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Proposed Chicago Rent Relief and COVID-19: A Legal Perspective

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Chicago Rent Relief COVID 19 Demographics

City Ordinance to Provide Chicago Renter’s Relief

Matt Martin, a North side alderman for the 47th Ward, revealed that he will be introducing a city ordinance to the City Council. This ordinance will aim to provide some relief for Chicago renters who suffered lost income due to the COVID-19 lockdown. If you are unable to pay rent due to the stay at home order, the alderman wants to give you a full year to pay the owed rent.

 

Chicago Rent and Relief COVID-19 Renters Demographics

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Expanding Renter’s Rights by Preventing Unscheduled Entry

The ordinance would have a secondary component. It would allow Chicago renters to prevent their landlords and other prospective tenants from entering their apartment units without prior and expressed consent. Mr. Martin explained in a news release that this would be in an attempt to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

But will this be legal?

While this sounds like an idea that could actually help people suffering from the COVID-19 outbreak, there are concerns about whether or not the City Council could enact such an ordinance. The primary concern for its legality stems from 50 ILCS 825; or put simply, the Rent Control Preemption Act.

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Possible Conflict with the Rent Control Preemption Act

The Rent Control Preemption Act states, in part, that a unit of local government “shall not enact, maintain, or enforce an ordinance or resolution that would have the effect of controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private residential or commercial property.” 50 ILCS 825/5(a).

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Landlords Protected from Local Government Interference in Rent Prices

The words of this statute are quite clear: local governments cannot interfere with what landlords charge for rent. The theory behind this is that a lease agreement is a contractual agreement entered into by two private individuals. The City Council may try to pass Matt Martin’s ordinance and claim that this does not affect the amount of rent that landlords charge, but merely when the landlord would receive it.

City Ordinance Requires Ruling

The landlords would still receive the amount of money owed under the original leases; it would just be paid after the short forbearance granted by the City of Chicago. Landlords may still challenge this ordinance on the basis it is interfering with a contractual agreement regarding payment and late fees. The legality of this city ordinance would not be final until a Judge rules on the issue, and even then, there is always a chance that either side may file an appeal.

Changes to the Act Don’t Require Constitutional Amendment

As one may gather from the statute, this does not preclude from the Illinois Legislature from acting. This is because the Rent Control Preemption Act, passed in 1997, is not part of the state or federal constitution. It would not require the cumbersome, lengthy, and difficult process of amending Illinois’s Constitution. The Rent Control Preemption Act is a work of Illinois’s legislature and it can be addressed in a similar manner.

Amendment Could Lead to an Efficient Resolution

Governor JB Pritzker, along with the Illinois Legislature, could work together to amend or repeal, in part, the Rent Control Preemption Act. Action from the State of Illinois could resolve any legal shortcomings in Alderman Matt Martin’s plan for a rent freeze for the citizens of Chicago and provide help in a more efficient manner.

It is important to note that the citizens of Illinois have been increasingly vocal about their demand for rent control. Bills for rent control have been introduced in Illinois’s House of Representatives, but for many reasons, the bill does not make it very far.

The Coronavirus May Force Illinois Legislature to Address Rent Control

The COVID-19 outbreak may be the external factor that forces Illinois’s legislature to finally address this issue that many Chicagoans are vocal about. Additionally, it is appearing that the stay at home order may be extended by the Governor’s order. If it is, the difficulty of keeping up with rent will only become harder.

An Overview on Proposed Chicago Rent Relief and Coronavirus

This is a complex issue that has the potential to positively or negatively impact many Chicagoans. To summarize, here are the main issues surrounding Alderman Martin’s proposed city ordinance to provide rent relief due to a loss of income from the COVID-19 stay at home order.

  • The ordinance allows renters up to 12 months to pay their rent
  • The ordinance prevents a landlord (and prospective tenants) from entering the renter’s home without prior consent
  • The ordinance may be in conflict with the Rent Control Preemption Act, which prevents government from interfering with what landlords charge for rent
  • The Act can be amended more easily than, say, the Illinois constitution
  • Rent control has been a longstanding issue for Chicagoans, which may finally be addressed due to the changes forced by Coronavirus

Renter’s Rights Are Important Now, More than Ever

Though evictions have currently been stayed, without further action by the City of Chicago or the State of Illinois in the future, there will likely be an increase in filings for eviction once the stay at home order has been lifted. If that occurs, you still have rights and possible defenses against your landlord.

If you feel like your landlord has acted in defiance of Chicago’s local ordinance or is trying to evict you to get back at you, do not hesitate to reach out to us at the Kryder Law Group by phone at 312-223-1700, by email at info@kryderlaw.com, or through the interactive chat client on our website for a free and confidential consultation.

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The facts that are specific and unique to your situation will determine whether you are entitled to compensation under the law and whether you can recover monetary damages. It is important to contact our office soon because under Illinois law, there is a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the offending party. We know these situations are incredibly stressful, so please read the positive reviews on our Google page and see how we’ve helped countless others handle similar injuries.

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