratorium means the BHA can bring eviction requests against some of its tenants.
The agency oversees around 570 low-income social housing units and currently reports 558 units occupied. Of those, there are 15 to 20 delinquent cases, said Hayes.
A few pre-date the pandemic, while others have emerged over time, Hayes said. Some are tenants who have lost their source of income but have not requested a rate adjustment or financial assistance. Others just haven’t paid rent.
“If we are able to evict some of the delinquent tenants that we have, it actually frees up space for people on waiting lists,” Hayes said. “It is a very strange and unfortunate double-edged sword.”
Hayes said another result of the expiration would be a sense of urgency for delinquent tenants.
“Hopefully, for tenants who are behind in rent and for whatever reason haven’t asked for help yet, eviction notices will inspire them to seek out these resources,” said Hayes. “I hope they get the help they need and that we can deflect the eviction route.”
Time for negotiations
However, the path between the eviction notice and the departure date takes some time.
Tenants who receive a summons have 14 days before a first court appearance. After that, it may take weeks for them to be in court again for a status hearing or final judgment hearing.
“No one ever shows up in court and, boom, here is your deportation order. It just doesn’t happen. There are several safeguards before it gets to this,” Fellheimer said.
But as deposits are likely to increase, these guarantees could turn into bottlenecks.
“We’re kind of ready to deal with whatever we’re going to end up having, but we won’t be able to fix it in 30 days,” Fellheimer said.
In many cases filed this summer, landlords and tenants have been given ample time to come to a resolution without an eviction, Duncan and Fellheimer said.
“They come to an agreement and a case is closed and the person doesn’t have to move,” Fellheimer said. “Those where evictions have been recorded are either the person did not show up at all, did not respond to any rental assistance, or they posed a threat to another person or property. “
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Most landlords said they plan to pursue eviction of tenants who had not yet sought help from state or local programs, Duncan said.
A tenant may not have applied for financial assistance because they are already focused on solving other issues like illness, child care, food insecurity, trauma or disability.
In some cases, tenants have asked for help but it has not yet reached them or their landlords.
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“Because so much money is available through these programs, we hope we can see case settlements before a deportation order is enforced,” Duncan said.
Fellheimer said judges are in a “difficult position” as they have had to apply the law differently due to the moratorium and its various amendments throughout the pandemic, and judges will again be required to apply the law differently. when it is lifted.
In addition, it is a difficult place for judges, he said, due to the disparity of competing interests.
“The landlords want their trials as soon as possible after waiting a year and a half with the moratorium, and we have tenants who necessarily have nowhere to go,” Fellheimer said.
But there will be situations where a case goes to trial – usually for about a week or three weeks later – and a judge rules in favor of the owner.
In these cases, Duncan said PSLS will work to help tenants connect to local social services, like the BHA or Mid Central Community Action, to educate them about the resources available after their eviction.
“Everyone is trying to work together to make sure we don’t have a flood of homeless people in our community,” Duncan said.
Advocacy for an extension
While Fellheimer, Duncan and Hayes have all agreed that the moratorium is unlikely to be renewed until October 3, some tenants are asking for its extension.
The Bloomington-Normal Tenants Union, which has around 115 members, continues to press local and state authorities to extend the moratorium, member Matt Tozcko said.
“Optimally that’s what we would like to see,” he said.
In the meantime, the union is working to understand why a local eviction could take place and why aid funds have not reached tenants or landlords, Tozcko said.
“We heard anecdotal evidence from landlords who were not helping their tenants access this assistance because they wanted to evict them to take advantage of the high inflation in the local housing market,” Tozcko said.
For now, none of the union members are threatened with eviction, but if someone receives a summons, Toczko encourages them to go through the process because this is how part of the aid is triggered. .
“We’re trying to get people to go through the process – don’t just leave because there’s a note on their door,” Tozcko said. “If anything, at least it saves time. “
The union also offers an eviction hotline at linktr.ee/blonot entangles.
And when the moratorium is lifted, Tozcko said the union could use the decision to fully understand the process.
“An extension would kind of stifle this effort to understand,” Tozcko said. “But we wouldn’t mind. We’d rather keep people housed than have something to study.”
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Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert