The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world for all of us. The shutdown of much of the economy is having severe impacts on landlords and tenants alike. Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions we have been getting from our landlord clients.
Are my tenants entitled to postpone or defer their rent payments? The answer is no. Illinois law currently prohibits any type of rent control and therefore excessive interference by the government in the contractual relationship between a landlord and a tenant. None of the many economic assistance programs being created by governments of any level mandate that a landlord must waive or defer rental payments when due. Your lease still governs. After all, the landlord's expenses like mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs have not gone away just because of economic hardship being suffered by their tenants.
Can a landlord defer any of their expense payments? In most cases, no. No announcement has been made in Illinois about delaying property tax payments typically due in the collar counties in early June and early September. Utility companies have been banned from shutting off electric, gas and water service. Even if you pay utilities on behalf of your tenant, you will remain liable for the bill in the future and could risk shut off after the pandemic ends. If you have a mortgage on your rental property(s), delaying or deferring payments is being handled on a case by case basis. If you believe you will not be able to make your next mortgage payment because your tenant is not paying rent to you, get in touch with your bank or loan servicer as soon as possible. Talk to them about forebearance options which allow you to either reduce payments or catch up with missed payments later. Many banks would rather keep the loan active than start foreclosure proceedings while we deal with this crisis.
Can I still evict a tenant that does not pay their rent? Yes but it will take longer than usual. The courts are open on a very limited basis but there is nothing to prevent you from serving a tenant with a pre-suit 5 day, 10 day or 30 day notice or from filing an eviction lawsuit immediately after that notice expires. The delay will come in getting a court date, appearing before a judge, getting a possession order and having the sheriff enforce that court order. The eviction court in Lake County is currently scheuled to re-open on May 18th. They will likely be overwhelmed with a backlog of cases at that time. We are advising our clients to get their cases on file now with the expectation that we will move the case through the courts as quickly as the situation allows. No announcement has yet been made as to when the Lake County Sheriff will lift their moratorium on enforcing eviction orders.
If you are a Lake County landlord with a problem tenant, feel free to contact us at (847) 599-9101 to see how we can assist you.