#Giving Tuesday or #GT has grown as the kick-off to the holiday season with vast choices of social causes across the world to support online. #GT is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Invest in a cause you believe in here today or give on Dec. 1st.

Housing stability and equity is MTO’s cause. Our mission is to learn with and from community, and organize low-income renters advocating for transformative housing policies. During COVID-19 we, at MTO, continue to build the power and voices of our communities most impacted by unfair and unjust housing practices. This year, MTO prevented 275 households from being displaced and/or evicted and developed 75 tenants’ associations that worked hard to preserve over 1200 units of affordable housing throughout Chicago & Cook County.

Your contribution helps to keep families housed and supports our campaigns for policies to protect and uplift our communities most impacted by housing instability. Make your #Giving Tuesday contribution today by clicking here or visit our website again anytime on December 1st. Everyone deserves safe, decent, and healthy affordable and accessible housing. And we need you to help us get the job done!

Make a contribution today

Metropolitan Tenants Organization | 1727 S. Indiana Ave. Suite G03 Chicago, Il 60616 | Our office is currently closed.

Visit us at www.squaredawaychicago.com or call MTO’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline – M-F 1pm to 5pm at (773) 292-4988

Federal Register Notice: Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19



On September 1st, 37 days after the expiration of the CARES Act moratorium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an agency order, halting evictions for some renters who meet specific criteria. The CDC issued the agency order citing its authorities provided by 42 U.S.C. 264 and 42 C.F.R. 70.2 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The agency order goes into effect on September 4, 2020 and will run through December 31, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Does this agency order provide funding for rental assistance or otherwise provide rent relief?
A. No. Renters will continue to owe any unpaid rent amounts that have accrued so far and any additional amounts that come due.

Q. Does the agency order prohibit landlords from charging fees or other penalties for non-payment of rent?
A. No. The agency order does not preclude landlords from charging or collecting fees, penalties or interest from a tenant for failing to pay their rent, regardless of the financial hardships they may be facing during the pandemic.

Q. Does the agency action mean that all renters are safe from eviction?
A. No. Only certain renters are eligible for the eviction suspension and in order to avail themselves of the eviction suspension protection, they must provide their landlord a legal declaration form, attesting—under penalty of perjury with the threat of prosecution, jail time, or fines for lying, misleading, or omitting important information —that:
• The renter either i) expects to earn less than $99,000 in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), ii) was not required to file taxes in 2019, or iii) received a stimulus check provided by the CARES Act; The renter used their “best efforts” in trying to obtain “all available government assistance for rent or housing”;
• The renter cannot pay the full amount of their rent because of a substantial loss in income, loss of employment or work hours, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
• The renter is still making partial rent payments using their “best effort” to make payments that are as close to the full rental amount as possible; and
• If the renter were evicted, they would likely become homeless or have to “double up” with another household.
Under the agency order, landlords would still be able to file evictions, claiming that their renters did not meet these requirements, placing the burden on renters to prove otherwise. Renters would be subject to
frivolous litigation as landlords try to remove them for their homes even after they have met all the conditions required by the order. It is unclear how courts would handle such cases and how they would determine whether or not renters fully met all of these stipulations. A renter who has been determined to have perjured themselves by a court could face criminal penalties, including substantial fines and even a year in jail.

Q. Does the agency order prevent evictions for other reasons other than on-payment of rent?
A. No. Renters can still be evicted for other reasons, such as violating conditions of their lease (other than timely payment of rent), damaging property, or engaging in criminal activity. Renters with leases that have expired could also be evicted if their landlord refuses to renew the lease.

If you or someone you know is facing eviction or threatened with eviction please reach out to MTO at 773-292-4988 Monday-Friday 1pm to 5pm or email tenants-rights. org. We can assist you in exercising your rights!!

What to Know About Illinois Housing Development Authority Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $3.5 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to Illinois. The Illinois General Assembly allocated $396 million in CRF to Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) to fund affordable housing grants, for the benefit of persons impacted by COVID-19, for emergency rental assistance, emergency mortgage assistance and subordinate financing. 

Emergency Rental Assistance Program IHDA developed the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) to support Illinois tenants unable to pay their rent due to a COVID-19-related loss of income. Tenants whose application is approved will receive a one-time grant of $5,000 paid directly to their landlord to cover missed rent payments beginning March 2020 and prepay payments through December 2020, or until the $5,000 is exhausted, whichever comes first. 

Application Period Applications for ERA will be accepted August 10th through August 21st. Due to anticipated high volume, the application window may close early. IHDA will use a third-party entity to select a pool of applications to be reviewed for eligibility. Approximately 30,000 tenants are expected to receive funding. Apply at era.idha.org.

To apply for ERA program you will need:

  • access to internet and SMART device (SMART phone, computer, laptop, or tablet). If this is a problem please reach out to us at MTO).
  • an email address (no email, MTO is here to help)
  • 1 form of government issued ID (ex: State ID or DL, Temporary Visitors Driver’s License, Matricula Consular, Foreign Passport- regardless of expiration date, or Resident Identity Card) 
  • 1 document with current address, if different from address on ID (ex: a utility bill, bank statement, credit card or debit statement, social security award letter- no more than 90 days old)
  • your landlord’s email and phone number (so talk to them BEFORE APPLYING)
  • written and valid lease agreement (30 Day lease templates are available for tenants to give to their landlord at MTO. The landlord will have to upload the lease agreement)
  • your household income must be at or below 80% Area Median Income (determine eligibility here or visit era.idha.org
  • you must have an unpaid rent balance that began on or after March 1, 2020 due to lost income related to COVID-19 (the landlord will have to upload a letter or notices of unpaid rent)
  • to have NOT received any other COVID-19 related rental assistance in the household. ERA is 1 application per household
  • to NOT be a renter with a housing subsidy or voucher

Help Applying If you need assistance applying, IHDA has partnered with 62 Community and Outreach Assistance organizations (including MTO) that’s standing by to help you at no cost. You can find a list of these organizations via the Resource button on era.ihda.org. Services are available in English, Spanish, Polish, Italian, French, Romanian, Albanian, Croatian, Serbian, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Cantonese, Tagalog, Mandarin and ASL. For additional assistance you may also call IHDA’s call center at (312) 883-2720, or toll-free at (888) 252-1119. For those who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired, please contact Navicore Solutions for free assistance at (877) 274-4309 (TTY). 

Legal Assistance
If you are at imminent risk of eviction and need legal assistance, a legal aid clinic may be able to assist you. All services are free. You can find a list of legal assistance clinics via the Resource button on era.ihda.org

MTO is 1 of 62 Community Groups working with IDHA to  process applications. If you need assistance with the  application or have questions, if you or someone you know is facing eviction, or you want to know your Renters Rights reach out to us.

  1. Leave a voicemail 773-292-4980 anytime
  2. Call MTO’s Renters’ Right Hotline M-F 1pm-4pm at 773-292-4988. 
  3. Inbox MTO on Facebook 
  4. Email MTO Staff

Global webinar on tenant struggles in the COVID crisis: Saturday May 9 at 1 pm CST.

Housing Is A Human Right!

Global webinar on tenant struggles in the COVID crisis: Saturday May 9 at 1 pm CST. The National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) sister organization in the UK, Defend Council Housing, is hosting a Global Webinar on Saturday, May 9 at 2 pm EST/ 1pm CST! Panelists from Defend Council Housing; a private housing organizing group in London; a tenants movement group in Barcelona; CASA in the Bronx; and Michael Kane from NAHT will be featured!

Just click on here for Youtube Live and here for Facebook Live Saturday May 9 at 1 pm CST.

Drexel Tenants Win Relocation

Tenants at 4625 S Drexel formed a tenants association.  The building was in horrendous condition and the owner of the building in April of last year decided to close the building and evict all the tenants.  The tenants flyered the building and met monthly.  They all called the city to report  the building’s numerous building code violations and to request an inspection.  The City inspected the building.  The City told the owner to fix the building.  Then the heat went out.  The landlord tried to use this as an excuse to evict all the tenants and issued everyone 30 day notices to vacate the building.  At court the judge ordered the owner to fix it.  Then the water went out.  The judge ordered the landlord to pay each of the 17 remaining tenants $1200 relocation assistance.  This was on top of the 3 months the tenants did not have to pay rent.  The tenants won $51,000 plus months of additional time to find a new residence.

Know Your Renters’ Rights during COVID-19 TONIGHT LIVE Q&A, 6pm- TUNE IN!

Please join the Metropolitan Tenants Organization tonight for a “Crash Course on Tenants Rights: What Chicago- area Renters need to know before the 1st of the month.

Tonight!! Thursday, April 30th 6pm CST live-streamed. Be sure to get your FREE TICKETS here with Eventbrite

This workshop will review what tenants need to know for May 1st and we will take questions live. We will be discussing what your rights are if you cannot pay your rent, your rights on evictions, and what to do in case of an illegal lockout, and other critical issues for renters.

Panelists will include MTO’s Eviction Prevention Specialist, Philip DeVon & Affordable Housing Preservation Community Organizer, David Wilson.

Get your FREE TICKETS here with Eventbrite or follow https://www.facebook.com/MTOchicago/ to get the notification when the workshop goes live.

Click HERE to support MTO’s critical work today. Share this link https://bit.ly/39y69ey with friends, family, and community who can make a donation for housing justice on Tuesday, May 5th for a global day of giving. #Giving Tuesday Now.

Be well, and be safe. And see you tonight!

What’s New at MTO? Plus, Ways to Support Chicago Renters with MTO

Dear Friend,

Thank you for being a part of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization community.

While it was a difficult decision, our team decided to cancel the Annual Spring Affair which was scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st at 6:30pm because we care about your safety and well-being.

Although we won’t be gathering in-person, MTO has #5 ways outlined below to help raise $30,000 for our Tenant Stabilization Programs and Services as we work to prevent homelessness and keep low-income families housed. 

We are experiencing high call volume about threats of eviction, illegal lock-outs, unreasonable rent increases, and concerns about the lack of precautions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are dedicated to giving Chicago renters the answers and support needed in real-time to stabilize their housing. If you or someone you know are having issues with their landlord or apartment call our Tenants’ Rights Hotline at 773-292-4988. For swift results get your answers and online tools via our app and web page here at Squared Away Chicago.

We believe that with your help, we can lessen the impact of coronavirus on our mission to educate, empower, and organize low-income renters about their rights. Thank you for your support during this challenging time for our organization and our community as a whole.

Sincerely, Team MTO

#5 Ways You Can Continue to Support MTO

#1. Donate Your Ticket(s) OR make a donation here to MTO’s Tenant Stabilization Programs & Services

While the Annual Spring Affair is cancelled and we explore ways to get together virtually, you can choose to donate the cost of your ticket(s) to benefit housing stability for low-income renters in Chicago. You can choose to donate here and or share the link https://bit.ly/39y69ey with friends and colleagues. If you seek a refund contact Aisha-  aisha@tenants-rights.org.

 #2. Make your online purchases through Amazon Smiles.

MTO supports human rights. We stand in solidarity with labor movements for access and justice, like Amazon workers in Chicago who organized and won PTO for all workers. Our constituents who are Amazon shoppers can choose to shop https://smile.amazon.com/ and reply “Metropolitan Tenants Organization’ when asked about your supporting organization. 0.05% of proceeds from your purchase goes to MTO. 

#3. Stay tuned with Chicago Renters & Housing Advocates via MTO Weekly E-Newsletter

Choose to read and share our weekly e-news alerts with stories about what Chicago renters are dealing with during COVID-19 pandemic, housing resources, and updates on our fundraising, housing justices campaigns, and policies. 

#4. Let’s See if Your Employer Will Double Your Donation

Right now, every little bit helps. If you’re able to donate here today, together let’s find out if your company will match your gift. 

#5. Join Us on Facebook Live  https://www.facebook.com/MTOchicago/We can’t gather in person, but we can still gather! Join us in upcoming fun-raising events and discussions on Facebook Live. Follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss it!  

Working Remotely, Our Offices are Closed in response to COVID-19

To our community In order to protect the health and safety of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s staff, volunteers, members and community, our office are closed until March 30th.  More communications from our team is underway. Thank you for patience. 

We encourage everyone to follow CDC and Chicago Department of Public Health guidelines to limit social contact as much as possible.  

MTO’s staff and volunteers will continue to answer our tenants’ crisis line and to provide as much assistance as possible over the phone from our homes.  We promise to remain vigilant during this period of emergency to advocate for the housing rights of everyone.  If you need assistance, please call 773-292-4988 to reach our crisis hotline and leave message. 

Additional Resources on COVID-19
We understand the importance of timely, accurate and helpful communication to visit trusted sources of public health information,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chicago Department of Health
World Health Organization

The American Public Health Association has also released COVID-19 fact sheetsin EnglishSpanish and Chinese.

Introducing “Eviction Chronicles” – Chapter 1

What does the reliance on eviction say about our society? Every day we hear stories from the tenant’s perspective of a housing market gone horribly wrong. The result is trauma and harm to thousands of Chicago’s working families. The stories are not black and white. They are about life, good and bad habits, eccentricities, prejudice, and privilege. The following articles are the real life stories of Chicago tenants. We invite you to read, think about and debate why there are some 25,000 evictions are filed annually in Chicago. Is there another way? 

Chapter 1 – “Ms. Cat”

MTO first heard from the senior who hotline staff affectionately refer to as “Ms. Cat” in 2018.  Ms. Cat had just received a 10-day notice for violating the lease provisions around pets. She had two cats of her own, and often fed the numerous alley cats outside her apartment.  Ms. Cat can be a bit cantankerous at times. She loves her cats, they’re her family.  She was so concerned about the alley cats well-being that one day she left a trail of cat food from the alley to her apartment. 

However, others in the apartment considered the cats – and her actions – a nuisance. The cat food was attracting rats. Yet, Ms. Cat either would not or could not (as she put it) abandon her cats.  They were her life. Unfortunately, her landlord didn’t attempt to talk to her about a solution, and instead moved to evict her. With her home and housing subsidy in jeopardy, Ms. Cat was able to secure an attorney. For several months the landlord, Ms. Cat and her attorney negotiated. In the end, our senior who is living on SSI had to leave her subsidized unit as a part of deal to avoid eviction.

Ms. Cat’s story does not end here. Ms. Cat’s next destination was a homeless shelter that did not allow pets.  Every night Ms. Cat would try to sneak the cats into the shelter. Management found out and then the notices came.  Management served her with an eviction notice. In one conversation with Ms. Cat, she said, “I would rather be homeless than to give up my cats.”  With that in mind, Ms. Cat decided to leave the shelter and move to an SRO (Single Room Occupancy Hotel).

She then moved into an SRO, which is often a last resort for many of Chicago’s most vulnerable residents. Within a couple of months of moving, Ms. Cat was again running into problems with the owner and her neighbors. Her lease allowed two cats, but she was still trying to sneak more into her unit. Neighbors complained of an odor.  Ms. Cat said, “it’s not the cats, it’s me.  I can not help that I am incontinent.  It’s a condition I can’t control. It’s like cancer.  You wouldn’t evict someone for having cancer.”  The owner served Ms. Cat with a 30-day notice to vacate. Rather than fight the eviction notice , Ms. Cat decided to move in with friend. The expectation was that this would be for a short time. She was desperately looking for housing she could afford. 

With an eviction filing on her record and limited income, her housing choices were extremely restricted. Several months have passed since Ms. Cat last called. We reached out to her, but her cell phone has been cutoff. We also await her next call.    We hope that Ms. Cat has found stable housing and is getting the help that she needs. 

But her situation begs an important question: why is eviction always the first resort?