Residential evictions on hold puts landlord on the spot

 
 
Posted10/9/2020 7:01 AM

Q. I have been renting my condo to a woman for almost two years. She is always late with her payments and she has come up with countless excuses why. Up until last month though, she was paid up to date.

She has not paid October and has emailed me telling me I need to reduce the rent almost in half or she will simply stop paying at all. She of course points out that I can't evict her due to the governor's coronavirus executive order.

 

What is the status on evictions in Illinois? Do you see the moratorium on evictions ending soon? And does the moratorium forgive past due rent? Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

A. As to your questions, the current status on residential evictions in Illinois is the moratorium has been extended through Oct. 17. As that date is fast approaching, I would fully expect the governor to extend the moratorium. Further, you can surmise the governor is not going to open the eviction floodgates during the holiday season, so if I was a betting man (which I occasionally am), I would suggest the moratorium will continue into next year. By the way, this applies to residential evictions only. The moratorium on commercial evictions was rescinded in August.

As to your last question, no, the moratorium does not forgive unpaid rent. Once the moratorium is lifted, landlords would be free to pursue claims for unpaid rent against their tenants.

In regards to advice, you indicate although your tenant was habitually late, she was paid in full as recently as last month. This tells me she likely is not purposely attempting to take advantage of the pandemic. More likely she, like many others, is being squeezed financially through loss or reduction of work or other factors.

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If this was me, I would work with her. I would try and determine why she needs this relief. If the situation appears temporary, maybe she could live with 75% rent for a defined period of time. If she insists she needs the 50% reduction, maybe you agree some portion of the forgiven rent is made up once her situation returns to normal. Get creative. Absent some agreement, you may incur months of zero rent with no ability to have her evicted. Keep that in the back of your head while negotiating.

Q. My husband and I put a $2,000 deposit on our first home a few weeks ago. After talking it over, we decided now was not the time to take this step. We told our attorney and she wrote a letter to the seller's attorney stating she did not approve of the contract and canceled the deal. We were told we would be receiving our money back soon.

Well, it's been over two weeks and still no money. Our attorney has sent emails to seller's attorney, who responds it's in the hands of the Realtors. The listing office that is holding the money says it can't release the money because the seller has not signed off on the cancellation.

What do we do now?

A. No party holding money in escrow (in this case, the listing Realtor) will release funds to anyone absent a direction from both parties. That is why the cancellation agreement was circulated. Unfortunately, it appears the sellers are refusing to sign.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There are not many options here. I am presuming your attorney gave timely notice of her disapproval of the contract. If so, you are entitled to the return of your earnest money deposit. My guess is the sellers are annoyed you canceled and are extracting some revenge.

In the event your contract is the commonly used multi-board contract, the contract contains a provision that in the event either party is required to file suit to enforce the terms of the contract, the prevailing party is entitled to any attorneys fees and costs incurred in the litigation. This fact should be conveyed to the sellers. Again, presuming timely notice of disapproval was given, your case appears to be a layup.

Take another shot at trying to convince the seller to return your deposit using the information above. If they continue to fail to agree to return the deposit, file a small claims lawsuit in the county where either the property is located or the owners reside. Judge's often treat these types of matters like "Peoples Court" on television. When you file your complaint, make sure you also ask to be reimbursed for your court costs.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 910 E. Oak St., Lake in the Hills, IL 60156, by email to tom@thomasresnicklaw.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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