Illinois’ mom-and-pop landlords say the end of the eviction moratorium that was put in place to protect people who lost their jobs or got sick during the COVID pandemic can’t come soon enough. Too many property owners are struggling with tenants who have racked up thousands of dollars in back rent balances, said Paul Arena, director of legislative affairs for the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association (IPOA).
“Everyone is extremely upset by the moratorium and the philosophy that housing providers should bear the burden of this,” Arena told Illinois Radio Network.
Many landlords are owed thousands of dollars in back rent and they have little hope of ever getting their money, he said.
“There seems to be this misconception that it is going to be OK because all this rent is going to get paid, and that is just not true,” Arena said.
Illinois has paid $185 million in emergency rental relief payments to 22,000 families during the pandemic. Arena said the problem is that many tenants who were out of work during the COVID shutdown do not meet income guidelines for government assistance.
There is a gap in who is protected from eviction and who is eligible for government funds to cover back rental payments, Arena said.
“The eviction moratorium covers anyone making $99,000 a year or less, but the assistance is only available for people making 80% of the area median income or less,” he said.
In Winnebago County, where Arena owns rental properties, the cut-off for eligibility for rental assistance is $39,000 in annual income. Tenants who make more than $39,000 a year are not eligible to apply.
During the COVID shutdown, many tenants fell months behind in their rent payments. Even though many tenants are now back at work, many are not able to make up the thousands of dollars in missed payments that they owe, Arena stated.
“We have property owners who are on the brink of bankruptcy because they can’t pay their bills and they can’t afford this anymore,” he said.
Arena owns 10 rental properties himself; three of his tenants had COVID hardships and applied for rental assistance through the Illinois Department of Human Services partner non-profits. One of Arena's tenants was a home healthcare aide whose hours were cut during the pandemic. Another tenant and two of her children got COVID and were not able to work for several months.
All three of Arena’s tenants met Illinois emergency rent relief eligibility requirements. Their back rent payments were paid to him on their behalf through the Illinois emergency rental assistance programs, Arena said.
Other members of IRPOA were not so fortunate.
“I talked to a building owner over the weekend who was out $60,000 in unpaid rents. Some of the tenants had vacated the apartments. The owner was dealing with the reality that he was not going to be compensated for those,” Arena said. “He and his wife had been using their savings. They had been to the bank to borrow money to make ends meet. I could tell there was a great deal of concern.”
The eviction moratorium was scheduled to end July 1, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dodged a U.S. Supreme Court ruling by slightly adjusting it and extending it to Oct. 3.
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