On May 17, Governor Pritzker signed Illinois' "COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act," providing robust protections for Illinois renters and homeowners. The new state law greatly expands sealing of eviction court records for cases filed before and during the coronavirus pandemic and prohibits tenant screening companies from reporting sealed eviction records.
COVID-19 and related shut-down orders have created economic instability for many renters through no fault of their own. The sealing provisions are meant to prevent eviction case filings from becoming a barrier for renters in obtaining future housing, as described in a recent Consumer Reports article. The law requires automatic sealing of eviction records between March 2020 and March 2022. Unsealing will be allowed only when a judgment is issued and a case is unrelated to nonpayment of rent.
Certain eviction records prior to March 2020 will also be sealed if the parties agree, if the case is dismissed, or if the court finds that the tenant did not violate the lease or that doing so is in the interest of justice. These eviction sealing provisions sunset on July 31, 2022. Finally, the legislation prohibits tenant screening companies from sharing a sealed eviction record and creates penalties if this is violated.
In addition to the sealing provisions, the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act establishes rules for federally funded emergency rental assistance to ensure people with the lowest incomes can access these funds. These rules clarify that eligible tenants do not need a written lease and prioritize funding for communities with the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases; people with a documented history of housing instability or homelessness; and people with a significant amount of back rent due. The law also provides foreclosure protections for homeowners and small landlords by halting judicial sales and orders of possession through July 31, 2021.
State Representatives Delia Ramirez and Lindsey LaPointe and Senators Omar Aquino and Robert Peters championed the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act over the past year. The legislators worked tirelessly with a broad coalition of advocates, including our partners, Housing Action Illinois and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.