The Illinois Eviction Moratorium ended on Sunday, October 3, 2021. Prairie State Legal Services is already seeing the number of eviction cases increase. According to the Office of the U.S. Attorney General, the numbers are expected “to spike to roughly double their pre-pandemic levels.”[1] Pre-COVID, Peoria already had one of the highest eviction rates in the nation.[2]

Equal access to justice no matter one’s background or income level is one of the highest ideals of the legal profession. Prairie State Legal Services is prepared and ready to serve our community during the eviction surge to ensure equal access to justice.

Prairie State focused its efforts throughout the moratorium to educate the community, partner with several agencies that offer assistance, and help tenants and landlords get connected to that assistance. Resources are still available to both landlords and tenants. The most effective way for people in the Peoria community to get connected with the assistance that best fits their needs is by calling 2-1-1 (309-999-4029) or by visiting www.211hoi.org.

Currently, there is the statewide court-based rental assistance program that can pay up to 15 months of rent. This is a joint application, started by the tenant and completed by the landlord. More information can be found at ilrpp.ihda.org or by calling 866-454-3571.

Assistance for tenants is also available from several local organizations such as Phoenix CDS, Salvation Army, PCCEO, St Vincent de Paul among others which have assistance to help prevent evictions, but also assistance for people who have already been evicted. The Help Illinois Families statewide initiative makes it easier and faster for individuals to start the application process for select assistance. More information is available at www.helpillinoisfamilies.com. Lastly, Prairie State offers resources such as a free Renters’ Handbook and an Eviction Toolkit on our website, www.pslegal.org.

For landlords and homeowners, there will be significant funds available to prevent loss of housing due to lost revenue. Information on this upcoming program will be available at www.ihda.org/haf. Additionally, most mortgages have various relief options, including some streamlined modification programs and forbearance programs. To learn more, landlords and homeowners can visit www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance.

For advice regarding evictions, landlords and tenants can contact Eviction Help Illinois by  calling 855-631-0811, texting “Eviction Help” to 1-844-938-4280, or visiting www.evictionhelpillinois.org. Eviction Help Illinois can offer free legal aid, mediation services, and connections to other assistance. Prairie State is an active partner in this program and Peoria-area tenants will likely be referred to our office for legal assistance.

For service providers, Prairie State continues to offer a streamlined referral process to quickly screen for eligibility and connect your clients with a housing attorney. We are also readily available to discuss how our organizations can partner to achieve common goals and provide training to your staff on housing issues such as eviction, fair housing, or habitability.

For attorneys, Prairie State has developed a robust pro bono program to specifically address the eviction surge. If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer, please consider joining this project. It is designed to fit your schedule and involves advising clients over the phone. Prairie State provides training as well as provides malpractice coverage.

The Peoria branch of Prairie State has expanded its Eviction Court Clinic Project to include two attorneys at every Peoria County and Tazewell County eviction court call. We advise tenants on their rights, responsibilities, and options in eviction court on a first-come first-serve basis and may also provide representation. Individuals can also apply for legal services ahead of time by calling 309-674-9831, Monday through Thursday, 9 AM to 1 PM or online at www.pslegal.org.

[1] Press Release, Merrick B. Garland, Attorney General (August 30, 2021), https://www.justice.gov/ag/page/file/1428626/download

[2] Eviction Rankings, Eviction Lab, https://evictionlab.org/rankings/ (last visited October 8, 2021)

/s/ Britta J. Johnson                                                   

Britta J. Johnson

Housing Law Task Force Chairperson

Prairie State Legal Services, Inc.

411 Hamilton Blvd, Ste 1812

Peoria, IL 61602

[email protected]

 

/s/ Denise E. Conklin

Denise E. Conklin

Managing Attorney

Prairie State Legal Services, Inc.

411 Hamilton Blvd, Ste 1812

Peoria, IL 61602

[email protected]