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Landlord Says She Has Not Received Rent On House She Owns In Over A Year, And Moratorium Is Tying Her Up

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The moratorium on evictions is meant to protect people from losing everything during the pandemic.

But CBS 2's Tara Molina found one landlord who has not received rent in more than a year. She started the eviction process, but now she says she is caught in a moratorium mess – and out thousands of dollars.

The landlord told us no one has lived the house she owns in Morgan Park for a while. A man who called himself a family member of the tenant showed up and told us that's true.

But because of the moratorium on evictions, we're told that doesn't matter in court.

When Molina knocked on the door of the house, there was nobody home. And with our being told no one lives there, that was not a surprise.

But then, a man showed up with keys.

"I don't live here," he said. "I'm just a family member."

The man called himself a family member of the woman who used to live there.

"She's not currently living here," he said.

Molina asked about the eviction case – pointing out she was told that nobody had paid rent at the house since October 2019.

The man responded, "Listen to me - when you're a slumlord, you don't get paid."

Landlord Bonnie Miller said she knew who the man was.

"That's her nephew, and she has given him a key to go in and out of that house," Miller said. "That is not true."

Miller once lived in that house herself. She raised her kids there.

"It's in terrible disarray," she said. "It's disgusting."

Miller said she took pictures of the squalor on Monday.

"There's garbage piled high. There's junk; garbage all over the living room and the dining room," she said.

Of the tenant, Miller said, "This is a neighbor that lived next door, and she came to me and I trusted her to take care of it."

Miller said even though she started the eviction process before the pandemic, now she's stuck in court because of the Gov. JB Pritzker's current moratorium on evictions.

And she's not alone.

The CBS 2 Investigators have exposed tenant after tenant taking advantage of the moratorium. Another landlord, Jillesa Willis, was forced to live in her car.

Enter Michael Zink, an attorney who deals with cases like these.

"There is a lot of confusion about how this new declaration fits into existing cases," said Zink, a partner at the Law Offices of Starr, Bejgiert, Zink & Rowells.

Zink said in Cook County, everyone has different interpretations of the moratorium, but, "The judge may side with the landlord or the judge may side with the tenant. It's all going to come down to who has more proof."

Molina tried to get in touch with the tenant in this case. Eventually, she was able to reach the tenant's attorney, Brian J. Gilbert.

"(The tenant) suffered from terrible conditions after she moved into Ms. Miller's property, including having no heat in the middle of last winter," Gilbert said in the statement. "Accordingly, we filed an affirmative defense and jury demand on her behalf. COVID-19 has delayed the jury date."

To that, Miller replied: "That is not true. I got the heat fixed as soon as possible. (The tenant) never informed me about the heat. I was there to pick up the rent because she had not paid for the months of November and December at that time. I asked, my was it cold in the house. That's when she told me the heat had gone out... I got 3 estimates to repair the heat. ComEd took the meter because they were afraid of a house fire. (The tenant's) nephew threatened the ComEd worker, so that was a delay in getting the meter installed after the house was re-wired. The ComEd worker needed security to escort them back on the property due to the previous threats from her nephew."

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