On Thursday, May 21 Cook County extended the deadline for property tax payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension offered by the County is among the efforts to “protect the financial wellbeing of residents.” The delayed property tax payment enables property owners an additional two (2) months to pay their taxes that were originally due on August 3. Any property owner may pay their second installment of the 2019 property tax by October 1 without any penalties or late fees. State law requires a 1.5 percent interest fee per month on late payments. State statute allows a postponement of tax installments under a disaster declaration.
During the County Board hearing, Commissioners approved a disaster proclamation until September 30, 2020 which gives the County more time to accommodate the impact of COVID-19 in Cook County, as Cook County has seen the highest confirmed cases of any county in the United States at over 65,000 cases. Commissioners supported the Property Tax Relief although some expressed concern over the vulnerabilities in black and brown communities to losing their homes. Another claim during the meeting was that 70 percent of mortgages are in escrow in Cook County which helps to ease concerns of municipalities and school districts relying on property taxes. According to some Commissioners, the County was limited in their statutory authority to modify property tax payments and the 60-day extension was the only way to operate within the law. There may also be state legislation clarifying what Cook County and some of the other counties in Illinois are doing regarding property tax payments.
In mid-April, the Chicago Association of REALTORS® discussed property tax-related matters and determined that any sort of measure should not jeopardize municipal funding. CAR recognizes the need for some owners to have relief and ultimately property taxes without a reduction will be due. In communication with the County Commissioners, CAR Government Affairs staff recognized that the delay may allow some owners temporary relief in their cash flows for August and September; however, property taxes are one of the many expenses’ property owners face. Therefore, REALTORS® have concerns over the long-term impact of COVID-19 to property owners and their ability to pay all the necessary fees and expenses related to owning and maintaining property of all classifications (commercial, residential, industrial, retail, office, etc.). Staff also shared with Commissioners a resource created by the National Association of REALTORS®, Protect Your Investment, to assist residential owners at risk of foreclosure.