Illinois Supreme Court to ‘triage’ eviction cases

SPRINGFIELD — With the state-imposed moratorium on residential evictions set to expire Aug. 1, the Illinois Supreme Court announced a plan Thursday that provides an additional one-month “triage” period for tenants and landlords in certain cases to seek rental assistance.

Gov. JB Pritzker first issued an executive order prohibiting residential evictions in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That order since has been revised and extended several times.

On July 14, he announced he plans to issue a new executive order Friday that will allow new eviction cases to be filed beginning Aug. 1 against people who are covered by the moratorium. That includes people whose income is below certain thresholds and who are unable to make their full rent or mortgage payment because of a COVID-19 related hardship.

However, a prohibition on enforcement of eviction orders against those people will remain in place through Aug. 31.

In an order released July 15, the Supreme Court said during that window, it will implement a triage period in which Illinois courts will focus on referring newly filed cases to state programs providing financial assistance to landlords and tenants.

The order states in any eviction case filed against a person covered under the current executive order, a landlord must certify the defendant was provided with a tenant declaration form available through the Illinois Housing Development Authority stating they are eligible for protection from eviction. Landlords also must certify they either haven’t received the form back from the tenant or some other exemption in the executive order applies in their case.

Also during August, all trials and judgments involving qualifying individuals will be under a temporary stay. Courts will be allowed to hear motions for default judgment against people who fail to appear at a scheduled hearing, but “only after the defendant is given notice to appear at a separate hearing on a motion for default.”

“These cases could not be enforced until the governor’s moratorium completely expires, so this process will not delay the ultimate resolution of cases in the court system,” Judge Eugene Doherty, chief judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit and vice-chair of the Supreme Court’s COVID Task Force, said in a news release.

In May, Pritzker announced $1.5 billion would be made available through the Illinois Rental Payment Program, which provides up to $25,000 to support households unable to pay their rent because of a COVID-19 related hardship. The program is funded with money the state received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act.

On July 14, Pritzker announced another $500 million will be made available in an additional round of applications that will open in the fall, bringing the total amount of rental assistance to $2 billion.