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McLean County sees a spike in evictions after the moratorium ends

'Now Leasing' sign in front of home
Emily Bollinger
McLean County reported 127 residential evictions were filed in in court in October.

It took McLean County several months before the expected tidal wave of eviction filings hit after the state allowed eviction filings to resume once pandemic restrictions eased.

The McLean County Circuit Clerk's Office reported 127 residential evictions were filed in October. That's four times the number the county saw in August (28) and September (32). It's also nearly double the county's monthly average in 2019 (70) and nearly triple what the county saw in 2018 (48 per month).

Illinois' final extension of its eviction moratorium lapsed on Oct. 3.

Erin Duncan is an attorney with Prairie State Legal Services, a firm that helps connect renters and landlords to find emergency rental assistance.

Duncan said some landlords waited to file evictions because the state kept changing the rules and pushing back deadlines. “It didn’t materialize quite as soon as we thought it might,” Duncan said. “In the next two weeks, I think it’s safe to say there’s around 30 new first appearances both this week and next week.”

Duncan said Prairie State is devoting more staff to handling eviction cases and bought in additional volunteer attorneys to help process cases through McLean County’s eviction diversion program. Landlords have to agree not to evict if they are going to get rental payments through the diversion program.

Duncan said the circuit court has told attorneys to prepare for a backlog, not only because of the increased eviction filings, but also because of staffing shortages and issues with the county’s electronic filing system. She said Prairie State legal staff also is helping a growing number of clients with orders of protection, which she said also appears to be tied to COVID-19 isolation and limited access to services.

Duncan said it’s possible the added time in court delays could help renters buy additional time to get the funding they need to stay in their home.

An eviction filing opens the door to financial help through Illinois’ Court-Based Rental Assistance Program (CBRAP). Eligible families can get up to $25,000, or 15 months of rent and utility assistance for families. Rentals must meet income requirements and demonstrate financial hardships caused by the pandemic. Duncan said applications can be processed within a few weeks, faster than requests that have gone through the Illinois Rental Payment Program (ILRPP) tdhat is run by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Duncan recommends renters who want to get into the diversion program to contact Prairie State in advance of their court date to help reduce the time in processing cases at the courthouse, where its legal staff is on hand. She said renters need to meet income requirements to access Prairie State’s services.

Duncan said either way, she hopes renters who are in danger of losing their home don’t miss out on the chance to apply, adding many who face eviction haven’t reached out for help, and in some cases, are skipping out on a possible court remedy altogether.

“(We) understand these decisions are legal, emotional, financial. There’s a lot going on for our community members who are facing housing instability,” said Duncan, noting a tight housing market and a lack of affordable housing in Bloomington-Normal has placed added stress on evicted families who need to find a new place to stay.

“I don’t know that there’s an easy fix to that, but that’s on our minds as we are trying to negotiate resolutions as well,” Duncan said.

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Corrected: November 1, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
The last eviction moratorium expired on Oct. 3.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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