(The Center Square) – The eviction moratorium faces two legal challenges from Illinois.
One case is focused on the latest federal moratorium from President Joe Biden’s administration and one targets Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order.
As the pandemic began in the spring of 2020, the federal government issued a moratorium on evictions as part of the efforts to stem the fallout from people losing jobs due to the pandemic and government imposed restrictions. States, including Illinois, issued and reissued similar moratoria.
While the federal eviction ban expired in early August, Liberty Justice Center attorney Daniel Suhr said the Biden administration went above Congress to enact a new slightly modified moratorium.
“As soon as they found out they couldn’t get the votes [from Congress], [the Biden administration] decided they did have this power and the way that they did it was a quote-unquote tailored approach,” Suhr told WMAY.
That approach covers more than 80% of the country, Suhr said, making it nearly identical to the previous eviction ban that the U.S. Supreme Court signaled couldn’t be continued indefinitely.
He said the landlords like his client Syed Rahman in DuPage County still have to pay their property taxes, pay the mortgage and pay for ongoing maintenance. And while there’s been stimulus payments and even enhanced unemployment, landlords are still not getting the rent.
“And when you have the government saying you can keep your housing without paying the rent, that just gives people the permission to use their unemployment benefits, or other benefits, to do other things rather than meet their obligations,” Suhr said.
The federal case out of the Northern District of Illinois is ongoing, as is a case challenging the state’s moratorium from the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association.
Paul Arena, with the rental property owners group, said the case is on appeal and landlords across the state are at a financial breaking point. He also speculated the governor could extend the state’s moratorium.
Pritzker wouldn’t say if that’s the case when asked Monday.
“Whether we do or don’t, I think the important thing to note is this is going to be a many, many months-long process so that people don’t get evicted,” Pritzker said at a separate event Monday in Springfield.
Arena said it’s been 18 months, and while there’s federal tax money going out in rental assistance, there are too many landlords not getting any.
The window for landlords to apply for a program funded with federal tax dollars closed Sunday at midnight. The state says more than $200 million has been paid out so far this year with tens of thousands of applications yet to be processed.
The Pritzker administration also noted that money may go directly to landlords.
“Tenants are still eligible to receive assistance if their landlord remains unresponsive or declines to participate,” the governor’s office announced on Friday. “In these cases, [Illinois House Development Authority] may make payments directly to the tenant.”
Arena also took issue with that prospect.
“Our complaint is that it’s not reciprocal,” Arena said. “We’re experiencing a lot of difficulty with landlords that are desperate to get back rent and tenants who refuse to participate in the program.”
Tenants must complete rental counseling through the IHDA by Sept. 7 to get the direct funds.
The state’s moratorium ends Aug. 31 with a triage period conducted by the Illinois Supreme Court to counsel tenants and landlords on funding opportunities. The federal order expires on Oct. 3.