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Many people who rent a home instead of own have lost income and jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the recession it caused. For most of them, any financial setback can mean the difference between having a roof over their heads or being homeless. No one wants to see a wave of evictions, particularly during a public health crisis.

When the pandemic hit, Gov. J.B. Pritzker imposed the first of a series of 30-day orders protecting renters from being removed from their homes if they couldn’t pay their rent. His latest order came in October, extending the moratorium at least through November.

But you know who else is hurting? Landlords, many of whom own only a few properties and depend on rental payments to cover their own bills. Pritzker’s orders treat them as a public resource to be tapped at will, without much regard for their own needs. The Chicago City Council also has issued stricter rules on landlords who decide not to renew leases.



There are some obvious problems here. These measures don’t provide help to property owners struggling to pay mortgages and property taxes, not to mention maintenance costs. “My landlords are very desperate,” Chicago lawyer Carol Oshana told WBEZ. “They have (renters who) are working but don’t want to pay.”


Tenants, in theory, are obligated to make up all the missed payments once the moratorium ends, but that’s cold comfort for owners who need income now — and who may never be able to collect what they’re owed. Michael Glasser, president of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance in an October commentary, said there aren’t enough safeguards in the moratorium to weed out those cheating the system, the ones who aren’t paying because they know they don’t have to.


“Housing certainly is a necessity, but so are food and medicine. We don’t require grocery stores to provide free food, nor pharmacies to provide free medicine. Yet we require housing providers, including our smaller, more vulnerable neighborhood housing providers, to offer housing for free regardless of the circumstances,” he wrote.

The moratorium is also overly broad. Will County landlord Craig Horvath told the Daily Southtown that he’s saddled with one tenant who hasn’t paid rent for more than a year. He thinks the governor should allow landlords to proceed with evictions that they initiated before the original order came down. “This is incredibly unfair to me as a landlord, as my problem existed prior to anything related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.


In the long run, forcing landlords to bear these burdens is bad not only for them but for tenants, because it will make investment in such properties riskier. It could end up reducing the supply of rental housing. No one comes out ahead if these buildings end up in foreclosure. The governor has taken steps to rescue tenants. He needs to find ways to help landlords too.

— Chicago Tribune



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