Last fall, the Aspen Institute reported that up to half of Illinois households were at risk of eviction. That represents up to 1.7 million people in 762,000 households. In addition, 30.5 percent of the adult renters in Illinois have no confidence or only slight confidence in their ability to make next month’s rent payment, according to a recent U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey.
Despite the recent moratoria extensions, many people are still at risk of eviction. Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS) is actively working to ease the burden by getting factual information into the hands of individuals and families.
“There is a knowledge gap when it comes to the eviction process and moratorium,” said Linda Rothnagel, Attorney and Director of Advocacy Training and Volunteer Services at PSLS. “The moratorium is not absolute; to be protected from the landlord filing for eviction and obtaining judgment, the tenant must be current in rent or have given the landlord a signed declaration that they are making best efforts to pay rent. To make matters more confusing, there are two different declarations, which apply in slightly different circumstances and not all tenants are eligible to sign a declaration at all.”
According to Rothnagel, even if tenants know about the moratorium order, many people have never had to deal with the bureaucracy of applying for government aid or have never faced the court system before. This can be very intimidating.
“To help, PSLS has taken a multi-pronged approach to getting information out there,” she said, “which is why we have focused on community education aimed at tenants through our weekly Facebook Live series on eviction. Additionally, our West Suburban office hosted a webinar for social service providers to explain the system. Another piece is working with our courts to put in place mediation programs so that landlords and tenants can more easily reach agreements.
Another prong is the recruitment of volunteer attorneys to advise clients.”
PSLS also offers several other electronic resources, including a free self-help Renters’ Handbook, which is available here. This 90-page handbook is packed with information on almost every topic that a renter may face during their tenancy including, but not limited to, different types of leases, dealing with habitability concerns, security deposit issues, utility problems, evictions, and more.
Lastly, PSLS has a free Eviction Toolkit for people who are representing themselves in court. This toolkit contains information on the eviction process, tips for landlords and tenants to settle an eviction case, a rent repayment agreement template, a Motion to Dismiss template,and instructions for using Zoom.
Additional Resources for Tenants
- The Illinois Housing Development Authority has COVID-19 Housing Resources, including a Tenant Declaration Form available on its website: https://www.ihda.org/about-ihda/covid-19-housing-resources-information/
- Residents in many counties can call 2-1-1 for help with rent, utility, food assistance, and more: www.illinois211.org (see covered counties here)
- Rentervention (www.rentervention.com) helps tenants with issues related to COVID-19 like evictions, rental assistance, and emergency housing.
- HelpIllinoisFamilies.com: assistance with rent, utilities, food and more
- Statewide court forms: https://atjil.org/ (including Application for Waiver of Court Fees, Appearance, Notice of Motion, and Interpreter Request)
- Illinois Courts’ Remote Hearings Directory: http://illinoiscourts.gov/Administrative/remotehearings/default.asp • www.illinoislegalaid.org: Free legal information