photo by Steven Casteel
Many Chicagoans have found themselves unable to pay rent in recent days due to economic complications from the Coronavirus Pandemic. Across the nation Tenants’ Unions have been coming together to organize the needs of renters in this time, and Chicago is no exception.
In a previous piece we wrote about Illinois eviction laws, but Chicago’s Autonomous Tenant Union have laid out well how to be proactive in organizing with your neighbors and others who share a landlord.
The document is thorough, addressing both the moment we find ourselves in economically and the fear many feel in navigating health needs amid financial distress.
“If tenants know that missing rent could result in eviction proceedings, they’ll be more likely to go to work with symptoms and risk getting others sick,” ATU said. “Tenants forced to move face a higher risk of spreading and/or contracting the virus, along with difficulty securing new housing, renting moving trucks, hiring movers, or finding volunteers to help. It is our responsibility to protect each other. In the absence of compassionate leadership from our government, we must organize together to ensure our basic needs are met.”
As mentioned before in our article before, if you don’t pay rent your landlord does not have the authority to lock you out of your apartment. Only a sheriff can do this, and only with a court order.
“A landlord following the process correctly will serve you a ‘5 day notice’ the day after rent is due or after any grace period they allow you,” ATU said. “If you don’t pay the full amount in 5 days, the landlord can enter an eviction lawsuit against (remember, Cook County court filings are still open so they can open an eviction case against you, but they will not be able to pursue it until the moratorium is lifted).”
ATU does have representation resources for anyone needing them, but they do hope negotiations won’t have to come to that. Organizing directly with your neighbors can help make that possible.
“The best way to protect yourself and your neighbors against retaliation from your landlord in the future is to form a tenants union as soon as possible,” ATU said. “We know from experience that we are always stronger together, and if tenants band together we are able to get huge concessions from landlords.”
Daniel Johanson (he/him) is a journalist and digital media specialist living in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scapi and in that capacity manages all things content, including writing and editing articles and producing digital content. His most recent work includes the docuseries Heart of a Nation: Tracking Socialism in the Midwest and co-hosting the podcast Scapi Radio. He spends his free time with cats.