I Almost Got Evicted Because I Had No Heat

Shannon

During her annual checkup, Shannon’s doctor asked whether she was experiencing any stress. Shannon explained she was very stressed because the property manager at her building would not accept her rent, and she had received a five-day notice threatening to evict her from her apartment. Shannon’s doctor explained that they had a lawyer onsite and that maybe this lawyer could help her situation.

The lawyer that the doctor was referring to is from Healthy Housing Chicago. Last year, LCBH embarked on a new project with Loretto Hospital and PCC Community Wellness Center to develop a medical-legal partnership known as Healthy Housing Chicago. Located in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, the hospital and adjacent clinic strive to meet the healthcare needs of low-income families in the community. The primary goal of Healthy Housing Chicago is to integrate legal services into a patient’s treatment plan to both improve their overall health outcomes, as well as their housing.

After the doctor’s appointment, Shannon walked down the hall to meet with the lawyer. Upon speaking with the LCBH attorney, Shannon learned that the landlord was required to accept the rent within the five-day notice period, and that if paid, the landlord could not continue with the eviction. The LCBH attorney told Shannon to try to pay the rent again, but to properly document the refusal, to protect herself from an eviction.

As instructed by the LCBH attorney, Shannon brought a friend with her (to serve as witness). The property manager again refused to accept the rent. Two days before Christmas, an eviction was filed against Shannon claiming non-payment of rent as the reason. Once the eviction papers where served, Shannon came back to the hospital to speak with the LCBH attorney. As they discussed the case, it became clear that the property manager was retaliating against Shannon.

In the month before Shannon received the five-day notice, her heat stopped working. She called her property manager to report the issue, but no one came to fix the heating. After weeks of living without heat and an unresponsive property manager, Shannon called the City of Chicago to report the problem. Lack of heat during winter months is a top concern and Department of Building inspectors were sent to the apartment complex to inspect Shannon’s unit. In addition to Shannon’s complaints, the inspector’s notified the property manager of several building code violations they found throughout the building. The LCBH attorney suspected that the violations received from the city were the real reason the property manager wanted to evict Shannon.

Renters have protections against retaliatory landlords. A landlord may not knowingly terminate a tenancy because a renter complained of code violations. Once the property manager’s improper motives became known, Shannon’s eviction case was quickly dismissed and sealed. In the end, her property manager paid her two months’ rent as compensation for his improper actions. Although Shannon’s case ended well, she is looking to find a new apartment – one where it’s a little less trouble to get the heat fixed.