Blog: Bed Bugs

Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.

Humboldt Park Building Falls into the Hands of Unscrupulous Developer

The housing landscape of many Chicago neighborhoods is changing quickly, especially in terms of affordability and stability. Buildings are being sold to developers, many times from outside Chicago, who increase rents and push out long-term residents. Humboldt Park is one of these neighborhoods. Tenants living in a 44 unit apartment building in Humboldt Park received notices informing them the building had a new owner and they had 30 days to move. As soon as the notices expired, the remaining 20 remaining tenants, who were unable to move, had evictions filed against them by the cash investors who purchased the building. LCBH attorneys tackled this matter head on in both eviction and building courts.

With the assistance of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO), a citywide organization that helps tenants organize to assert their collective rights, LCBH was able to form a tenants association to request more time and relocation assistance from the new landlord. These requests were ignored.

Neighborhood

This summer, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) teamed up with the John Marshall Law School’s Pro Bono Program and Heartland Alliance to help a family in crisis get a fresh start. The Ali family had recently fled Syria during the civil war and escaped to the US where they hoped to establish a new life. They moved into an apartment building that had a bedbug infestation, and soon their small children suffered from bed bug bites that required ongoing medical attention. To make matters worse, the landlord refused to treat the infestation and had threatened the family suggesting he could interfere with their application for asylum.

The family did not speak much English and they were at a loss about how to best to protect themselves. Without steady income and paying for mounting extermination and medical cost, soon the Ali family found themselves in eviction court. For any family, facing a legal system can be very intimidating and foreign, even to those who have lived their entire lives here in America.

Hope Manor

This year the LCBH began a partnership with the Hope Manor Apartments, which is a supportive housing development specifically designed for veterans in Chicago. Attorneys with LCBH’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program are providing trainings for veterans about their rights as renters in Chicago. The trainings also cover changes in the law, including recently passed Chicago ordinances, including the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance and the Bed Bug Ordinance. At each training veterans are provided with real-life examples of issues that arise in a landlord/tenant relationship and are given advice about the laws and how to resolve these issues. Training is one of the many activities Hope Manor provides as a social service for veterans, and LCBH is proud to be a partner.

Bed Bug Notice Letter

Last year, the City of Chicago took a big step towards addressing the growing bed bug problem with the passage of an ordinance clarifying landlord/tenant responsibilities in the case of bed bug infestations. Under this new ordinance, renters are now required to notify their landlord in writing within 5 days of seeing, or suspecting, bed bugs in their unit, clothing, furniture or other personal property located in the building or of any recurring or unexplained bites, stings, irritation, sores of the skin or body which the tenant reasonably suspects is caused by bed bugs.

Once the landlord has received this notice or has observed or suspects bed bugs, the landlord must begin pest control services within 10 days. Pest control services consist of hiring a pest management professional to conduct an inspection, to treat the affected unit, and if necessary to treat the units on both sides and directly above and below. The landlord is to continue to treat the infestation in this manner until it has been resolved. Prior to an inspection of a renter’s unit, the landlord must give a written notice to the renter advising the renter of his/her responsibilities to prepare the unit for treatment.

Bed Bugs

You may remember earlier this year when the City of Chicago earned the dubious honor of becoming number one in bed bugs (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/01/15/were-number-one-chicago-tops-in-c...). The City, along with a number of support agencies, has been addressing the problem on several fronts including providing information and resources to educate the public on what to do.

While the bed bug issue is disconcerting for all Chicago residents, it is even more problematic for renters and the City’s rental housing supply. Bed bug infestations can be a contentious situation where landlords blame tenants and tenants blame landlords. On June 5, 2013, the City of Chicago took a big step in solving the bed bug problem by passing an ordinance aimed at clarifying landlord/tenant responsibilities. “All Chicago residents have a right to feel comfortable and safe within their own homes,” Alderman Silverstein, one of the sponsors of the ordinance said. “This legislation will ensure that property owners and tenants are responsible for maintaining their property and will stop the spread of bed bugs throughout a building and to neighbors.”