CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot introduced Monday a new ordinance to provide substantive protections to tenants and minimize the number of evictions across the city due to the unprecedented COVID-19 health and economic crisis.
The COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance would require landlords to make good faith efforts towards resolutions with tenants before moving ahead with an eviction filing, including offering repayment plans and third-party mediation. The COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance, which also includes an extended “cooling-off” period and other measures to prevent an expected wave of pandemic-related evictions, is part of the city’s larger relief efforts to address housing issues across Chicago and especially during the pandemic. According to the Mayor's Office, the measure was passed Monday by the Committee on Housing and Real Estate and will be considered by the full City Council on Wednesday. “The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across our city, but it’s been especially devastating to our many residents and communities who were already struggling every month to pay their rent and stay in their homes,” said Mayor Lightfoot, in a statement. “This important ordinance will not only provide critical support to our tenants struggling as a result of this unprecedented crisis, it will also strengthen protections long needed before COVID-19 to ensure true housing stability and allow every Chicago family a chance to build, grow, and thrive.” The Mayor's Office said the ordinance will require landlords filing evictions in the 60 days following the reopening of eviction court due to nonpayment of rent against tenants who have coronavirus-related financial hardships to wait for a seven-day “cooling-off” period in addition to the regular five-day notice period. After the cooling-off period, landlords must show the court that they have engaged in good faith efforts to reach a reasonable alternative to eviction, including mediation, payment plans, or other options before an eviction can proceed. “If someone is stably housed, we want to keep them in their home if at all possible,” said Department of Housing (DOH) Commissioner Marisa Novara, in a statement. “With this ordinance, we provide guidance to landlords about what constitutes a good faith effort to avoid eviction and the legal framework to require it.” Evictions were a significant issue in Chicago and across the country even before the economic fallout of COVID-19. According to a Lawyers Committee for Better Housing report, between 2010 and 2017 Chicago saw on average more than 23,000 eviction filings per year. Approximately 60 percent of those filings ended in eviction orders, which can often hinder a tenant’s ability to find new housing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent job losses and decreased work hours, evictions and further displacement have the potential to become an even more serious issue. “Housing providers are in the business of providing safe homes for Chicagoans, not evictions,” Michael Glasser, President of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance (NBOA), said in pledging his support of the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance, in a statement. “Most housing providers in Chicago are already working with their tenants as they deal with this crisis, and this ordinance requires residents to communicate with their housing provider to negotiate a long-term payment agreement, which is a vital part of coming to an agreement that keeps people in their homes.” The COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance is part of the Mayor’s ongoing commitment to eliminating poverty and expanding tenant protections, housing affordability and stability. Last month, Mayor Lightfoot introduced Fair Notice Act to City Council, extending the notice period required for the non-renewal of eases from 30 days to 90 days. Once passed, Chicago will have one of the longest notice periods in the country, requiring landlords to give their tenants 90 days notice before non-renewing or terminating a lease.