“Operating during the pandemic went mostly OK for a while, for us and for our tenants. Everyone did the best they could to pay rent, and we did our best to help them.”

“Last August, we bought another building. It’s right next door to our other buildings and we had been wanting it for a while. The timing worked out well, so we have 41 units now.”

“We were able to grow during the pandemic, but it was a scary decision.”

“Other landlords were having issues with non-payment last year while we were buying. At that time, we had nobody behind on rent. All of our tenants were paying. We noticed the bulk of the problems with non-payment started actually around March of this year, and it was hard to identify the exact cause. So it was a delayed effect in our case.”

“Around March, April, May suddenly some tenants quit paying, and they would say they were really struggling. It’s hard to know what to do. It’s a difficult situation to navigate.”

“There have been a number of social organizations in the Peoria area that have really stepped up. One of them is PCCEO, which is the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity, and they have been willing to pay three months’ rent for people when they can, which has been really helpful to get people over those little humps. We’ve also been working with United Way and Salvation Army to house people because there is just so much demand due to housing insecurity.”

“Some grant money was available through the Illinois Housing Development Authority for landlords, but your tenants had to apply for you. We were very fortunate to have kind tenants willing to make the effort to apply for that money. As a landlord, you can’t just apply for the grant money and receive it. Outside of that, we as landlords kept falling through the cracks for all the other aid.”

“All these businesses were getting PPP loans and grants and funds and landlords fell through every single crack of every single grant that was out there to help businesses stay afloat this whole time. Landlords house tons of people, and nobody was getting any money, so we were just kind of expected to house people and deal with our financial losses from not receiving rent.”

“I’ve heard stories of other landlords losing their own homes because they weren’t getting their rental income.”

“Two out of four or five of my tenants that applied for help were approved. However, I’ve only received payment for one so far and that was back in April and May. There’s no telling how much your tenant has been approved for so it’s kind of a surprise when you get the check mailed to you. It’s just been this huge process, and it’s been a huge mess in terms of lack of clarity on where, how and when to get help for landlords.”

“We’re also facing pressure from rising costs. The city is underwater on their pension obligations, so property owners and landlords are seeing rising fees and added fees from the city. For example, Peoria created an annual pension fee. Homeowners might pay $30-40 annually while commercial owners or landlords might pay $150-250. I’ve also noticed increases in stormwater runoff fees, sewer and plumbing fees to replace old pipes in the city.”

“There are many things in the Peoria area that have been neglected for a long time, and the city hasn’t managed their pensions, so now they’re trying to make up for it through adding or raising rates and fees.”

“Then, I have to go to my tenants and raise their rent accordingly. Tenants are most often on fixed incomes or are low-income, and it’s just this trickle-down effect. In turn, tenants become mad at me. We’ve held off raising their rent as long as possible. I was literally getting ready to raise rent to help cover these fees and then the pandemic started. So, we held off for about a year on most rent increases. And even when we do raise rent, it will be about $10 to $25 a month for most people, which is hardly anything sufficient to cover the increased costs that we’re experiencing.”

“I tell my tenants every time there’s an election in Peoria, and I try really hard to educate my tenants on who’s running, so that maybe they can try to vote to change policy on a local level.”

Katie Vandenberg
Small business, apartment building owner
Morton, Illinois