A 28-year-old Bloomington man who says he fell behind on rent after losing his hotel job because of the coronavirus says his landlord cut off his power after sending his son over to try to forcefully collect the money.
Juan, who asked that his last name not be used, lost his job as things slowed down at the Bloomington hotel where he worked. He’s since got a new job at a Bloomington restaurant. But he’s still behind on rent at the unit he shares with his girlfriend on East Jackson Street.
On Sunday morning, Juan said his landlord’s son visited to collect. Juan said the son started banging on the door.
“The door frame is shattered. He kicked it in,” Juan said.
Juan and his girlfriend called Bloomington Police, who confirmed the son was arrested on a preliminary misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. The McLean County’s State’s Attorney’s office is still evaluating the case for formal charges.
Juan said the landlord then shut off his power. After a referral from the City of Bloomington, Juan contacted Prairie State Legal Services in Bloomington for legal representation. Prairie State managing attorney Adrian Barr told WGLT the power shutoff was illegal, and he was prepared to file suit against the landlord. Barr said the power was restored Thursday afternoon.
Until now, Barr said he’s generally been impressed with how local landlords and tenants have worked together during the coronavirus, which has strained finances for both sides. The governor’s eviction moratorium remains in effect, and Barr said his office has heard of only a few cases of landlords illegally threatening eviction. They’ve typically backed off once confronted, Barr said.
“This one (Juan’s case) is a no-brainer, clear-cut lockout case,” Barr said.
Juan said he received his federal coronavirus relief money, and he’s now working 30 to 40 hours a week at his new restaurant job. But even that’s been a little inconsistent. The restaurant closed for a week in mid-May, but has since reopened.
“I guarantee you I’m not the only one dealing with stuff like this right now,” Juan said. “I understand that landlords need their money, but they should be a little bit more understanding with the situation knowing that people might be out of work or have limited work.”
COVID-19’s economic toll has been felt across the country, including in Bloomington-Normal. Thousands of McLean County residents have filed for jobless benefits for the first time since the shutdowns began in March. The jobless rate here is likely in the double digits.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit in the paychecks of close to half of U.S. households, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. With the first of the month coming in less than two weeks, more than a fifth of adults report they have just slight or no confidence in their ability to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.
In a recent survey of more than 350 clients at YWCA McLean County, housing was the No. 2 most urgent concern for people related to the coronavirus and related shutdowns.
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