By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS) —   Evictions in Illinois are on hold because of the pandemic.

That’s a relief for many tenants who can’t pay rent after losing their jobs, but it puts landlords in a tough spot too, even those who tried to evict problem tenants before the coronavirus.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams has the story.

Landlord Bernadina Barbenente calls it a mom and pop real estate operation; her two apartment buildings, including one in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.

“I’ve had problems before with tenants, but never like this. Never,” said Barbenente.

One tenant, a young man, she said, stopped paying rent last fall.

“He says ‘I’m not paying. Winter’s coming and there’s nothing you can do.'”

Barbenente said she offered the tenant a payment plan. It was rejected. So in January she went to court, and the tenant was ordered evicted. But then the pandemic hit, and Governor JB Pritzker ordered a moratorium on all evictions. She said it’s been very frustrating.

“Extremely, extremely. Because you can’t go to the grocery store and get free groceries, but yet I can give away free rent,” Barbenente said.

CBS 2 talked to the tenant by phone. He disputed the landlord’s claim. He said he’s made rent payments over the last several months and had proof. He never showed it to CBS 2.

Attorney and landlord Cherie Travis has sympathy for millions of tenants across the country who now face eviction after losing their jobs during the pandemic.

This is really an egregious case,” Travis said.

But this case is different, she said. Rent not paid long before the coronavirus shut down the economy.

“It’s unfortunate that this tenant is utilizing the moratorium to cheat this landlord out of a lot of rent,” Travis said. “And if you can’t pay the rent, if you need to move or make some other arrangements, then be an adult and work it out with the landlord.”

“I’ve literally had to use my own money to cover the mortgage and had to borrow against credit cards to cover the mortgage and it’s just not fair. It’s just not fair,” Barbenente lamented.

She said she’s even offered the tenant money to just leave, but still he refused. The tenant insisted that’s not true. He said he does marketing work and lost income during the pandemic.

Legal experts said it could take months for the sheriff to work through the eviction backlog.