Renting During COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Should I tell my landlord if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Your landlord is not entitled to information about your diagnosis or medical condition, and you are not required to disclose that information even if the landlord asks for it. You can share your diagnosis with your landlord if you believe it will cause your landlord to be more understanding of your need for additional time to pay rent or a reduced rent amount, if your medical condition requires that your landlord make reasonable accommodations to your unit, the building, or to the rules, practices, or procedures relating to your tenancy, or if you wish to disclose so that your landlord can inform other tenants of the potential risk of transmission.

Should I tell my landlord if I can’t pay rent?

Talk to your landlord! Everyone is going through this and feeling the pain of Coronavirus’s effects. It’s best to talk with your landlord about how you can keep renting and avoid eviction, and your landlord may be able to assist you in applying for rental assistance if you qualify. You can call 311 for more information about emergency rental assistance.

Can I be evicted during the COVID-19 emergency?

PROBABLY NOT. Governor Pritzker has issued an executive order (Executive Order 2020-30, as extended by Executive Order 2020-37) prohibiting landlords from filing most new eviction cases from April 23rd, 2020, through at least June 27th, 2020. Eviction cases may only be filed if the tenant poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants, poses an immediate and severe risk to the property, or is causing a violation of a building code or health ordinance. If your landlord has not notified you that you are violating your lease in one of these very limited ways, no eviction case can be filed against you at this time.

What does the CARES Act do, and who is covered by it?

The Federal CARES Act prohibits some landlords from issuing tenants notices to vacate and filing eviction cases for non-payment of rent. The CARES Act applies to properties with federally backed mortgages (FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac) and buildings that benefit from federal subsidies. This bar on notices and filings will be in place through July 25th, 2020. If you live in a building with five or more units, visit the Fannie Mae Renters Resource Finder to determine whether the CARES Act applies to your building. If you live in a building with less than five units, contact LCBH at (312) 347-7600 for further assistance.

What do I do If I already have an eviction case filed against me?

If an eviction case was already filed against you prior to April 23rd, 2020, and you are not entitled to the protection of the CARES Act, Cook County tenants are still protected from immediate eviction. In Cook County, the court and enforcement process has stopped until at least July 6, 2020, so filed cases will not be going forward during that time, and the sheriff will not be putting tenants out even if the court has already entered orders for eviction. However, it is important to remember that the court process will resume, and evictions will again be enforced once the emergency declaration has ended. It is a good idea to try to work with your landlord to try to avoid the damaging eviction process, if at all possible.

Should I participate in a rent strike if I can afford to pay my rent?

Rent strikes can be a powerful tool for tenants’ unions seeking to bring landlords to the negotiating table and get additional time to pay or other accommodations. HOWEVER, tenants should be aware that withholding rent for purposes of a rent strike is not a legally protected activity, and may eventually result in the landlord filing an eviction case, which could cause significant damage to the tenant’s rental history. Each tenant being asked to participate in a rent strike should consider the risks and benefits of that approach before agreeing to withhold rent.

Can my landlord come into my apartment for an in-person showing?

During the present COVID-19 emergency, due to the increased health risk and social distancing requirements, the Illinois Department of Commerce has issued guidance that in-person showings of occupied residential rental properties may only be conducted with the tenant’s consent, and must be scheduled in advance with appropriate notice to the tenant. See for more information.

Can I move to another apartment during COVID-19?

Yes, there is no prohibition against tenants from moving to a new apartment, although tenants should observe social distancing guidelines and take all other precautions to the extent it is possible to do so.

Can my landlord ask me questions to find out if I’m sick, work in healthcare, or an industry that has been severely impacted by COVID-19?

While landlords are allowed to ask some questions about whether a tenant is employed and how much money they make as part of their screening process, they are not permitted under fair housing laws to discriminate based on the source of the tenant or applicant’s income, or on the basis of disability or illness. If you believe that your landlord is asking questions about your employment or health status for the purpose of denying you housing, please contact LCBH at (312) 347-7600 for further assistance.

Can my Landlord bar non-residents from coming into my apartment building?

Illinois tenants are entitled to full use and enjoyment of their apartments, which includes the right to have guests in the apartment at reasonable times and for reasonable purposes. Landlords may adopt policies to ensure that guests access and use the building and common areas in a manner consistent with social distancing and public health recommendations. If your landlord is attempting to bar tenants from having any guests in the building at any time, that policy is likely unreasonable and unenforceable, and you should contact LCBH at (312) 347-7600 for further assistance.

What do I do if my lease ends soon, and my landlord gave me a Non-Renewal Notice?

While Illinois landlords cannot file most eviction cases until after June 27th, 2020, landlords may still give tenants notices of non-renewal and ask them to vacate at the end of their lease term. If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord can file an eviction case and seek to have the tenant evicted after the Governor’s emergency declaration is lifted and the court re-opens. Some tenants may be protected under the federal CARES Act if the notice to vacate the apartment was given after March 27th, 2020. If you believe the CARES Act may protect your tenancy and you received a notice to vacate after March 27th, please contact LCBH at (312) 347-7600 for further assistance.

Can my utilities be shut off if I can’t pay?

The Illinois Commerce Commission has ordered that all public gas, electricity, sewage, and water utility companies may not disconnect service until the state of emergency is lifted. Private companies such as Peoples Gas and ComEd have also agreed not to disconnect service or charge late fees.

What do I do if my home needs an emergency repair?

You can still demand that your landlord make repairs, but it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the risk of having your landlord or their workers come into your home during this public health emergency. If you do ask for repairs, try to take any necessary steps to keep distance and sanitize surfaces to keep yourself safe.