The number of residential eviction cases in DuPage County is expected to climb as a result of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, but a judge is looking to help some renters stay in their homes.

Judge James McCluskey, who is assigned to eviction court, says he’s going to work with the DuPage County Bar Association, Prairie State Legal Services and other groups to try to help settle disputes between landlords and tenants.

“The goal is to avoid the eviction of the tenant,” said McCluskey, adding people are suffering economically. “There’s enough pain out there. I don’t want to add to the pain.”

Eviction court in DuPage is closed until at least May 18 because of concerns about the virus.

Before the closure, the county was averaging roughly 400 residential eviction cases a month. McCluskey said he expects that number to increase when the courtroom reopens.

“It’s going to be a larger volume than I’ve seen before,” he said.

McCluskey said he doesn’t want a large number of people to lose their homes.

“I think the court system has to take a proactive approach in helping people,” he said. “That’s what you’re here for.”

Under normal circumstances, it takes about 60 days from the time a landlord files an eviction complaint to remove a tenant.

McCluskey says he would like tenants and landlords to resolve their cases instead.

To help make that happen, the bar association is seeking attorneys willing to volunteer their time to represent tenants and negotiate with landlords.

“If you work out an agreement that allows installment payments so tenants can catch up, they can stay,” McCluskey said.

Because of COVID-19, landlords who receive federal subsidy payments can’t seek to evict tenants who fail to pay rent until July 25. They also must give a 30-day notice before starting the eviction process. That means those tenants may not have to leave until September.

But McCluskey estimates only 30% of the eviction cases in DuPage involve federal funding.

As for the other cases, McCluskey said the court will “take into consideration the condition of the economy to resolve landlord-tenant disputes with a goal to be fair, equitable and compassionate to all.”