Mold, Mildew, Bed Bugs, Roaches, and No Heat – What to Do?

Chicago apartment buildings

During a hot and sticky Chicago summer, Grace and Robert Merkel moved into a single-family home with their six children. Shortly after moving in, the Merkels encountered mold and mildew growing on the walls, ceiling, and carpets. There were roaches and bed bugs in the home, holes in the walls and ceilings, and leaky plumbing. During each of the three winters that the family lived in the home, there was also insufficient heat.

At first, Mr. Merkel attempted to resolve the heating issue himself. He paid to have the furnace fixed, and eventually bought space heaters for each of the bedrooms. Still, the temperature hovered in the 40’s, and the family was forced to wear their winter coats indoors. To address the mold and mildew issues, Robert bought various cleaning supplies but they did not help. The Merkels told their landlord of their issues and he refused to hire a qualified professional to remove the mold. In the meantime, several of the couple’s children developed chronic respiratory irritation due to the constant cold, mold, and mildew they experienced during the winter months. The landlord refused to hire an exterminator, so Robert bought sprays to deal with the bed bugs and roaches, but they repeatedly returned.

Finally, on a fall day before the family’s rent was due. Robert took the landlord on a walkthrough of the home, pointing out each of the conditions the family had been living with for a very long time. After the tour, Robert paid rent for the month, but made it clear to the landlord that he would not pay additional rent until the landlord began taking steps to repair the premises. The landlord refused to address the health and habitability issues, and Robert and Grace stopped paying rent. Fearful of the permanent damage to the health of the Merkels’ six children, they started the search for a new home for their family. Due to limited income, and the number of people in the family, Robert was unable to find something suitable. The landlord sued for non-payment of rent, and an eviction case followed.

LCBH agreed to take on the case and represent the family. The landlord refused to give Robert and Grace time to move or to waive any rent. Fortunately, before the trial date, an inspector from the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings inspected the premises and cited the landlord for numerous violations: peeling paint on the walls, leaking plumbing, missing carbon monoxide detectors, broken window panes, and mildew throughout the house. As a result of the inspection, the landlord agreed to afford the family several weeks to move, accept 2.5 months’ rent as satisfaction of the approximately 8 months’ rent then due, and to seal the eviction case file from the public records. LCBH also ensured that in settling the case the Merkel family did not waive anything unrelated to eviction, such as personal injury claims. Thankfully, Robert, Grace and their children ultimately found a safe, decent new place to call home.