UPDATED 04/29/20 1:57 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Raising rent during a crisis – it’s happening.READ MORE: Car Strikes Wall On Dan Ryan Expressway At 95 Street; Delays Expected
May 1 is more than the start of the continued stay-at-home order in Illinois for the coronavirus pandemic. The date marks another month of bills many are scrambling to pay.
We’ve heard from a number of Chicagoans who aren’t getting any rent relief right now. In fact, many with leases coming up are facing hikes instead.
CBS 2 is committed to working for Chicago, so on Tuesday night, our Tara Molina took those renters’ concerns straight to city and state officials.
With the health crisis a financial crisis too, people we heard from feel stuck. They said now isn’t the best time to move, but rent hikes are forcing that.
“It was unexpected – let’s put it that way,” said George Sullivan.
Unexpected – that’s what George and Susan Sullivan call the email they just got from their downtown high rise about a rent increase.
“They’re taking total advantage of the situation,” George Sullivan said.
Their lease is up at the end of May. But they told me management wasn’t willing to negotiate the increase, or offer a temporary freeze with the uncertainty of COVID-19…
“It is price gouging,” George Sullivan said.
So the Sullivans given notice, and now they’re forced to look for a new place – and the risks of a move – while sheltering in place.
The Sullivans aren’t alone.
We’ve heard other concerns just like theirs – with many frustrated about the lack of rent relief offered.
We’ve also heard from a few people who are from those struggling to pay bills, but forced to pay full rent to live in buildings with amenities they can’t use – and may not be able to use even after the stay-at-home order ends.
“These buildings are all about amenities,” said Susan Sullivan. “Without them, how can you raise my rent?”
“Rent renewals should be frozen at the existing lease point until we get some clarity on what’s going to happen,” added George Sullivan.READ MORE: United Center Could Turn Into Mass Vaccination Site
CBS 2’s Molina asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office if that’s possible. A staff member said state law prevents the city from altering tenant agreements or enacting a rent freeze.
So Molina looked into that. Indeed there is a state act that has been on the books for more than 20 years bans any kind of rent control in Illinois. The state would have to lift that ban for the city to step in.
But does that change in a crisis?
Molina asked Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office and Gov. JB Pritzker’s office about any possible changes with powers during a declared disaster.
Raoul’s office released the following statement:
“The federal CARES Act has a four-month eviction moratorium for the nonpayment of rent for renters in a property where the owner has a federally-backed mortgage or if the tenant lives in federally subsidized housing. Once that moratorium ends, the landlord must then serve a 30-day notice before terminating the tenancy for unpaid rent. More information can be found here.
“On the state level, Governor Pritzker’s executive order prohibits landlords from filing an eviction against a tenant unless the tenant poses a health or safety risk.Landlords are not required by law to negotiate payment plans with tenants, but tenants are encouraged to attempt to work out an agreement with the landlord. Tenants are also encouraged to file COVID-19 related complaints with our office.”
The Mayor’s office passed along a statement first issued last month, emphasizing that while there is a law against rent control, “There is, however, no prohibition against the City helping rent-burdened residents in other ways during this unprecedented crisis.
“That is why Mayor Lightfoot announced on Friday the creation of the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant Program, a $2 million relief fund to assist Chicagoans who have lost their jobs or otherwise been impacted by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The fund is in the process of awarding 2,000 one-time Grants of $1,000 each to help residents make rent and mortgage payments. Half of these grants will be awarded through a lottery system, while the other half will be distributed by non-profit community organizations across the city,” the Mayor’s office said. “This round is over, however, the Department of Housing is looking for additional resources for another round of these grants.”
The city also offered the following resources:
• Com Ed
CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.MORE NEWS: 22-Year-Old Woman Shot While Sitting In Car In Rosemoor
We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.