Bianca Brown recently contacted the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline. An LCBH attorney counseled Ms. Brown about her apartment building, which was in foreclosure and now owned by the bank. The attorney explained that under Illinois law there are rights protecting renters in foreclosed buildings, as well as a Chicago ordinance which provides additional protections to renters, the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO).
Ms. Brown was also a participant in the Housing Choice Voucher program with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). The building she was living in was not maintained and had failed a required inspection needed for continuation in the CHA program. The building’s furnace kept going out, so there was intermittent heat, and the building was not secure, so scavengers had looted pipes in the basement, causing flooding and standing water that created toxic mold growth throughout the building, including in Ms. Brown’s unit. The process of finding a new home was taking a very long time and, meanwhile, living in the building was making her seriously ill. The bank’s property manager kept promising that they would make needed repairs and allow Ms. Brown to continue renting; however, the repairs never happened. In addition, the property management company for the building changed and this further delayed any meaningful response to Ms. Brown’s request for repairs.
Ms. Brown needed “moving papers” from CHA in order to move into a new apartment. Given the situation, the LCBH attorney advised Ms. Brown to go in person and apply for emergency moving papers. Once she explained the emergency nature of the situation, CHA issued her moving papers immediately.
LCBH’s staff attorney, knowing the specifics of Ms. Brown’s situation, believed that Ms. Brown met the definition of a “qualified tenant” under the KCRO and that Ms. Brown should be offered renewal of her tenancy or paid relocation assistance. The attorney helped Ms. Brown prepare a clear letter requesting repairs and advising the property management company that if they did not make these repairs, they could not continue her tenancy in the building. This would make the new owner liable to Ms. Brown for relocation assistance. Ms. Brown was instructed to send this letter as soon as she located new housing and it passed the necessary CHA inspections.
While the whole ordeal took several months, Ms. Brown did eventually find new housing and sent the letter. A short time later, the bank’s attorney contacted Ms. Brown and agreed that they owed her this relocation money. They sent her the necessary paperwork and a month later, Ms. Brown received her check!