Chicago — On Monday, May 17, Governor Pritzker signed the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act into law, creating a strong set of protections for Illinoisans struggling to pay their rent or mortgages as a result of unprecedented economic instability caused by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act:
- Codifies certain provisions of the federally-funded emergency rental assistance program. The provisions are intended to ensure that people with the lowest incomes and most severe housing needs are able to access the $566.2 million in emergency rent assistance to be distributed by the State of Illinois in the spring of 2021. Between state and local governments, the total rent assistance currently available in Illinois is $834.7 million. With additional rent assistance included in the American Rescue Plan, the total amount of emergency assistance available statewide for tenants and landlords who have lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic will be almost $1.5 billion.
- Requires the sealing of all eviction records between March 2020 and March 2022 upon filing. Limited unsealing is allowed if a judgment is entered and the case is unrelated to nonpayment of rent. Renters should not face permanent housing barriers due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. An eviction record, including even the mere filing of a case, hampers a renter’s ability to secure future housing.
- Requires the sealing of certain older eviction records if the court finds that doing so is in the interests of justice, the case is dismissed, the tenant did not breach the lease, or the parties agree to seal the record. This provision sunsets on July 31, 2022.
- Prohibits tenant screening companies from disseminating a sealed eviction court record and creates penalties for doing so. This provision sunsets on July 31, 2022.
- Creates temporary COVID-19 emergency homeowner and small landlord foreclosure protections by halting judicial sales and orders of possession through July 31, 2021.
After many months of work from advocates and legislators, the bill (HB 2877) passed in House in March and the Senate in April.
Housing Action Illinois and our allies are grateful to our champions in the General Assembly, including Representatives Delia Ramirez and Lindsey LaPointe in the House and Senators Omar Aquino and Robert Peters in the Senate, and to all the legislators who co-sponsored the bill and voted in support. We are also very thankful for out partners, the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Many additional allies expressed support by endorsing the proposal, contacting legislators, filing witness slips, and joining a letter urging Governor Pritzker to sign the act into law.