A Legal Victory Against All Odds

JaQuan (left) with LCBH paralegal, Eileen Mulrenin

LCBH recently had a huge multi-layered victory in the Attorney of the Day Eviction Defense program. A family in need was allowed to remain in their home thanks to LCBH attorneys and a third year senior law student’s strident advocacy at trial and an emergency grant from a great new LCBH partner to help the family recover from a financial set-back.

JaQuan is a single mother caring for her two children (ages 16 and 9) and her 63-year-old disabled mother. The family has lived in a property owned by the Chicago Housing Authority since 2001. In June of 2012, JaQuan’s social security income was reduced and she no longer had the means to pay her rent by the first of the month. She had a supplemental source of income, but she did not receive this money until around the middle of the month. After the change in income, she began paying her rent immediately after receiving her supplemental money, usually around the 20th of each month. The management company accepted her late rent for seven months until January of this year when they served a notice demanding that JaQuan pay her rent within five days, or her tenancy would terminate. JaQuan attempted to pay her rent, plus the late fee, but the management company refused her payment and filed for eviction.

By continually accepting JaQuan’s rent in the middle of the month, the management company effectively changed the rent’s due date, and she was never in default of her payments on the established schedule. Therefore, because they never gave JaQuan a proper notice that they would subsequently require her to pay by the original due date, it was improper for the management company to refuse JaQuan’s rent and file for eviction.

Third year law student Michael Griffin faced an uphill battle bringing this little-known legal theory before the jury, as the judge was resistant to his non-pattern (special) jury instructions. Michael managed to convince the judge to accept the instructions, overcoming plaintiff objections. Michael skillfully conveyed this theory to the jury. Subsequently, the jury awarded JaQuan and her family the right to remain in their home. The jury did not, however, decide what should be done about the back rent that accrued while the case was pending in court. This meant that JaQuan had to pay all the back rent at once, or else she would find herself back in eviction court very soon.

Thankfully, LCBH had just recently partnered with an anonymous donor which awards emergency grant funds of up to $1,000.00 or less to low-income individuals with specific financial obstacles. JaQuan’s case fit the profile perfectly since she would be able to pay her rent on-time going forward. The donor made a grant to assist JaQuan in paying her back rent so that she could get back on her feet.

JaQuan’s story exemplifies LCBH’s holistic method of empowering truly disadvantaged renters by providing free, comprehensive legal representation combined with supportive services to address a short-term housing crisis, so families can move from a path leading to homelessness to one of safe and stable housing.